Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Ropsley church

click photo to enlarge
When I approach a church that I've never visited before, such as the one shown in this photograph, St Peter at Ropsley, Lincolnshire, I do two things. First, I take a photograph of the exterior. I then know that this marks the point in my sequence of images when I began shooting at a new church: important if you visit six or seven during the course of the day. Then I stand and stare. What I'm doing as my gaze ranges over the building is trying to read something of its history from the evidence that is shown on its exterior.

Here I immediately noticed the Decorated style (C14) of the fine broach spire, and the late C15 porch with its too-tall (for my taste) pinnacles. I guessed the south aisle was C15 too from the style of its windows, and wondered whether the extension at the side of the chancel was a chantry chapel. The clerestory clearly came at a point when the church was enlarged, but was it C14 or C15? Of course, when you enter the building the nave arcades are usually revealing, and here was no exception - the south columns and arches C13, like the chancel arch. Some windows on the north side looked post-medieval. However, churches often have the capacity to surprise a visitor, and Ropsley is no exception, because the nave corners show evidence of Anglo-Saxon "long and short work", and the north aisle has obviously Norman work. So, the Gothic exterior surrounds and extends a Romanesque building from the C11.

None of that early work is obvious in this black and white image taken from the south-east corner of the churchyard. This is usually the best location for a shot of a complete English church, providing the church council hasn't planted trees (particularly dark, dense yews) that obscure this quarter! However, Ropsley is quite exposed, making a fine sight on its slight rise, its surroundings restricted to a soft greeensward and a small forest of leaning gravestones that include many excellent slate examples from the C18 and early C19.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 14mm (28mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/320
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On