Monday, July 12, 2010

Sharpening marks and old churches

click photo to enlarge
On 30th June this year English Heritage published a report on the state of Britain's 14,500 places of worship that are officially "listed" as being of architectural and historical importance. It suggests that "about 90% are in good or fair condition but 10% are potentially in need of urgent major repairs." Given the dwindling congregations, the ever rising cost of maintaining historic buildings, and the tightening of the public purse strings, a lot of effort and ingenuity will have to go into raising the money that must surely be found to keep these important structures standing and open to the public.

On a recent visit to the church of St Mary and St Hardulph at Breedon on the Hill, Leicestershire, I was prompted to reflect on how we treat our churches today compared with the past. This building is famed for its prominent location on top of a hill of oolitic limestone and for its important Anglo-Saxon sculptures. I also like the contrast between the stone of the church and the plentiful eighteenth and nineteenth century slate gravestones. Like many medieval churches it has been knocked about a bit over the centuries, with parts taken down, new bits added, and restorations undertaken. The building as it stands today is a credit to all who have cared for it over the years.

So what prompted my reflection on the care and attitude of different generations to the fabric of the building? Well, the vertical grooves and holes in the stonework of the south porch look very much like those inflicted by people sharpening their metal tools on the side of the building. These may have been men who cut the graveyard grass, though the shapes make me think that it may have been people sharpening arrows when they were practising their archery skills, a not uncommon thing in English graveyards down the centuries. There seems to have been quite a bit of weathering after the holes and grooves were made, so one could reasonably assume that they were made a long time ago. Anyone today seen doing such a thing would be chastised with some force. But in past centuries, when people's perspective was not as long as ours, the church would have seemed a permanent, immutable object, that always had been and always would be, and scraping metal on its stones a small matter.

In the past I've said that clear blue skies are not what I wish for when out and about with my camera, and I was willing clouds to swing round behind the church before I took my photographs here. But it wasn't to be!

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Photo 1 (Photo 2)
Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 13mmmm (22mm/44mm equiv.)
F No: f5.6 Shutter Speed: 1/800 (1/640)
ISO: 100 (100)
Exposure Compensation: -0.7 EV (-0.3EV)
Image Stabilisation: On