Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Commemorated in slate

click photo to enlarge
In a post a while ago I commented that anyone wanting to erect a permanent memorial to themselves could do worse than have one made in brass. However, if that memorial was to be placed outside then a better choice might be a fine slate such as that found at Swithland in Leicestershire, a material that comes in grey, bluish grey or with a greenish tinge.

During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in particular the slate from this location found its way into many churchyards in the East Midlands, Lincolnshire and even further afield. Stone masons prized it for the way very detailed patterns and letters could be cut into its smooth surface. I have a particular fondness for examples from the 1700s when florid scripts, loops, curls and swirls were used on gravestones and wall memorials made of this Swithland slate. Many churchyards in the South Holland area of Lincolnshire where I live have fine examples of this style. The memorial in today's photograph is mounted on an outside wall of the church of St Mary and the Holy Rood at Donington. It commemorates the death of a ten year old boy, Tycho Wing, who must have been a pupil at The Thomas Cowley School in Donington. The fluid script, flourishes, curving underlines, loops that emphasise, and the frame of leaf-like fronds make for a wonderfully delicate effect. Only the slightly black-letter Gothic of the word "Pickworth" departs from the overall style, and even that is brought into the design by the curls that surround it. That this piece of carved stone has been exposed to the weather for 231 years, and still carries the detail that the mason incised, is a testament to its durability and its suitability for this purpose: many of the limestone and sandstone gravestones and wall plaques of that time are now illegible.

Incidentally, the boy commemorated on this memorial must be related to the philosopher, astronomer, astrologer and instrument maker, Tycho Wing (1696-1750), who also came from Pickworth.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Lumix LX3
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 12.8mm (60mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f2.8
Shutter Speed: 1/400
ISO: 80
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On