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Anyone with an interest in English church architecture will be familiar with the main gazetteers and guides that document these buildings. All will know of the county volumes of the "Buildings of England" series by Nikolaus Pevsner (and others). Many will be familiar with John Betjeman's original or updated "Guide to English Parish Churches". And most will have an acquaintance with Simon Jenkins' "England's Thousand Best Churches". I have all these books and I list them here in order of preference, best first.
They all have their own take on listing and describing churches. Pevsner is completist and academic, Betjeman is brief, quirky and selective and Jenkins is more opinionated, historical, florid and his book has a more contentious title. Whose thousand best? Not mine, though he has many I would include. So how do I differ from Jenkins? Well, I have a liking for churches that have been knocked about a bit, that show their age, the ravages of time and the mark of successive builders. I can appreciate as much as the next man the big, richly ornamented, Grade 1 Listed, beautifully kept show-piece church. But, I can also appreciate the tumble-down, humble structure that needs a bit of maintenance, that can be found, with difficulty, surrounded by trees, at the end of a country lane: the sort of building that seems to grow out of the ground rather than look like it's been dropped in, scrubbed and polished, from on high.
Today's photograph shows a church that I liked the first time I saw it some time in the 1970s. It's a building that wouldn't even get on the long-list for Jenkins' best. St Andrew in the village of Bonby, Lincolnshire, is a mixture of work from the 1100s, 1200s and 1800s. The original stone has been replaced and reinforced by brick, and much of it shows its age. It must have always been a work in progress as people enlarged the church, made it smaller, renewed bits that fell down, patched walls, moved windows and blocked up doorways. After taking today's main photograph I searched out a shot of the church taken from a similar viewpoint that I remembered scanning from a slide last year. The original was taken in 1986 using an Olympus OM1n and a 135mm lens. I wanted to see if there had been any changes during the intervening 27 years. One jumped out at me immediately. The bottom two thirds of the east wall that was looking rough in 1986 is now rendered and painted white. But apart from that it was much the same low, squat, rustic building. Even the same dark red paint continues to be used on the drainpipes, gutters and door. I did notice one further difference: the churchyard grass is being kept a bit shorter!
photograph and text © Tony Boughen
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 35mm
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/250 sec
Exposure Compensation: -1.0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On