Tag Archives: Church

Steel versus Stone

Cutting edge engineering of C18th Bath Abbey VERSUS cutting edge engineering of C21st London Olympic Stadium

I recently had the good fortune to spend a weekend in the lovely city of Bath and visited the Bath Abbey with it’s explosion of fine English perpendicular architecture. It might not be as old as Canterbury but despite it’s relative youth it remains a fine example of some of the highest-tech engineering solutions for the time.

It occurred to me that the works I am photographing as part of the ongoing commission at the London Olympic Stadium Transformation project perfectly illustrates the same high tech and cutting edge engineering brought up to the minute. So I thought it might be interesting to look at the two buildings alongside each other:

THE NAVE OF THE STADIUM

Image: Robert Greshoff

THE NAVE OF BATH ABBEY

Image: Robert Greshoff

STRUCTURAL DETAIL OF COLUMNS AND ROOF SUPPORTS – LONDON STADIUM

Image: Robert Greshoff

STRUCTURAL DETAIL OF COLUMNS AND ROOF SUPPORT – BATH ABBEY

Image: Robert Greshoff

THE CEILING OF THE LONDON STADIUM

Image: Robert Greshoff

THE CEILING OF BATH ABBEY

Image: Robert Greshoff

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Broadcasting House, BBC, London

I was at Broadcasting House earlier this week doing an editorial shoot. As usual I had some time to wander the space before getting set up and these are a couple of the snaps I took enroute.

The first is looking down the atrium from the 7th floor to the ground floor. The second is the view from the 6th floor towards Oxford Circus with the unmistakable spire of the Nash designed All Souls Church.


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#Getty Museum, Los Angeles – #Treasures from Church & Cloister – THE EXHIBITION

I had a welcome message this week from the #Getty including a selection of fine views of the exhibition installation in LA.  Wow! It looks like they and the #CanterburyCathedral Stained Glass team have done an exemplary job.  It is wonderful to see how the images have been used and it is gratifying to see how fantastic the exhibition as a whole and my pictures in particular look  – roll on New York!

And thanks Leigh for sending them across.

Canterbury Cathedral, St Albans, Treasures from Church & Cloister Exhibition, Getty Museum, LA

Canterbury Cathedral, St Albans, Treasures from Church & Cloister Exhibition, Getty Museum, LA

Canterbury Cathedral, St Albans, Treasures from Church & Cloister Exhibition, Getty Museum, LA

Canterbury Cathedral, St Albans, Treasures from Church & Cloister Exhibition, Getty Museum, LA

Canterbury Cathedral, St Albans, Treasures from Church & Cloister Exhibition, Getty Museum, LA

Canterbury Cathedral, St Albans, Treasures from Church & Cloister Exhibition, Getty Museum, LA

Canterbury Cathedral, St Albans, Treasures from Church & Cloister Exhibition, Getty Museum, LA

Canterbury Cathedral, St Albans, Treasures from Church & Cloister Exhibition, Getty Museum, LA

Canterbury Cathedral, St Albans, Treasures from Church & Cloister Exhibition, Getty Museum, LA

Canterbury Cathedral, St Albans, Treasures from Church & Cloister Exhibition, Getty Museum, LA

Canterbury Cathedral, St Albans, Treasures from Church & Cloister Exhibition, Getty Museum, LA

Canterbury Cathedral, St Albans, Treasures from Church & Cloister Exhibition, Getty Museum, LA

Canterbury Cathedral, St Albans, Treasures from Church & Cloister Exhibition, Getty Museum, LA

Canterbury Cathedral, St Albans, Treasures from Church & Cloister Exhibition, Getty Museum, LA

Canterbury Cathedral, St Albans, Treasures from Church & Cloister Exhibition, Getty Museum, LA

Canterbury Cathedral, St Albans, Treasures from Church & Cloister Exhibition, Getty Museum, LA

Quimper’s Saint Coretin Cathedral, Canterbury Cathedral and the local church of Locmarie

On a recent stay at Quimper in Brittany we devoted some time to the Cathedral:  Cathédrale Saint-Corentin de Quimper and it was interesting to experience this building and compare it both to our local Canterbury Cathedral that I know so well and also to the local and much less grand church around the corner from Saint-Coretin.  (Coretin was the city’s first bishop by the way)

