Thursday, February 23, 2012

Louth steeple

click photo to enlarge
"That Louth parish church is one of the most majestic of English parish churches need hardly be said. It is what it is thanks to its steeple, which has good claims to be considered the most perfect of Perp (Perpendicular period) steeples." Nikolaus Pevsner (1902-1983) German-born British historian of art and architecture

The spired steeples of Lincolnshire's medieval churches individually and collectively surpass those of the churches of any other English county. From the austere beauty of the early broach spires of Sleaford and Frampton, to the fifteenth century magnificence of Grantham and Louth, with a host of others between, they are without parallel. Only a very few, such as Newark in Nottinghamshire, come close to matching the splendours on display in Lincolnshire.

When one considers this subject from the perspective of architectural history, and one looks at proportion, innovation in design and decoration, and the relationship between the rest of the church and the spired steeple then, despite Pevsner's praise of Louth, I think it's quite a close call between that church and Grantham. However, a spired steeple is more than a piece of architecture. It is also a major vertical accent in a town, and the way in which it contributes to views and vistas from near and far needs to be considered too. An example of a spired steeple that makes much less impact on its surroundings than might be imagined is that of Norwich Cathedral. When one considers Louth and Grantham, both in towns with hills, both without any real competition as far as tall buildings go, then it is Louth that clearly makes the greater impact.

Today's photographs were taken on the same, very changeable day. The darker shot is a view from Bridge Street, the sunlit one shows the church seen from Westgate, a fine street of distinguished, mainly Georgian, buildings. Both try to show something of the way this tower and spire are often framed by the surrounding buildings. This is something that happens very little at Grantham. Nor does Grantham's fine church advertise its presence from miles away over rolling hills as does that at Louth. Perhaps that's the next photograph of this building that I'll try to take.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Photo 1
Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 48mm
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/500 sec
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On


Anonymous said...

As usual your lovely photos provoke quiet contemplation and pleasant reverie, giving one a chance to unwind.  In this case, the regency? building in the foreground set me wondering about the span of ages between the building of the church and the later buildings.  That led to wondering who commissioned the church to be built and who paid for it.  Was it built over another type of church, or added to an existing building?  And did the clergy pay for this, or the landed gentry, or were the serfs taxed?  And that led to wondering why Lincolnshire has such a fine collection of perpendicular type churches and why very often the spires are so tall in a flat landscape.  Lol, that is what your images do!

Karen Gray said...

A lovely photograph. I like the way the street sweeps up to the church.

Tony Boughen said...

Hi L A,
Thanks for the comments and thoughts.
The near house is an C18 building. Louth church, like many Lincolnshire churches, was "built on wool" or at least the proceeds from its sale. The tower was begun c.1440, and the spire in 1501-15 at a cost of £305 7s 5d. The body of the church was started about 1430 and took 10 years. It was usual in the middle ages for the church to fund the chancel (where the clergy officiated) and the laity the nave (where the congregation stood, and later sat). I imagine this happened at Louth.

Hi Karen,
Thanks for the comment. The gentle curve of the road is a good "lead line" to the tower isn't it.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for supplying the very interesting info.  I never imagined that the parish records would be so revealing and that some of my questions might actually  be answered., especially regarding the cost of the spire.

Tony Boughen said...

L A, the information about the cost of the spire is from The Buildings of England: Lincolnshire, 2nd ed. by Nikolaus Pevsner & John Harris. This book is a "must" for anyone living in Lincolnshire who is interested in architectural history, or who is generally interested in the cities, towns, villages and buildings of the county. A volume by Pevsner, sometimes with a collaborator, exists for every English county.