Monday, May 09, 2011

Harrington church and S.S. Teulon

click photo to enlarge
My interest in church architecture leads me to read a lot about the architects of the Victorian period: the major names of the nineteenth century such as Scott, Pearson, Street, Butterfield etc, but also the second rank of practitioners and the lesser lights too. The other day, following a visit to the church of St Mary at Harrington, Lincolnshire, I was delving into my books to find out more about Samuel Sanders Teulon (1812-1873). I'd always known of him because he was one of Harry Goodhart-Rendel's "rogues" of the architects who departed drastically from the mainstream Gothic of the time, and injected their own whim, fancy and personal vision into their country houses and churches. I recall too seeing his estate cottages at Sunk Island, East Yorkshire, and his individualistic churches dotted about in Lincolnshire at places such as New Bolingbroke, Riseholme and Burringham. However, when I read about the extent of his practice and the number of commissions he worked on, I felt as I often do when reviewing the work of these men - exhausted.

It's hard to imagine how the successful Victorian architects juggled their commissions. Yes, they had assistants and trainees, but the sheer weight and range of commissions that came to someone like Teulon is staggering. And that doesn't take into account the amount of church restorations, rebuildings and extensions that many undertook. Harrington church was a rebuild by Teulon of a medieval structure, but such an extensive rebuild that little of the old work remains. So, given his reputation for dazzling polychrome brickwork, weird gables, tall towers, complex silhouettes, a style that some admired and others called "illiterate", what characterises Teulon's work here. The word that comes to my mind is "boring." It is a greenstone church with little to distinguish it from others. Inside the building its painted plasterwork, pulpit, windows and roof are all too typical of a Victorian church. The building disappoints because it displays neither novelty or a respect for the original building. The fact that I'd visited Harrington twice before and could remember nothing of it says it all.

But, from a photographic standpoint, the light on the day of my most recent visit was strong and Teulon's painted walls reflected it around the interior giving it quite a nice glowing quality. So I composed this asymmetrical shot looking down the nave, past the "wine glass" pulpit to the "Geometrical" east window.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 24mm
F No: f6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/20
ISO: 500
Exposure Compensation: -0.67 EV
Image Stabilisation: On