Saint Coretin Cathedral, Quimper with the Odet River

Saint Coretin Cathedral, Quimper with the Odet River

Chapel at Saint Coretin Cathedral, Quimper

Chapel at Saint Coretin Cathedral, Quimper

Side Aisle of Saint Coretin Cathedral, Quimper

Side Aisle of Saint Coretin Cathedral, Quimper

Nave of Saint Coretin Cathedral, Quimper

Nave of Saint Coretin Cathedral, Quimper

Flying Buttressing at Saint Coretin Cathedral, Quimper

Flying Buttressing at Saint Coretin Cathedral, Quimper

Both the Canterbury cathedral and Saint-Coretin share an unusual feature:  Both buildings have unusually kinked aisles and whilst they are both of elderly – Canterbury has the edge in being more than a few hundred years older –  and Canterbury is significantly larger I found the spaces contained within Saint Coretin  curiously un-mystical and they left me cold. This may be slightly unfair as my favourite part of Canterbury is the crypt and whilst I feel sure Saint Cortetin has one, it isn’t open to the casual visitor so I didn’t get to experience it.  The building is altogether a more uniform structure, the whole comes across as being conceived by one mind or at least one conception and seems to be of a time which contrasts strongly to Canterbury that is a really cobbelled together structure and as Jonathan Foyle puts it is a journey through time.  I found the grey local stone rather unappealing lacking the warmth of the limestone used at Canterbury (that ironically was imported from Caen in Normandy!)  The inside however did have some marvellous colours that Canterbury does not have.

And not surprisingly, given Canterbury’s position as home of some of the finest medieval glass in existance, the stained-glass was universally poor by comparison, with some of the best examples being quite modern and I use the word “best” relatively.  (I note that Wikipedia suggests that the 15C glass is “exceptional” but then I guess that is a relative term) So overall, I came away feeling very happy to have visited the Cathedral but rather unmoved by the experience.

This was not the case at the church of Locmarie just across the Odet from the cathedral.  Here we found a marvellous space with no stained-glass at all and none of the grace to be found at either Canterbury or Saint Coretin but with so much more spirit than the latter. The church of Locmarie predates the cathedral by some three or four hundred years and is an entirely Romanesque structure featuring the massive walls, round arches and tiny windows that define the period.  But although its rough hewn interior had none of the finesse of St Coretin,  it does hold a truly magical feel that more than makes up for it’s inadequacies in other respects.

The church was built in 12C and there is surprisingly little more information about it.  The west wall was rebuilt a few hundred years after it was originally built but that aside, it kind of just is.  This is in itself refreshing as it allowed us to simply appreciate what was there, rather than thinking about who did what when and where etc etc.

Side Aisle of the Church of Locmarie, near Quimper

Side Aisle of the Church of Locmarie, near Quimper

Side Door at the Church of Locmarie, near Quimper

Side Door at the Church of Locmarie, near Quimper

Quimper-149

Side Chapel at the Church of Locmarie, near Quimper

Side Chapel at the Church of Locmarie, near Quimper

Nave of Side the Church of Locmarie, near Quimper

Nave of Side the Church of Locmarie, near Quimper

All Saints Church, Icklingham, Suffolk

Granted, All Saints was built as a church but given that this building hasn’t been in use for over 100 years to call it a “Church”  is perhaps something of a misnomer.

I swung by Icklingham on my way back to Kent after a shoot in Suffolk a week or so ago as it was only a 3 mile detour. All Saints Church is a Churches Conservation Trust museum piece and whilst it certainly was a church it has more of a museum feel now.   It is interesting that while I wholeheartedly support the work of the CCT they are effectively creating a network of little museums across the country, preserving the structures of buildings that have lost their spirit and in a sense their way too.  However this church remains a fine example of a thatched Suffolk Church and is positioned on what once was an ancient and important trade route.

The setting of this particular building is rather plain, pretty but nothing extraordinary although the key guardian was exceptionally cheerful and friendly which did add a kind of warm glow.

Inside, the building has a slightly curious kind of double nave which is in fact a nave plus side aisle but the huge window at the end of the side-aisle kind of elevates it’s visual significance to me.  Unfortunately nearly all the stained glass is long gone that the little that remains is not in the same league as the Canterbury Cathedral glass I have been photographing for the Getty Museum recently.  So I guess the space is very much brighter than it would have been originally, no doubt the fact that it was a gloriously sunny day when I visited, added to this.

Side aisle with large winbdow

Side aisle with large window

There were a few things that caught my eye:

I liked the well chewed pews, no doubt worn down by generations of small children (pre 1900) anxious to get out and play.

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A gnawed Pew

I was also intrigued by the curious short spiral staircase built into the wall dividing the main nave from the (single) side aisle.  This didn’t seem to go anywhere except to a small opening a few metres above the entrance which presumably was used as a pulpit, giving the priest a commanding view of his gathered flock.

The spiral staircase and pulpit

The spiral staircase and pulpit

The early 14C font had some crude but pleasing carvings around it’s perimeter and I particularly liked the faint but lovely octopus-like carving on the sarcophagus by the side door.  This door also sported a fine anchor shaped knocker.

