Thursday, May 08, 2008

Made to last

click photos to enlarge

One of the pleasures of looking at churches is that you can get an almost palpable sense of history and the continuity of life down the generations. The other day I visited a succession of churches including St Andrew at Pickworth in Lincolnshire. This is a beautiful, essentially fourteenth century building, but with two windows and a font from the twelfth century. Most people who are interested in ecclesiastical architecture know Pickworth for its wall paintings of the late 1300s. Above the chancel arch is a Doom that continues on to a nave wall. This was designed to show the congregation the fires of Hell, and it includes three figures being boiled alive in a cauldron. Other paintings illustrate St Christopher, the Ascension, The Quick and The Dead, and the Weighing of Souls. These were uncovered in the nineteenth century having been painted over in earlier centuries when such things were frowned upon.

Fascinating though the painting are, the thing that caught my eye was the door inside the south porch. It was made and placed in its doorway in the early 1300s, and has remained there ever since, opening and closing as successive generations of villagers have entered and left the church. It bears the marks of centuries of nails and tacks where priests and parish clerks have fixed notices to its thick oak planks. The "C" shaped hinges and the decorative iron lobes and tendrils are rusted, with parts missing, but they still hold it together as they did on the day it was first fixed in place. I find it remarkable, and quite humbling, to see an artefact such as this, the subject of care and sensitive restoration for the past 700 years, still in situ and still giving good service. As I studied this venerable object I became aware of carved graffiti on the inner walls of the porch on each side of the door. The oldest date I could find was evidently made by "WS" in 1614. There were many dates from the 1700s, and the latest appeared to be from the 1970s. Later, as I looked at the eighteenth century slate and stone gravestones in the churchyard I wondered if any of these departed, eulogised by those who erected their memorials, were those who had left evidence of their youthful indiscretions carved inside the porch!

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 12mm macro (24mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/60
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.7 EV
Image Stabilisation: On