Thursday, October 29, 2009

St John the Baptist, Great Hale

click photo to enlarge
Anyone approaching the church of St John the Baptist, Great Hale, in Lincolnshire, who has an interest in church architecture, will immediately notice its tower. It is unbuttressed, has no string courses, and its bell openings have twin rounded arches with a single dividing column. All of which says Norman, or possibly Late Saxon, i.e. the eleventh century. This period is a difficult one for architectural historians because not only were Saxon builders working in a Romanesque style not unlike that which the Norman invaders brought after 1066, but many must have continued in employment under the new rulers in subsequent years. The term "Saxo-Norman" is sometimes used to describe work of this time, and it is appropriate in the case of Great Hale.

Most of the rest of the church is Gothic and later. However, the tower has an interesting (Pevsner says "unique") narrow, circular stone stairway built into the thickness of the wall, rather than the wooden stairs or ladders that are more usual at that time. The parapet and pinnacles on the tower are C15. Its nave arcades are Early English (C13 to early C14), as is the south aisle (seen above) with its windows with intersecting tracery, and the south porch doorway. Other windows and details date from the C14 and later re-modellings, particularly that which followed the collapse of the medieval chancel in the mid-C17. The Victorians carried out a major restoration in 1896. A brass plaque records this:"Consequent upon the ravages to the Tower and Roof affected in the gale on Sunday March 24 1885 this church was restored." Part of the "ravages" involved a stone pinnacle falling from the tower top, crashing through the roof and damaging the wooden musicians' gallery. Interestingly, the church was at that time recorded as being in the village of Hale Magna: the English, "Great", was substituted for its Latin equivalent in the twentieth century.

On a recent journey between Folkingham and Heckington I stopped at Great Hale when I noticed the light on the building as I passed by. I've taken a few shots of this church before, none of which has satisfied me. This latest photograph is the best to date for that clear, sharp light, the colour of the trees and sky, and the composition that leads the eye from the foreground tree shadow, to the graves and east end of the church, along the nave, up the tower and into the autumn colours of the leaves.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 11mm (22mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/640
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.7 EV
Image Stabilisation: On