Apr 292012

In the Pudsey Chapel of St Peter & St Paul, Bolton-by-Bowland (Yorkshire West Riding) lies a large tomb chest (which is a replacement and dates from 1857) under an arch. The monument is to Sir Ralph Pudsey (d.1468). The top of the chest, which is original, has a carved panel showing Sir Ralph along with his three wives and their twenty-five children.

Sir Ralph is notable for having hidden Henry VI at his home for twelve months after the Battle of Hexham (1464).

Pevsner Perambulations

 Posted by at 11:00 am  No Responses »
Apr 282012

I am sometimes asked if I photograph buildings other than churches. The original remit of The Digital Atlas of England was to photograph all of the buildings listed in Pevsner’s Buildings of England and for many years I attempted to do this. In fact it’s only in the last couple of years that I have moved away from recording buildings other than Anglican churches. There are several reasons for this; my limited life-span and being mindful that as I get older the field trips will become more demanding, the need to get the country finished before fuel prices make the enterprise unaffordable, and lastly the fact that many private houses are barred to those with a camera (and, indeed, even without a camera).

The last of these reasons has, of course, always been a problem. However, there are many buildings in villages and towns that are accessible without straying off the public highway. Readers and users of The Buildings of England series will know that one of the features of the books is the Perambulations of the cities, towns and some of the larger villages. Over the years I have followed many of these tours and gained an insight not only into the places I photographed but into Pevsner himself. Sometimes, from the pacing or the sheer physical impossibility of the route (even allowing for changes over time), it’s evident he was driven through a town. Most of the time though you can tell he really did walk the routes.

There are two problems that have to be overcome if one is to do a Perambulation and photograph the buildings.

The first is people and traffic. Like it or not, towns are built for people and if you set foot in them during the day the frustrations will be endless. They stand in the way, they are curious and want to know what you are taking, and sometimes you’ll even be accosted by the (supposed – on their word, of course) owners of buildings you want to photograph who will then give you their own warped interpretation of the Copyright Act. One can’t go at night, so what to do? The answer is actually quite simple. During summer the sun is high enough in the sky starting from roughly 05:30 to 06:00. If you go on a Sunday morning at this time you’ll find the places free of people except, perhaps, the occasional truck with rubbish collection men and one or two people staggering home from clubs. The added bonus is that you can park just about anywhere – and for some of the larger Perambulations it’s easier to take the car to strategic points and walk it in sections. By doing this I’ve had the great pleasure of doing Stratford upon Avon without a tourist in sight! All being well, the places don’t tend to get going until about 09:00, so that gives a good three hours of people-free building photography.

The other problems is law enforcement in these days of terrorist paranoia. Surprisingly it isn’t a problem! One would think that a man carrying a large camera, a black book (Pevsner sans dust-jacket) and a pen, standing around photographing buildings and then writing in the book would draw instant attention. Apparently not at 6am. Many a time I’ve passed under CCTV and had police cars cruise by on their rounds, but no-one has ever stopped me or even asked what I was doing. The only time I’ve ever had someone say they’d call the police was when I didn’t follow my own rules and did one of the touristy coastal towns in Devon during the day. I had constant problems with people and traffic capped off by some fellow who claimed he owned one building I was attempting to photograph from across the crowded street and told me he was going to call the police if I didn’t stop!

Here then are thumbnails of the Pevsner Perambulation of Rye (Sussex) which I started at 05:45 on a Sunday morning in July 2005. I finished well before 9am and was back at my B&B in Hastings in time for breakfast. As with all pictures on this blog, click on the image to enlarge. Following the picture is a list of the places seen (viewing left to right, top to bottom in the picture).

Water House
St Mary Ypres Tower
Town Wall
Nos 22-30 Church Square
No 32 Church Square
Friars of the Sack
Independent Chapel
No 48 Watchbell Street
Nos 54-60 Watchbell Street
St Mary
Peacock’s School
Town Hall
Fletcher’s House
The Flushing Inn
Durrant House
Lamb House
No 1 Mermaid Street
Tower House
Thomas House
The Mermaid Inn
Quakers House
The Borough Arms
Houses on the Wall
Nos 45 & 46 High Street
No 43 High Street
Four Bay House
No 85 High Street
The Assembly Rooms
The George Hotel
Midland Bank
Apothecary’s Shop
Austin Friars

POTD: Mrs Arthur Mee

 Posted by at 11:42 am  No Responses »
Apr 272012

One of the smaller joys of visiting churches is looking in the visitors’ book (VB) to see those who have passed that way before. A range of people sign the books; everyone from celebrities through to people from obscure places in far flung corners of the globe. Some VBs could well be considered ancient documents. The earliest I’ve seen is at a small church in Worcestershire, the first few pages dating from the late 19th century and starting with the signatures of the lord of the manor and his family.

