Thursday, June 11, 2009

Brant Broughton's angel roof

click photo to enlarge

When Canon Frederick Heathcote Sutton was appointed to the church of St Helen, Brant Broughton, Lincolnshire, in 1873, he became rector of one of the county's finest medieval churches. Its elegant 198 feet tall tower and spire date from the fourteenth century and is a landmark for many miles around, a perfectly proportioned testament to the aesthetic sensibilities of the medieval masons. Elsewhere the church is richly and thoughtfully constructed with vaulted porches to the north and south, fine carvings including green men and very individual gargoyles, elaborate window tracery, and ball-flower ornament decorating edges and surfaces across the building.

Many newly appointed churchmen of the last quarter of the nineteenth century would have set about making essential repairs to the building, concentrating on conserving the beauty of what was there. Others would have seen it as an opportunity to impose a Victorian aesthetic on the structure. Canon Sutton, being of the Anglo-Catholic persuasion, took it upon himself to do both! And, in general, he did a very good job too. He was helped in this by having the good sense to appoint Bodley & Garner as architects to help formulate and execute his vision. To that end they took down the Georgian chancel and rebuilt it in a Victorian Gothic that fits well with the original medieval work. The church furnishings were replaced and renovated, and stained glass designed by the Rector himself was made for the windows. Bodley was busy with one of his masterpieces, Hoar Cross, at the same time as he worked on Brant Broughton, and something of the opulence of the Staffordshire building is seen in St Helen's.

Today's photograph shows the fifteenth century angel roof at Brant Broughton. Bodley restored it and then had it repainted using the colour scheme that was still detectable through fragments of paint in the wood. To our modern eyes the rich colours go well with the stone of the window tracery and walls. However, there are those who regret that some of the older limewash and render was removed from the walls by Bodley and Sutton to give the walls the scraped, more austere, "natural" feel that was felt to be suitable at the time. I have two methods of taking photographs of church roofs from directly below. One is to lie on my back with the camera pressed tightly to my face; the other is to use a tripod. This image was secured using the second approach!

See another of my images of an angel roof, with a quite different architectural treatment, here.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 11mm (22mm/44mm equiv.)
F No: f2.8
Shutter Speed: 1/50 seconds
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -1.0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On