Sunday, 27 March 2016

Easter's Gold

There must be very few small countryside parishes in England that can boast two special churches, one Norman the other Arts and Crafts. As an added bonus at this time of year, Kempley along with it's neighbours Dymock, and Oxenhall in Gloucestershire, are home to our native wild daffodil, Narcissus pseudonarcissus, which flowers all along their grassy banks, hedgerows, woods, fields, and churchyards - the area is known as the golden triangle.
The wild daffodil is small and has distinctive pale yellow petals with a darker central trumpet, but it is rare to see these daffodils flowering in such profusion. The wild daffodils in the Lake District immediately spring to mind where they inspired Wordsworth to write his immortal words.....
"I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills, 
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze
St. Mary's Norman church has some of the most important and well preserved C12th wall paintings in England. Nine hundred years ago, the manor of Kempley belonged to one of the most powerful men in England - Baron Hugh de Lacy of Longtown Castle near Hereford, he was the trusted counsellor of King Henry l. It is thought that he built Kempley church, commissioning the remarkable wall paintings as a memorial to his father, Walter de Lacy, a Norman baron and veteran of the Battle of Hastings. 
 We sat in the churchyard to eat our lunch whilst admiring the church when suddenly....
this little fellow joined us - he's licking his lips and asking for some more, but we resist - his owners may not be too happy!!!
The timber framed porch was added to the church during the C14th - unfortunately it makes the doorway tympanum difficult to photograph
The entrance to a Norman church was a focal point for symbolic imagery. The carved tympanum at St. Mary's depicts the Tree of Life, a symbol of Christ's salvation
The west door leading into the tower is one of the earliest doors still in use in England. The timber for it was felled around 1114.
The old parish chest in the tower is later, and has been dated between 1492 - 1522. Used to store villagers' valuables, it is simply constructed from a hollowed-out oak log with an elm lid
In the 1990s tree-ringing was carried out by the Dendrology Laboratory at Oxford University on the timbers from the church roof, hidden above a C17th ceiling in the nave. This revealed that it was built around 1120, making it the earliest and most complete Norman timber roof known in this country. Unlike later medieval roofs, its roof trusses were held together with collars and struts, rather than tie beams spanning from wall to wall

It must be remembered that in the C16th all of this Romanesque C12th paintwork was hidden with a covering of whitewash during the Reformation, and was not rediscovered until the C20th. Church paintings were used to educate the congregation who would not have understood the Latin services. They offered moral guidance and taught a Christian understanding of the world.

On either side of the chancel walls rows of apostles sit gazing up at....
Christ in Majesty surrounded by angels
and Seraphims
An early pope
If you are interested you can take a virtual tour of St. Mary's here, there is too much for me to include. The nave has later C14th frescoes, one showing an interesting wheel of life.
A short journey along the narrow country lanes brings us to 
The brick pier in the middle of the lych gate is a coffin rest
The far side of the church fits in well with the surrounding countryside resembling many of the vernacular tithe barns nearby. It was described by John Betjeman as "a mini-cathedral of the Arts and Crafts movement".
This extraordinary window is known as the 'jam tart'
The church is built of local red sandstone obtained from the Forest of Dean. The architect was Randall Wells who acted as William Lethaby's resident architect at Brockhampton's thatched Arts and Crafts church which I showed in a post here.  
Wells designed three sculpted stone reliefs  which were carved by the village carpenter, Walter James
The hands of several distinguished Cotswold Arts and Crafts designers are much in evidence within the church. This stone font with its oak lid was designed by Ernest Gimson - note the symbolic wavy 'lines of life', and the circles to indicate people.
The lectern and the candlesticks came from the Barnsley Brothers Daneway workshop, and were designed by both Ernest Barnsley and Ernest Gimson then made by Peter van der Waals. The inlaid mother-of-pearl is typical of Arts and Crafts symbolism, signifying faith, charity and innocence. If you are interested in the Cotswold Arts and Crafts Movement then these names will be familiar to you.
The carved rood beam that carries the figure of 'Christ Triumphant' on the cross - so called as there is no pain depicted in the body. The carving of Christ was done by David Gibb, the last remaining carver of ship's figureheads in London. The Virgin Mary and St. John are on either side. It has been suggested that Randall Wells' earlier travels in France, where similar carvings occur in churches in Brittany, influenced him.
Finally, the altar cloth showing Kempley's wild daffodils
For those living in the UK, BBC 1, Countryfile, will be featuring these Glouchestershire wild daffodils on it's programme at 7.00pm tonight 

