Monday, June 22, 2015

Deeper and deeper

After lunch I most wanted to go to sleep.  The sun was hot and the air was humid after the night's rain.  Sleeping was what I most wanted to do, especially as I have averaged six hours of sleep per night over the last week.

But I made myself drive over twenty miles across the county to three villages where medieval remains were being made accessible.

Above - first village, the church outwardly Georgian but enclosing a medieval core.  Odd little pastiche tower.  Inside tea and cake was available.

Above:  in the churchyard was this truncated cross.  Pevsner says it is 14th century but gives no evidence for this conclusion.  Probably it is much older and predates the church.

Above:  inside the east end had a simple harmonious dignity.

Above:  second village, on a hill.  Again an 18th century exterior enclosing far older remains.  Although my photograph looks washed out, that's how the fierce sunlight made the world look (to my eyes).

Above:  inside it had an intact Georgian interior with box pews and these attractive communion rails.  Clear glass in the windows, which given the eminence of the building gave scintillating views over the countryside.  You may not suspect it from my photograph, but the church was packed with people having a tea party.

Above:  chief glory of the church is this sculpture (one of two) with 11th century carving - including a figure with wild hair.

Above:  deeper and deeper into the countryside, I stopped the car to try to find the earthworks of an ancient abbey.  After enquiring at a cottage, I was directed down this track.  The heat of the afternoon was almost unbearable.

Above:  the earthworks were on private property, so as I walked I kept half an eye on the farmhouse.  There was no sign of life.  Perhaps they were sleeping off a heavy lunch (possibly including a suet pudding with custard). 

Above:  at one point I had to walk through a gigantic midden (it was actually a massive dung heap, but midden sounds more polite).

Above:  after about half a mile the way was blocked by a gate and a field of cattle.  From the undulations in the landscape this was obviously the site of the abbey.  Perhaps the bovine herd had been placed here to deter antiquarian visitors such as myself.

Above:  beyond the fencing I could see the great earthworks.

Above:  third village, little more than a hamlet, the church Victorian built on the site of a much older structure.

Above:  huge fern growing in the lee of the north buttress.

Above:  inside all appeared Victorian, thoroughly restored in 1958.

Above:  but in a recess off the sanctuary was this fine 13th century recumbent effigy of a knight.  His feet rest on a dog.  From the carving he appears to be lying on a bed of flowers.

Above:  you can't really see in this photograph, but the carving of the head was very fine.  Note the surcoat of chain mail.  Angels either side of the head.

Above:  note the large pommel of the sword.  Professor Roberta Gilchrist of Reading University has advanced the theory that these sword pommels are phallic symbols, presumably meant to represent the size of the male reproductive organ (a sort of eternal boasting in stone).

Above:  in the stained glass window above the effigy was a Victorian representation of a martial Archangel Michael with his hand actually resting on his er... erect sword pommel.  Professor Gilchrist would no doubt tell us that the Commander of the Heavenly Hosts is in a state of arousal, and using his left hand to er... stimulate his er...  Or perhaps we should conclude that Professor Gilchrist has an over-active imagination and needs to calm herself.

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