Monday, 23 August 2010

Four churches on the road to Stratford

Another trip to the Midlands via the A3400 Oxford to Stratford Road and the opportunity to look at four more churches culminating in another of the magnificent Cotswold Wool Churches

First stop was St Nicholas Church in Heythrop, which was signposted 2 miles off the A 3400 just south of the roundabout to Chipping Norton. I could not go inside as the church was locked and from the outside it was a little disappointing. I have since found out that this is the more recent of the two churches at Heythrop – it was built in the 1870’s, using local stone, by Albert Brassey, who owned Heythrop Park. It is typical of the Victorian gothic style and seems totally out of place in this area.

Things improved just further up the road when I took another detour to Great Rollright (previously only known to me from the Duncton Moles trilogies). St Andrews Church took a little finding as I didn’t have an OS map but was worth the effort.

The Norman doorway to the church is the oldest surviving part of St Andrews. It is thought to date back to the original C12 Norman Church and was then incorporated in the later church buildings.

The double columns are topped with two-story capitals, which then give way to a double arch. The arch has two levels of traditional Norman chevron patterns interspersed with elongated 'beakheads', each uniquely carved. But it is the tympanum that is the real eye-catcher.There is a roughness to the design that looks almost Celtic, or perhaps Arabic, with circular shield patterns and zigzag designs, in the midst of which lies a figure in a shroud. Above the figure a fish eats, or, as the church informational leaflet suggests, spits out, a human head. This description is taken from

The medieval Rood Screen – this acts as a reminder of the pre-reformation era when the priest and choir in the chancel were separated from the ordinary people in the nave.

The ‘Batersby Brass’ that remembers James Batersby a rector of St Andrews, who died in 1522.

A window on the south aisle that is unusually low and wide and contains in its upper lights five original medieval painted roundals – apologies for the quality of the photo!

Just outside Shipston-on-Stour behind a rather ordinary Lych Gate .....

....stands the Church of St Martin, known as ‘The Pisa of Warwickshire’. The church has its origins in the Dark Ages when it is reputed that Saint Augustine established one of England’s earliest churches in Barcheston. The oldest parts of the building date from the C12.

The church is more famous for its leaning tower which is thought to have settled into its current position not long after the C13 tower was rebuilt in the C15. It is now said to be relatively stable. Unfortunately the church was not open so I was unable to see inside.

On the grass verge of the road outside the church was a pump.

Highlight of this trip was the last church I visited, one of the large Cotswold wool churches, St Gregory’s at Tredington. It is thought that the first church at Tredington may have been made of wood which was then replaced with a stone Anglo Saxon building in 961.

The original Anglo Saxon building was long and narrow with tall narrow windows (the clerestory) the tops of which can be seen in the Nave. The arches were inserted in 1180 and the aisles were added in the C14.

At the same time (C14) the tower was added. The spire is 210feet high.

In the C15, the present clerestory (high windows) were added to the nave.

The Chancel is also early C14 and is unusually long. The remains of the C15 Rood screen can be seen.

At the east end of the south aisle there is a very old lectern that has been at the church since before the Reformation (C16). By the side is an old double locked chest which held the church valuables.

The stained glass of the east window is modern.

The font has two metal staples on the steps, said to be a guard against witches.

No matter where I stood, I could not get all the church in one photo.

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