Thursday, May 23, 2013

Reflecting on Aswarby church

click photo to enlarge
I visit and photograph Aswarby church every year when we walk in the vicinity of Osbournby. Sometimes it's autumn or winter when we pass by, at other times it may be spring or summer. Whatever the time of year I never fail to admire both the building and its setting. On our recent visit it struck me that in many respects St Denys is a very typical English church. The earliest parts are twelfth century with the nave showing evidence of rebuilding in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and the tower is a fine example of the fifteenth century, the last phase of Gothic. Much of the external ornament shows the inventiveness and wit of the minds of the medieval masons and sculptors who carved it.

A west tower is characteristic of English parish churches, as is a four-bay arcade and a lower, shorter chancel (this one was rebuilt in the Victorian period). The main entrance is typically through the south porch, though here, as is sometimes the case, the north door is favoured for convenience. The photograph above shows the view from the south, consequently the north aisle that projects from the nave and has its own lean-to roof can't be seen. However, such an addition is also very common. The north side was favoured for such an extension because the south side was usually chosen for burial before any other part of the churchyard.

Inside Aswarby church what we see is also very typical of what an English church offers. The view in my smaller photograph is one I took from the pulpit. It shows the bright west window seen through the tower arch. The area railed off in the corner by the north door holds the local landowner's tombs, in this case the Whichcote family. One less commonly found feature is the box pews. The Georgian period liked these for their comfort, privacy and freedom from draughts, but the Victorians often got rid of them, installing sturdy and uncomfortable pews. The rightmost box pews with the pierced, decorative woodwork are raised above the main blocks of seating and have a good view of the pulpit. This is the area reserved for the Whichcote family. Its elevated position reflects their elevated status. It also has its own fireplace!

The two boards above the tower arch are hatchments, paintings of coats of arms that were hung on the house of a deceased member of the well-to-do and often removed to the church after the burial. The Australian flag hangs in Aswarby church. This isn't unique but is unusual. It commemorates George Bass, a man who was raised in the locality, baptised at this church, and who discovered and mapped parts of Australia. The Bass Strait that separates the Australian mainland from Tasmania is named after him. It comes as no surprise to find that quite a few of the visitors to the church hail from Victoria and Tasmania.

photographs and text © Tony Boughen

Photo 1
Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 28mm
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/400 sec
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On