Today’s Picture of the Day is of an entry that doesn’t go back too far in time but is linked with a writer on British churches. The entry can be found in the VB for East Cottingwith (Yorkshire, East Riding) and is of one Mrs Arthur Mee of Eynsford, Kent who visited the church on July the 13th 1930 (the entry beneath has been added later, in 1949).

In church visiting circles Arthur Mee (21 July 1875 – 27 May 1943) is well known (infamous) for being the editor of The King’s England. These are a rather quirky series of volumes that cover all of the counties of England. The vast majority of visits to the counties were not made by Arthur Mee himself but, presumably, friends and aquaintances.

Mrs Arthur Mee was Amelia (Amy) Fratson, who Mee married in 1897 when he was 21. The couple lived at Eynsford Hill, a house Mee had commissioned at Eynsford, near Sevenoaks, in Kent in 1914.

Mee started The King’s England in 1936, six years after this entry, so it may be that Mrs Mee was just visiting friends rather than on a field trip for Arthur.

Apr 262012

Field trip: 12/04/22. The return trip back to Yorkshire via Staffordshire. Time to tackle this county which, from what I hear, has very few open churches. That wouldn’t surprise me as the county falls under the Diocese of Lichfield and one only has to look at North Shropshire (mostly locked) and compare it with South Shropshire (Diocese of Hereford and mostly open) to see what probably awaits (Shropshire locking map)

Gnosall, Staffordshire

St Laurence

A former collegiate church with a crossing tower. A service was taking place so I could only record the exterior. A notice on the door says the church is normally open for a few hours on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

At the east end of the church is an early 19th century monument with several faces, one of which is holding his mouth closed with his hand. Most peculiar and I’d like to know the story behind it.

Norbury, Staffordshire

St Peter

Also with a service. I did the outside and then waited. Eventually the few people who were inside began to leave and I made my move. I was greeted inside by one of the churchwardens. Friendly enough once I got talking with him (and kind enough to allow me to have the church to myself for over an hour), although his opening remark was about being suspicious of people with cameras who might photograph moveable furnishings. I asked him if he thought I was the type to steal something. I always find it better to be direct about these things if people are going to insinuate that I might be up to criminal activity. He obviously decided I was a person of good intention and told me he’d come back in an hour. Indeed, I got a further 15 minutes on top of that.

Nevertheless, there was much to do and time doesn’t stand still. Two brasses in the nave, a large C18 monument on the chancel S wall. On the N wall a tomb recess with recumbent knight and parts of an alabaster knight lying in front. Above this on a peg some funeral armour. In the sanctuary two alabaster ladies of the C14 and C15. One of these is missing her feet; these were over with the parts of the knight. Mediaeval chancel roof timbers with delicate carved patterns.

The CW arrived back, he locked the church and we both headed off.

I travelled for many miles without seeing a church tower, but then finally:

Kingsley, Staffordshire

St Werburgh

Mediaeval tower and the rest of 1820 with Y-tracery windows. Locked porch, no KH and most unwelcoming. The large notice saying “Warm Welcome” gave the game away as you usually only see such a thing at a locked church. Very disappointing. I did the outside and headed onwards.

Cauldon, Staffordshire

St Mary & St Lawrence

In a totally unpromising position right near the giant towers of a cement works. If one ignores that eyesore it is rather a nice little village.

I didn’t have high hopes for the church being open but lo! It was. Welcome message on the door to walkers and other visitors.

Simple interior with a scatter of minor wall tablets and a large hatchment-like Royal Arms on the nave south wall.

Calton, Staffordshire

St Mary

A small church, locked but with a KH listed. I rang and the lady kindly came down and opened the church for me. The item of interest here is the communion rail which is composed of late-C17 carved wooden panels. Another one is mounted on the wall.

The KH suggested I next try:

Waterfall, Staffordshire

St James & St Bartholomew

Lovely name. Church beyond a fancy stone churchyard gateway but locked with no KH, although in the same benefice as the last two. Perhaps locked because they are in an interregnum? Hmmm.

