Thursday, May 17, 2012

Old church doors

click photo to enlarge
Today's photograph is another of my recently scanned slides from 1986. It shows the remarkable south door of the church of St Helen at Stillingfleet, East Yorkshire. The semi-circular headed doorway in which it sits dates from c.1160. It has the characteristic ornament of chevron, beakhead, scallop etc. that is frequently found in Late Norman architecture. The door itself is thought to be contemporary with this period. Even though it has suffered the ravages of time - see the inserted pieces at the bottom replacing rotted wood - and, despite some of the ironwork missing, what is left surely cannot be from a later period.

The first thing that catches the eye is the very Nordic looking boat with its great steering oar/rudder. At the top left are two figures, and a further one can be seen at top right. The big hinges have large "C" shaped embellishments with dragon-like heads that bring to mind the sort of head one sees in stone on Norman doorways and in illustrations on illuminated manuscripts. The single foliate boss was probably one of two, three or more. Then there is the band of interlaced metal that helps to tie the boards of the door together. It looks like the hinges may have had a lattice-work of metal inside the "C" shapes. Who knows what else there was? When I took my photograph in 1986 the old door was still hanging in its original position and fulfilling its purpose as the main door connecting the outside and inside of the church. The last time I visited Stillingfleet, several years ago a new door was in its place and the ancient door had been moved inside to preserve it. It is a remarkable survivor.

The smaller photograph shows the north door of the church at Swineshead, Lincolnshire, taken on my recent visit. This is also the only door ever to have hung in its doorway. The reticulated tracery at the top of the door shows that it is contemporary with the architecture around it. Like many larger church doors it has a smaller door embedded within it. The large door would have been opened on ceremonial occasions with the smaller door serving everyday use and helping to minimise the effects of the cold north wind.

Somewhere in my collection of slides I have photographs of other old church doors including the fine example at Skipwith, also in East Yorkshire. Other Lincolnshire examples I've posted in this blog include the door at St Andrew, Sempringham (here and here) and the door at Pickworth.

photographs and text (c) T. Boughen

Photo 1
Camera: Olympus OM1n
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 50mm
F No: N/A
Shutter Speed: N/A
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  N/A
Image Stabilisation: N/A