Tag Archives: Rural

More beautiful grey skies

We has some great skies yesterday afternoon.

I pulled over yesterday on my way back from a project shoot to photograph this expanse.

Kent Countryside Sky
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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 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

Littlebourne – Queen of the Kent Barns

At last I’ve been able to get into the Littlebourne Barn and it was worth the wait.  It is a fabulous space dating from 1340.  I was given a little booklet by Betty which is so concise and well written, there seems little point in trying to rehash it here, so instead (with permission) I have reproduced parts of it.  It was written by Peter Bell, Lead conservator at Canterbury City Council.

(from the Peter Bell and CCC booklet:)

INTRODUCTION

In Kent’s rich tradition of timber-framed buildings, the aisled barns represent the best of the carpenter’s art.  It was their scale and status in the hierarchy of farm buildings which presented such a challenge to the carpenters of the Middle Ages.  Littlebourne Barn is one of the finest and the best preserved of this most imposing of building types.

EXTERIOR

Littlebourne Barn has all the characteristics of the Kentish aisled Barn: the steeply pitched roof; the long roof slope which sweeps down from the ridge to the low eaves; the oak-boarded walls and the close relationship to the farmhouse and other farm buildings which have long since disappeared.  The timber framed walls stand on brick bearer walls which keep the frame and its wooden cladding away from the damp earth.  They are clad in riven vertical oak boards which are tarred to keep out the weather. The gaps between each board allowed ventilation to the crops within.  The two hipped porches were added in 1961.  The original entrances would have been below the aisle plate.

Littlebourne Barn, c1340, Kent, England

Littlebourne Barn, c1340, Kent, England

INTERIOR

The barn is 172ft long, divided into 7 1/2 bays.  According to carpenters marks found in the architectural survey, it originally had nine bays. t is aisled on all four sides, ie it has an aisle or outshot on each of the main body of the building.  This was the usual way of achieving greater width that the length of the standard tie beam.  The timber frame consists of arcade posts which support arcade plates, which run the length of the barn supporting the rafters.

This section may help!

Barn Section

Tie beams span between the arcade posts at high level and in turn support the crown posts, collar purlins and collars.  Crown-post roof construction gives considerable strength to the upper part of the roof and resists the tendency of rafters to crack.  It was widely used in the 14C and together with diagonal braces between most of the principal timbers and notably the curved shores between arcade posts and post plates, resulted in a remarkably stable structure.  (with thanks to Peter Bell and the Littlebourne Barn Committee)

And now some pictures: I’ve included a few in colour this time but as before I think in general Black & White work better!

Littlebourne Barn, c1340, Kent, England

Littlebourne Barn, c1340, Kent, England

Littlebourne Barn, c1340, Kent, England

Littlebourne Barn, c1340, Kent, England

Littlebourne Barn, c1340, Kent, England

Littlebourne Barn, c1340, Kent, England

Littlebourne Barn, c1340, Kent, England

Littlebourne Barn, c1340, Kent, England

Littlebourne Barn, c1340, Kent, England

Littlebourne Barn, c1340, Kent, England

Littlebourne Barn, c1340, Kent, England

Littlebourne Barn, c1340, Kent, England

Littlebourne Barn, c1340, Kent, England

Littlebourne Barn, c1340, Kent, England

Hop Garden Pole Fence – for fun

I’ve done a lot of driving over the past couple of days, shooting in Southampton yesterday and all over Hertfordshire today.

On my way back today I drove past a wonderful long fence made of poles between a hop garden and the road. The fence goes on for the whole length of the field, about 100m I guess, and is a magnificently haphazard structure.  I’ve driven past it frequently before now but it just so happened that today I was thinking about my years of assisting Michael Millar in London in the mid 80’s…

One of our regular jobs was a kind of photogrammetry, recording the elevations of buildings in Central London on on some occasions whole streets.  We worked on a 1/2 plate Sinar (we used 1/2 plate because 5×4 was too small relative to the lens angle of the 90mm 5.6 lens, ie we could shoot much wider on 1/2 plate).  After I finished processing the film, I printed each image big (about 1500mmx1000mm) on the ancient 1/1 plate DeVere enlarger and then if we were doing a whole street, Michael carefully cut them out and stuck them together to form a huge and very long panorama featuring every building perspective correct and square-on.  I remember we shot a few of the streets in Chinatown like that, Wardour Street and Gerrard Lane are two that I remember.   Anyway, I digress…

Whilst I was driving past this pole fence today, it suddenly occurred to me that it might be fun to shoot this in the same way.  The sun was shining and it wasn’t going to be out for much longer so I seized the moment, did a U-turn, parked up and photographed it.

Hop-1(ipad)

Hop-2(ipad)

I am not convinced that it works but it was fun to do so what the hell – and it is a lovely fence anyway!

A New but still old Barn

Before moving on to the next (really) old Tithe Barn I thought that this one makes for a change and contrasts to the Woolton Barn featured earlier.  I reckon this one is about 70 years old at the outside (vs roughly 600 years in the case of Woolton). No great joinery or imposing structure but some wonderful colours and a magical space in a very different way.  A touch modernity with dilapidation thrown in for good measure.

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Tithe Barns (1) – The Woolton Barn in Kent, England – structure revealed

Coming from a land where most building is pretty new (and new does not always mean good!) and the few 17C and 18C buildings that do exist are regarded as ancient monuments, I have long harboured a fascination with the old architecture of my adopted homeland, Britain. Here ancient really does mean ancient.  My exploration of the Cathedral over the last couple of years and more particularly it’s roof structures has led me to look more closely at other old timber structures in the county.

Tithe barns are an interesting case in point.  They are uniformly old, most dating from the 13 or 14C and more interestingly they reveal their inner most secrets without any attempt to hide or disguise how they are put together.  It’s all there and as been so for centuries.

Most tithe barns in this country are timber-famed structures, in contrast to the preference for stone on mainland Europe.  I visited the Woolton Barn recently. The structure has had some more recent soft wood restoration but it is essentially a 15C oak structure with the two ends glazed where there would normally be timber cladding.  This last feature makes the building very light (not a common feature in buildings of this sort) and enables it to be kept in use all year round.

Kent Barn

I love the raw and sculptural quality of the timbers and the fact that they have remained doing their job for so long.

Kent Barn Kent Barn Kent Barn Kent Barn Kent Barn Kent Barn Kent Barn

Kent Barn

A short note on tithe barns in general:  these structures were built throughout Europe to contain the 10% of produce that everyone was obliged to give to the church.  They were usually located near a centre of activity like a Monastery, Abbey, Church or Cathedral.

Although all shot in colour, I have presented most of these as Black & White images as this emphasises the structure and because I increasingly feel that unless there is a clear visual or commercial imperative, there is little need for colour!

The next barn I look at will be an older 14C building with a slightly more complex structure and a very much darker interior.  But it exists in it’s original location with pretty much all the original timbers in place.