Tower very similar to Cauldon. I did the exterior and headed on:

Grindon, Staffordshire

All Saints

A spired west tower. Quite a large church of 1845. It was open (same benefice as the last three and again with a nice welcome message addressed to visitors). Pevsner calls this “competent, correct and uninspired”. Well, I thought the little gargoyles on the tower butresses were rather good.

In the tower a battered Norman font. A chancel north window contains some old glass saved from the former church.

Wetton, Staffordshire

St Margaret

My last church before heading over the border into Derbyshire and home. Locked, no KH. Given the late-ish hour there is a chance it is normally open. Rebuilt in 1820 with Y-tracery windows. One can never rely on Pevsner as to what is really inside a church, but I think in this case his lack of interior commentry is probably accurately indicitive of nothing. I’d expect no more than a Royal Arms and perhaps one or two minor wall tablets. We’ll see when I next visit.

Apr 252012

The church of St Peter at Chelmarsh dates from the early years of the 14th century. The red-brick tower is of 1720.

In the first years of the 20th century the church was visited and photographed by Martin Harding for D. H. S. Cranage?s An architectural account of the churches of Shropshire. The volume which contains Chelmarsh was published just after April 1900 and it seems reasonable to assume Harding visited the church in 1899, under specific instructions from Cranage as to what to photograph.

My photograph was taken in August 2003, just over 100 years later. It is not taken from exactly the same vantage point thanks to a tree that has grown in that spot (a common occurance when trying to replicate Hardings pictures).

At first glance it appears that not much has changed, and indeed, this is a good demonstration of how unchanging churchyard landscapes and architecture can be. Nevertheless, there are some subtle differences. The most obvious of these is the top of the tower. The tower parapet has changed; it is either a replacement or the balusters have been uncovered. I suspect it is the former as there is now a frieze below it. Another change is the disappearance of the ironwork around churchyard tombs. These were most likely a casualty of the Second World War when ironwork was removed for the war effort (or, perhaps more accurately, mostly ended up dumped in the North Sea). It’s good to see the tree on the right hand edge of the frame has been thriving.

Apr 242012

Field trip: 12/04/21. A day of finishing up the county (of sorts – I still have one or two outstanding things). Two churches to the south of me and one church to the north.

I rang the incumbent for Bitterley and Middleton but no-one answered the phone, so I then tried Cound. The wife of the incumbent gave me the numbers of the two CWs (looking in my Pevsner I found I’d written the same names and numbers down 9 years ago!) I rang Mr Cuffley and arranged to meet him at the church in 3/4 of an hour. I set off to:

Cound, Shropshire

St Peter

I arrived to find a car parked outside the porch door. I was ten minutes early and this was not the car of the CW. Inside the church were three people cleaning. I decided to get started anyway. As all the lights were on I went straight into photographing details rather than general interior shots. After a while Mr Cuffley turned up. He told me the church had recently had under-pew heating installed and had been locked while the work took place (a notice on the south porch door had said the same). I was somewhat puzzled as 9 years ago the church was locked anyway. When I quizzed the CW he told me that they had only decided to have the church open in the last 6 months. I assumed from the notice, and his presence, that it was still locked for further work. The cleaners left and I still had much to do but Mr Cuffley was very patient. Having finished the interior we both went into the porch where I shot the south door and then expected him to lock it. Instead, he removed the notice from the porch and bid me farewell, leaving the church unlocked! And here I had been, hurrying to get it finished because he was waiting. I suspect he was just interested in what I was doing and waited around in case he could help me. A first time for everything – I’ve never had this happen before.

The church has a number of wall tablets, two of good quality (one with a standing putto). Old chest in the south aisle, long and low like the one at Bitterley (q.v.). One mediaeval stained glass figure in a window. E window with Kempe glass. Norman font. Good Jacobean pulpit. Above the chancel arch part of a painted Doom – not in Roger’s wall paintings book and thus a new “discovery”.

I then telephoned for Bitterley again. The incumbent answered and gave me the details of the two CWs, one for Bitterley and the other Middleton. I rang Bitterley and organised to see the church at about 15:30. The other I had to leave a message on the answer-phone.

As I had over 3 hours I decided on a circitous route south by first heading NW to re-visit:

Melverley, Shropshire

St Peter

A pretty timber-framed church right next to a river. The only spoilation of the view from the south is the caravan park north of the church.

