Friday, August 14, 2015

Stone, cast iron and slate

click photo to enlarge
In the main the builders of Britain's medieval parish churches used local stone. Sometimes this was very well suited to the purpose - it withstood the weather well, held sharp moulding and carving for centuries, and the Victorian restorers left most of it in place. The Oolitic limestone of Barnack and Ancaster are two good examples of such stone. Elsewhere, however, the stone left much to be desired but was used nonetheless because to bring better material from afar was simply too expensive. Much of the greenstone used in churches of the Lincolnshire Wolds, though striking in terms of colour, has decayed down the centuries, flaking off the surface, leaving walls pock marked and shabby, requiring heavy restoration. The builders must have known that it wasn't the best building stone, but they used it for convenience, cost, colour and out of a sense of local pride. I'm glad they did. The medieval tower of Horncastle church is positively rainbow-coloured with old and new local stone, as is that of Great Malvern Priory in Worcestershire.

On a recent visit to Derbyshire I came upon this stonework (above) at the church of St Giles, Calke. The building was erected in 1826-8 as a private church on the estate of Calke Abbey. I imagine the beautiful and subtly coloured stone is local, and it immediately caught my eye. What I also noticed was the tracery of the windows and I went to touch them to see if my suspicions were accurate. They were. The reticulated tracery of these two-light windows is made of cast iron. A little research  showed that they were made at a foundry in Derby. I've come across late Georgian and Victorian cast iron church windows before. They are not common, but can be found in cities and parts of the country adjacent to iron-producing areas. Here the colour they have been painted, does I think, go well with the stone and even with the dark slate gravestones rising up through the long churchyard grass.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Olympus E-M10
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 39mm (78mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/100 sec
Exposure Compensation: 0
Image Stabilisation: On