St Andrew’s Preston and its stained glass

Cordelia Boydell was born in 1787 to the famous painter-publisher Josiah. Her sister Mary Ann married Jean’s 3-greats grandfather so she was the aunt of the Sophia who was married in Weymouth. Cordelia had moved to live in the Royal Crescent there and Mary Ann came to live nearby in Gloucester Row as a widow (which explains Sophia’s wedding church).

Perhaps the sisters also enjoyed worshipping or at least visiting the picturesque country church at Preston cum Sutton Poyntz (which village is now even more picturesquely rebuilt after a devastating fire).

The church was warm and quiet (though a Messy Church display bespeaks livelier moments too), and its gems for me were its stained glass, a Kempe hiding in the bell-tower and two more modern pieces, one showing scenes from Pilgrim’s Progress, and the other commemorating the sad loss of Constance Conway aged 13 shown holding music from Mendelssohn’s E minor prelude which was about to play in a school function.

Certainly it was there that Cordelia chose to be buried, though the gravestones are badly eroded and we didn’t spot hers on this visit.

Surprising effects at St Mary’s Melcombe Regis (Weymouth)

Sophia Jones and the Revd Francis Daubeny were wed here on October 14th 1843. She was Jean’s 3-greats aunt, and he went on to be Rector of Mepal near Woodhall at Hilgay where the Joneses had lived.

Melcombe was but a chapelry in the Middle Ages and the church we see now was a new build after royal patronage (George III had a pew there) rather increased the congregation… This also explains why the fine painting above the altar which would have been in Sophia’s sight as she married was by Thornhill who painted the dome at St Paul’s.

Or perhaps not, depending on when the massive central pulpit and organ case was moved (unless of course it was moveable anyway like the one at St Cuthbert Carlisle).

As you can see the church looks very different now with screened off aisles providing useful meeting and gallery space – and rather surprising light and sound effects, but all signs of life so three cheers for that.

Resting in Peace at Bishop’s Caundle

Bishop’s Caundle is just outside Sherborne, a quiet hamlet whose church (no dedication) feels sleepily quiet too. So it makes a fine final resting place for one of Jean’s great-grandfathers the Revd Henry Edmund Legh who had his last incumbency here, dying in 1913.

He had a troubled life, and it is good to see his simple cross catching the light by the church and rectory that he held.

And splendour at Sherborne Abbey

Lucky Karen Gorham to have, as a suffragan, an ancient diocesan see and a spectacular “see church” (though of course it would be dangerous to press that too far), Sherborne Abbey stands splendid in its golden stone, very much all of a piece with a late-fifteenth century fan-vaulted feel and space and proportions to rival King’s Cambridge. Such rivalry was also dangerous on the eve of the dissolution.

My favourite spots though were less in-your-face: St Aldhelm quietly looking at his heritage, and the Old Testament prophets shining out from the few remaining fragments of medieval stained glass nearby. What wouldn’t I give for a few minutes’ conversation with any of them?

A Tale of two Thomas Hardy’s: Dorchester St Peter

We called in at the “other” Dorchester today – well other to someone who has had a long association with Oxford. St Peter’s is no abbey, and while it’s noble tower is tall enough to peep above the skyline, at ground level it is lost in the streetscape.

Inside the interior is on the dark and even a tiny bit dank side, contrasting rather strongly with Sherborne its neighbour. Jean suggested, and I agreed, that one of the best features was in fact the faux-Leonardo reredos and mosaic work either side of it.

What I shall remember the church for though are its two Thomas Hardy’s: one an early benefactor who has a fine memorial plaque near the door, and the other the poet/novelist who began life by training as an architect, and as a junior drew up a plan for restoration works to the church. I bet he got his wrist slapped for signing the plans and not leaving the principal to claim the glory …

What’s it all for? Grosseteste on the Liberal Arts and Education, then and now.

It was a great privilege and great fun too to be able to give this year’s Robert Grosseteste Lecture at Bishop Grosseteste University in Lincoln on Grosseteste’s Feast day itself. If the technology works you should find links to the text of the lecture and the slide-show that accompanied it below!

Lust at Lincoln

We were in Lincoln this last week and took the opportunity to look at the New Testa,emt section of the frieze on the west front, which is visible if you peer around the scaffolding. “It is rather a startling experience, seeing the West Front of Lincoln Cathedral in detail for the first time. Who would expect fornication, avarice and sodomy to be depicted with quite such gusto on the face of one of the nation’s most magnificent religious buildings.” So Sophie Campbell in the Torygraph back in 2008. The article goes on to sescribe the goings-on in the restored/replaced frieze in graphic detail, including all the naughty bits the Victorian guidebooks left out…

It is of course (in the original, now controversially but I think correctly consered inside) wonderful Romanesque work very reminiscent of what we have all around us in Herefordshire. I haven’t looked up the standard interpretations, but it looks like Adam and Eve are being seduced by the devil and then in his clutches; a miser or usurer (moneybag round neck) and then a pair of lechers or adulterers (genitals being nibbled!) are seized be demons; and fially Christ and the Baptist harrow Hell of those fortunate enough to be able to escape.

I still marvel at the robust energy and pictorial imagination of these twelfth century artists, who have a touch of modernity about them, before the high middle ages prettified everything (gross generalisation!).