Open, as it was when I came here last back in 2002. I re-took the interior now that I have the equipment to do it justice.

As I was leaving a man and woman arrived to do something in the church. Apparently Simon Jenkins (in Best 1000 Churches) wonders about the little sign on the gate outside. I asked her, as she’d brought the subject up, what it did mean. She told me it refers to the raising of 250,000 pounds needed to secure the church after a flood had swept a lot of the river bank away and brought the edge right next to the building.

Then another re-visit, S to:

Minsterley, Shropshire

Holy Trinity

Built in 1689. Open (as on my last visit). I re-took the interior. At the west end maidens’ garlands hang from the wall.

Then through a maze of twisty little roads to:

Bitterley, Shropshire

St Mary

I went to the house next to the church and there, hanging from the letterbox of the kitchen door, was an envelope with the church key.

A notice on the S door of the church now gives this house as the KH; a welcome change from 9 years ago when there was no information at all. This is down to the new incumbent who arrived a few years ago and who I met when he arrived at the church just as I was finishing up.

Inside the building the main item of interest is the chest, with ironwork scrolls (probably of the C13). There is a large screen, but it dates from 1925. In the tower, and almost completely obscured by the organ, is a nice late C17 tablet. Norman font with blank arches. In the chancel, Thomas Lucye (d.1616) kneels between columns. On the chancel north wall a tomb recess and on the south wall the electricity board (I mention this because I don’t think I’ve ever seen one so prominently positioned in a chancel before).

I told the priest that I had not had a call back from the Middleton CW and so he told me where the key was hidden at the church, although warned me that the last time he went to get it it wasn’t there.

Then to:

Middleton, Shropshire


I looked for the key but it was not there. I then decided to go to the house of the CW (again, a notice on the door directed visitors to get the key from there). No-one was home but just then a car came down the driveway – the CW and family had returned home from a day out.

Armed with the small rusty key (which went with the small rusty lock) I was soon inside. Very very dark thanks to the small Norman windows. Large screen, made up from bits. Rather forceful pulpit of c.1600 made up from bits. E & W windows mentioned in Pevsner.

I was here for a very long time – not because there was a lot to do but because the lighting conditions were very challenging.

After returning the key I called it a day.

Apr 242012

Field trip: 12/04/20. A move north to Shropshire, both to hopefully clear up a few places not done and also to do additional work at Claverley and Tong.

Claverley, Shropshire

All Saints

I was last here in 2003. The church was open, as it usually is. The famous feature in this church is the series of paintings above the north arcade. The panels show knights on horseback in combat. After some time building my scaffold I was able to take views that most people don’t get; the paintings seen face on.

Then into the south chancel chapel to image the tomb of Robert Broke, Speaker of the House of Commons in 1554, and his two wives.

Tong, Shropshire

St Bartholomew

Again, another re-visit to improve my photography at this well known church. Inside the church were a man and woman looking at the monuments (of which this church has quite a few). The man was carrying a copy of Pevsner’s “Shropshire” – snap! Strangely enough this is the first time in over 7000 churches I’ve met someone carrying a Pevsner (Jenkins yes, Betjeman (unfortunately) yes, Pevsner, no).

The church has several C15/early C16 tombs and also a tall tomb of the early C17 for the Stanley family; Thomas Stanley and his wife Margaret on the top and Edward Stanley on the bottom.

The Vernon chapel is an especially nice intimate space.

Hughley, Shropshire

St John Baptist

On my way to the new B&B near Church Stretton I took a slight detour. The little church was open (as it was 9 years ago). It contains a lovely screen – probably one of the best in the county.

Then to the new B&B.

Apr 232012

Field trip: 12/04/19. A day to be spent cleaning up (almost) the last of Herefordshire.

Eaton Bishop, Herefordshire

St Michael

I returned to complete the church. I arrived at 0930 and it was locked but I soon obtained a key from across the road.

Interiors, minor monuments, and then the exterior saw this finished.

As I was packing up a couple arrived to look at the east window. The man dragged a table across to the middle of the chancel to steady his camera on… hmmm, not really optimal.

As the church is normally open I decided I would not lock it (and I couldn’t wait for the couple inside), but as I stood in the c/y the other KH must have spotted me as she quickly came out of her house with the key. However, I explained I’d already unlocked the church so she thanked me and disappeared back inside.

