Monday, January 30, 2006

A church, plain and simple

click photo to enlarge
This undistinguished church in an overlooked corner of England makes a fine sight on a winter's afternoon. Built in 1764, Old All Saints, Becconsall, Lancashire, is a simple Georgian brick box, only two bays long with arched windows. The east wall has a simple "Venetian" window comprising an arched light with flanking rectangular lights. On the roof is a bellcote, small and hardly decorated, and on the west wall a crude Victorian porch has been stuck over the west door. Inside is a single room with a west gallery.

There are architecturally more interesting Georgian churches to be found in England. However, Becconsall's plainness is part of its appeal. That, and the colour of the bricks in this setting. Those of us who have an interest in English churches tend to enthuse over the medieval buildings, and have strong opinions either for or against those erected by the Victorians. Many are lukewarm about Georgian churches, and it's hard to understand why. Yes, they sometimes use classical ornament in a clumsy way, and it's true that the interiors do not have the darkness and mystery of earlier and later churches. But, they are often very well proportioned, and use brick wonderfully well. It's true to say that a Georgian building, built down to a price, will invariably be more satisfying than low cost churches of other periods!

Visitors to England often remark on how well the country's churches sit in the landscape - they seem made for each other. When I look at Becconsall church among its greensward and gravestones, backed by ivy-clad trees and a cold winter sky, I can only say "Amen" to that.
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen