Monday, February 11, 2008

The Stump

click photo to enlarge
In 1851 the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations opened in Hyde Park, London. It was housed in a large building called, unsurprisingly, the Great Exhibition Hall. The building's name didn't last very long because it was Joseph Paxton's revolutionary structure in cast iron and glass, and people immediately christened it "The Crystal Palace" - the name by which it subsequently became known.

This tradition of bestowing affectionate (or derogatory) names on buildings is one of fairly long standing, and it continues today. Norman Foster's curvaceously tapered office block at 30 St Mary Axe, London, built for an insurance company, is rarely referred to by either its address or its name, the Swiss Re Tower. "The Gherkin" is the name given to its distinctive shape by Londoners, and the soubriquet has well and truly stuck. A building doesn't even have to be built to acquire a nickname! Renzo Piano's proposed 66-storey London Bridge Tower is already widely known as "The Glass Shard" in recognition of its likeness to an upright tapering splinter.

When the people of Lincolnshire, in the 1400s, saw the tower of the church of St Botolph start to reach for the sky they must have been impressed by the sight. But as stage was built on successive stage, and no spire appeared they must have begun to wonder how high it would go. And, when it was topped by an open-work octagonal lantern they must have been lost for words. They were familiar with the towers and spires of nearby churches, but this was different from any of them. And it was so big! Perhaps it was the view of the 272 feet tall tower when seen from a few miles distant, across the flat Fenland landscape, that caused a local wit to liken it to a tree stump. However the name arose it stuck, and "The Stump" it has been ever since.

My photograph shows the classic view of this wonderful church tower, from the Town Bridge. I took it for the particularly good reflections on the tidal River Witham, seen to good effect in the morning light of a winter day.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 13mm (26mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/800
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.7 EV
Image Stabilisation: Off