Monday, October 27, 2008

Inside a Georgian church

click photo to enlarge
A traditional English church interior looks very much like that shown in my photograph of St Mary, Weston, Lincolnshire - a long nave with pews facing the altar at the east end, often with aisles to left and right, a chancel with pews facing the central aisle, a tower arch and font at the west end, and a pulpit near the chancel arch. This is a model found in many medieval churches, and one that Victorian architects frequently (though not exclusively) adopted.

However, churches built during the intervening Georgian period of the eighteenth century often differ markedly from this template. Like the church of St Peter & St Paul at Langton-by-Spilsby, Lincolnshire (c.1720-1730), shown above, they often comprise a single room with banked box pews that face across a central aisle. Additional seating, as here, is frequently found in a raised gallery across the west end of the church (from which I took this shot). The pulpit in Georgian buildings can be quite elaborate. This example, on the right, is a "triple-decker". The clerk sat at the lowest level (near the aisle) and delivered general announcements. The minister performed most of the service from the middle level (with the inclined lectern), and went up to the highest level (below the tester i.e. sounding board) to deliver the sermon. In Georgian churches the font is often found at the west end, but it can turn up elsewhere: at Langton-by-Spilsby the top of its dome-shaped cover can just be seen at the east end, to the right of the altar. Where medieval churches had elaborate exposed timbers supporting the roof, in Georgian churches a plaster ceiling with a cornice and perhaps roundels or coffering in the classical style is more common. Hatchments -the diamond shaped funeral boards with coats of arms - are often displayed. As in medieval churches, the organ is usually a Victorian addition. Music for services, where provided, was usually performed by a small group of wind and string players. Organs first started to appear in churches during the Georgian period, so you can come upon an example that dates from the time of the building. Here it has clearly been placed in front of the panelling on the east wall, breaking the symmetry that the architect intended.

Many people disparage Georgian church interiors, comparing them unfavourably with their medieval predecessors. I like them. The different take on what a church should look like is interesting, and the variations on the basic themes of the period offer endless fascination.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 11mm (22mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/13
ISO: 400
Exposure Compensation: -1.7 EV
Image Stabilisation: On