Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Heckington and the Decorated style of architecture

click photo to enlarge
" of the dozen or so grandest churches of Lincolnshire...a church remembered for Dec exuberance"
Pevsner, Buildings of England: Lincolnshire

The exterior of the church of St Andrew at Heckington, Lincolnshire, is beauty made stone. Some would say its spire is a little short, or, conversely, that its tower is a touch too big. Others would question the way the transepts fit into the body of the church. But none would deny the beauty of its pinnacles, the decoration of its buttresses, the 38 statues that adorn it, the inventive carving on its south porch, or the quality of its window tracery, particularly that of the east window. "Dec exuberance" sums it up nicely. However, the interior, after the splendours of what is outside, is somewhat disappointing. The Victorians scraped it too much. It is not without a few highlights though - the font of the 1300s, elaborate sedilia and piscina, and an Easter Sepulchre of the first order.

But what of the quotation at the start of this piece? Those without an interest in English Gothic architecture might be wondering about "Dec". Context suggests it might be short for decorative, but why then the capital "D"? In fact it is short for Decorated and refers to a style and period of architecture. The English architect, Thomas Rickman (1776-1841) was a self-taught and quite prolific builder of churches, who also took an antiquarian interest in the styles of the architecture of the Romanesque and Gothic churches that he found all across England. He categorised their architecture of the middle ages into four basic styles: Norman (1066-c.1190), Early English (c.1190 - c.1310), Decorated (c.1310-c.1390) and Perpendicular (c.1390-1485). Subsequent authors and ages have tinkered with the names and dates of this classification, and there are those who have pointed out its limitations. But for all its failings Rickman's original categories still stand up to scrutiny very well, and continue to be used by many laymen and academics.

So, today's photograph shows a significant and beautiful building of the Decorated period of English Gothic architecture, a style characterised by wider arches than Early English, the ogee arch, flamboyant and undulating lines and forms, crockets, naturalistic carving, fleurons, mouchettes and dagger-forms, chamfering and more. Heckington church is quite difficult to photograph in its entirety due to nearby buildings and closely planted trees. This shot, I felt, captured something of its essence
, and shows its tower and spire, a buttress niche in the centre, and the top of the south porch on the right.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 12mm (24mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/800
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.7 EV
Image Stabilisation: On