Sunday, March 27, 2011

All Saints, Brockhampton, Herefordshire

click photo to enlarge
Like many people with an interest in church architecture - in fact English architecture in general - I have a high regard for All Saints, Brockhampton in Herefordshire, the 1901-1902 masterwork of William Richard Lethaby. But, as a photographer I've found it a frustrating building because, on the three occasions that I've visited it, the light has been less than satisfactory. In fact, on my most recent visit a week ago it was downright flat and gloomy.

Lethaby was an apprentice to Norman Shaw and became something of a disciple of William Morris. At the time he built Brockhampton church he was principal of the Central School of Arts and Crafts and Professor of Design at the Royal College of Art. Considering his background was relatively humble compared with architects of his day (his father was a gilder and carver) he achieved a great deal. At Brockhampton Lethaby tried to put into practice the principals he espoused. The materials are local - stone, thatch, timber, though with concrete between the striking stone roof arches, and the workmen he engaged were all local. The design takes the vocabulary of traditional buildings and gives it the architect's own interpretation. Thus, whilst the arches are pointed they avoid copying Romanesque or medieval precedents. The tracery echoes the reticulation and cusped forms of Gothic, but are obviously not medieval. Similarly, the stone carving and metalwork draws on the naturalism and stylization of the Arts and Crafts rather than, say, the Decorated period of English Gothic, which also valued these qualities.

Lethaby's church sits well on its sloping site, nestling naturally into its surrounding fields and parkland, at first looking older than its 110 years. The exterior has an engaging domesticity that is repeated when one enters the building. The relatively low, enclosing roof, warm-coloured stone, waxed oak, and glowing lights make it a welcoming building. Christopher Whall's stained glass, some Burne-Jones tapestries and embroidered and appliqued cloth adds a few stronger coloured highlights.

My photographs show the underside of the low crossing tower, a view down the nave and the exterior from the south. The outside image required work to extract anything of value. On my next visit I'll have to order better weather and a different time of day to get some strong, directional light to model the building! Incidentally, this church has received the highest form of flattery, higher even than the words of the architectural historian, Nikolaus Pevsner, who called it "one of the most convincing and most impressive churches of its date in any country." Intrigued? Read here.

photographs and text (c) T. Boughen

Main Photo
Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 35mm
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/200
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  -0.67 EV
Image Stabilisation: On