All Saints Details

All Saints Details

The thatched roof was also interesting:

Icklingham Church, Suffolk, CCT, Conservation, thatch roof

You can read the CCT blurb about this church here:  http://www.visitchurches.org.uk/Ourchurches/Completelistofchurches/All-Saints-Church-Icklingham-Suffolk/

And I’ll let the pictures do the talking now:

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The Nave

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Looking across the nave towards the side aisle

Icklingham Church, Suffolk, CCT, Conservation, thatch roof

Light from the side Aisle Wndow

Icklingham Church, Suffolk, CCT, Conservation, thatch roof

Those chewed pews again

Icklingham Church, Suffolk, CCT, Conservation, thatch roof

Side aisle window

Icklingham Church, Suffolk, CCT, Conservation, thatch roof

St Mary the Virgin Church, Fordwich, Near Canterbury, Kent

Church of St Mary the Virgin, Fordwich, Kent ©Robert Greshoff

Church of St Mary the Virgin, Fordwich, Kent
©Robert Greshoff

Popped in to see St Mary the Virgin in Fordwich after doing that traditional Sunday activity of visiting the DIY shop.   This is one of seventeen Kent churches entrusted to the care of the Churches Conservation Trust, a charity who sole function is to ensure that the historical and material aspects of local Churches is maintained and that they can remain open to the public.

Fordwich sits comfortably and sleepily on the banks of the Stour as it winds it’s way to the sea.  The present town bears very little relation to the buzzing place it must have been when it served as the main port for the arrival of Caen stone from France during the Norman reconstruction of the nearby Canterbury Cathedral in 12C and 13C.  Nowadays it’s main claim to fame is that it is the smallest place in the country to have a Town Council and it also has two fine pubs one of which is conveniently opposite the miniscule Town Hall!

Having negotiated my way past innumerable gravestones I arrived at the Church door.  The church itself is very much more substantial than the Romney Marsh building I visited last Sunday and the setting is no where near as unique but that said it does have some interesting features.  I guess from an historical point of view the sarcophagus (that supposedly once contained the remains of St Augustine of Canterbury) is of note. dating from 1100, it is carved with columns and with fishscale tiles on the sloping top  making it look a bit like a Greek temple but but beyond that the thing itself is pretty featureless.

The painting (1688) above the tympanium represents the Royal Arms of William III and Commandments but the best thing about it is the way it exactly follows the shape of the chancel arch below and so serves to emphasise the architectural structure of the building as well as to remind us to be good and pious.

And then there is the fine hand-pumped organ with a large lever protruding from the rear which, no doubt,  someone who didn’t pay enough attention to the commandments above the Chancel Arch was obliged to pump up and down until given the signal to stop from the organist.

And finally, the crowning glory has got to be the curious bully-beef tin hooked on the side of one of the pews.  It certainly never had the honour of holding any relics but what a fantastic piece of folk art – and I have no idea what it was made to hold!

Church of St Mary the Virgin, Fordwich, Kent ©Robert Greshoff

Church of St Mary the Virgin, Fordwich, Kent
©Robert Greshoff

Church of St Mary the Virgin, Fordwich, Kent ©Robert Greshoff

Church of St Mary the Virgin, Fordwich, Kent
©Robert Greshoff

Church of St Mary the Virgin, Fordwich, Kent ©Robert Greshoff

Church of St Mary the Virgin, Fordwich, Kent
©Robert Greshoff

Church of St Mary the Virgin, Fordwich, Kent ©Robert Greshoff

Church of St Mary the Virgin, Fordwich, Kent
©Robert Greshoff

Church of St Mary the Virgin, Fordwich, Kent ©Robert Greshoff

Church of St Mary the Virgin, Fordwich, Kent
©Robert Greshoff

St Thomas a Becket Church, Fairfield, Romney Marsh

Romney Marsh has got to be one of my favourite places in Kent.  The silent and bleak desolation is contrasted only by the endless groups of sheep nibbling at the grass and the plaintive bleats from the new lambs.  Yesterday was a gloriously sunny day so it was a perfect time to visit St Thomas a Beckett Church near Fairfield.  Apparently (according to Simon Jenkins) this is one of Kent’s most visited churches and it is in a wonderful location so one can easily understand why but if you strip out the setting, the building itself is rather plain and uninspiring.

The church now sits isolated and alone amongst the sheep and the steady trickle of visitors most of whom seem to park on the road, walk to the church and then back to their cars to drive off without stopping.  I found the atmosphere there quite compelling and was really struck by the amazing silence that surrounds the place.

The sign on the gate says that the Church key is available at the nearest house.  I was very happy to find the large key hanging next to the back door of said house.  No security, just a small note saying to please replace the key after use – wonderful.  And it was a fine looking key too!

There has been a church on this site since the 13C but all the associated houses have long gone.  The existing church structure was restored in about 1910 after it had become virtually derelict so all the exterior brickwork and roof is from that date which gives it quite a early 20C feel but the interior has certainly retained some of the original timbers.  It also has some marvellous (and very recently painted) box pews, a fine split pulpit and a lead font but I guess even taking these into account the best thing about this church is without doubt it’s location which is utterly unique.

St Thomas a Beckett Church, Fairfield, Romney Marsh, Kent

St Thomas a Beckett Church, Fairfield, Romney Marsh, Kent

St Thomas a Beckett Church, Fairfield, Romney Marsh, Kent

St Thomas a Beckett Church, Fairfield, Romney Marsh, Kent

St Thomas a Beckett Church, Fairfield, Romney Marsh, Kent

St Thomas a Beckett Church, Fairfield, Romney Marsh, Kent