Then to:

Much Marcle, Herefordshire

St Bartholomew

Where I had made an appointment to see the effigy now taken off the tomb chest. John Chapman met me and waited patiently while I photographed all that was necessary. All the monuments and hatchments in the chapel have recently been cleaned. As well as the effigy of Blanche Mortimer (d.1347) I also took views of the monument to John Kyrle (d.1650) and wife, and the monument to Thomas Walwyn (d.1415) and wife.

Dinedor, Herefordshire

Rotherwas Chapel

I came here a couple of years ago but could not see inside. This is a former Catholic chapel now held by English Heritage. There was no note for where to get the key so I rang the regional office and the girl there told me it was at the filling station on the main road. Then I recalled that I had seen a notice about this on my previous visit – it seems to have gone missing.

I soon had the key and was inside. Pretty empty – large reredos at the E end. 16th roof timbers with a small inscription.

Dinedor, Herefordshire

St Andrew

I was foiled last time as I was told by the vicar to ring ahead to organise access. What he failed (or didn’t want) to tell me is that the key is held at the house next door (as well as another one elsewhere in the village). I found this out after ringing the parish office.

The lady next door came over after I rang her and opened the church and then left me to it. Victorian replacement for the original mediaeval church. Several monuments in the tower. Also Benefaction boards and a Royal Arms of the early C19.

Lyonshall, Herefordshire

St Michael

I’d missed this one completely thanks to Pevsner not locating this on the BoE map (nor the coordinates for the entry) correctly. It also didn’t help it appears right on the edge of the OS map.

Set on a hill with good views to the S. Open. Lots of minor monuments above the arcades. Headless effigy in the S aisle. Quite nice piers of the N arcade. Re-cut C13 font.

(Shobdon, Herefordshire)

I detoured hoping to do the interior again. Church normally open until 19:00 but completely covered in scaffolding and locked – just my luck to choose the very time work is being done.

Pembridge, Herefordshire

St Mary

I check the church was still open as it was now about 18:30 – it was. Got my stuff from the car but not long after I stashed it inside the church and was having a look at the detached tower a lady arrived with a big key. However she very kindly did not lock the church, although she was going out so it would have to be left unlocked until 21:00.

I came specifically to re-do the effigies on the tomb chest in the chancel. I also re-took a few other things, although I would also liked to have re-done the interior general shots but was foiled by low sunlight coming straight through the west windows.

Then back to the B&B.

Apr 232012

Langley chapel in Shropshire is under the care of English Heritage. It was one of the first buildings to be placed under the care of the state.

In the first years of the 20th century the chapel was visited and photographed by Martin Harding for D. H. S. Cranage’s An architectural account of the churches of Shropshire. The volume which contains Langley was published in late 1903 and it seems reasonable to assume Harding visited the church in 1902 or 03, under specific instructions from Cranage as to what to photograph.

My visit took place in August 2003; exactly 100 years later. As with all my Shropshire church visits in that year, I tried to recreate Hardings view as closely as possible. The scene is almost exactly the same, although there are subtle differences. The original Jacobean communion table, on the right, was stolen in 1969 and the one in my photograph is a replica. It’s also apparent that the woodwork has been strengthened (box pew corner post) and straightened (benches). The mediaeval floor tiles have also been relayed and the floor levelled. Harding must have dragged the table into position to get it in shot because I had to move the table right against the rails to duplicate the scene.

Apr 232012

BBC: Dwindling congregation at West Torrington church forces sale

This is likely to become an all to familiar situation in the coming years as congregations in many rural churches dwindle. I visited and recorded the church in 2010 and here is what I had to say at the time:

WEST TORRINGTON. Ditto the above (East Torrington) – disused. Open. Apparently a local group has been formed to look after it and a church tourism board was inside. Dilapidated interior (more so than the last church). Norman font. I could not find the amorphous Lady (listed in the Buildings of England).

I wonder why the diocese hasn’t sold East Torrington too. Or have they? Here is the previous entry in my logs.

EAST TORRINGTON. By Teulon. A small church with a bellcote set away from the road and approached via a field and through a dilapidated gate. Disused but surprisingly open. Old font and one minor monument with good lettering. NME (not much else). The last visitor in the visitors book was a year ago and the one before that nearly 10 years before. The last service was in July 2009.

Hopefully new uses can be found for both of these buildings.