62 comments:

  1. Daffodils...and two beautiful churches, perfect for an Easter post Rosemary. I do so enjoy everyone's daffodils in Spring, while I hope to coax one or two in my tropical back garden. St Mary's is wonderful to see, so ancient and fascinating. The West door and the parish chest are incredible - one wonders how the wood can endure for so long. And the wall paintings, which are in a way the gift of the Reformation, preserved under the whitewash for hundreds of years, so that we can see them in our time. St Edwards is very special too, and I smile at the title 'jam tart window', so perfect and evocative!

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    1. It is so lovely to see the wild daffodils Patricia, there are so delicate in comparison with our garden ones. This outing made for a lovely day out on Good Friday.

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  2. Both churches are very special, so nice presented to us with your beautiful photos.

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    1. That is so very kind of you to say Biebkriebels - thank you, and I am pleased that you enjoyed seeing these lovely churhes.

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  3. I so enjoyed this post. The wild daffodils are my favourite daffodils. The churches are both fascinating, for different reasons. The timber and the wall paintings in the Norman Church are fabulous. It is incredible to think that the trees were growing for that timber centuries ago. And loving arts and crafts, I love the second church. The dog looks very sweet and a little bit mischievous too!

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    1. You are right Wendy - that little dog was looking us straight in the eye and asking for more. He was not fat, and as soon as we stopped giving him any little morsels he rapidly found someone else also having a picnic in another corner of the church grounds.

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  4. Love the wild daffodils and the poem of William Wordsworth is one of my favorite spring poems. The ancient churches in your country are always worthwhile to visit, I thank you for your always interesting history. Beautiful altar cloth too!

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    1. You can understand why William Wordsworth was so inspired by the wild daffodils growing in the Lake District.

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  5. Wonderful .. every single image is just wonderful :)

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    1. I think that I will go and make myself a coffee now to celebrate following your very kind comment Candice - thank you♡

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  6. How beautiful the daffodils are, and I like they way you opened and closed with them. Amazing to me that the wood the door and chest are made of could last so very long, and I have never seen a coffin rest. Lovely post.

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    1. Thank you Janey - I am really looking forward to seeing these very same wild daffodils on the TV tonight now

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    2. Wait! Why were they being shown on TV that night? What show? (Ha, not that I'd be able to watch it ever but interesting nonetheless!

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    3. The programme is called Countryfile - they showed the wild daffodils and talked about the history of them growing wild in the Kempley area. Apparently before WWl many of the fields were full of them but after the war they were dug up for agriculture. They also mentioned how the wild daffodils can be corrupted by our garden ones in the same way that our British bluebells are being hybridised by the Spanish bluebell - but watch this space that is a tale for another day.

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  7. Dear Rosemary,
    Thank you for my favorites. Daffodils, one of my favorite poems, history explained, ancient buildings to admire, architectural details and ornament. ...and then my heart with pleasure fills and dances with the daffodils.

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    1. Dear Gina - thank you - when you see wild daffodils growing in woods, lanes and hedgerows it is so easy to understand how Wordsworth's poem came about.
      I do hope that you and Mr. G have enjoyed a happy weekend at this Eastertime.

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  8. Many thanks for this gorgeously beautiful Easter post! Hope your Easter weekend has been happy!

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    1. It has Linda thank you - and hope yours has been too.

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  9. Each in their own way are beautiful, my favorite is the Norman one, such a sense of history.

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    1. Yes, you are right - the Norman one has so many remarkable treasures

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  10. Hello Rosemary, St. Mary's Norman church is both beautiful and fascinating. It is incredible to think that those architectural components could have been in use for so long, especially in a variable climate like England's. By the way, scrolling down on that long photo of the ceiling gives a strange optical illusion, at least on my computer.

    I hope that you and your family have a happy Easter,
    Jim

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    1. Hello Jim - yes, I can see what you mean re the ceiling, it is not just your computer. I think that our ancesters were great builders, I wonder how many buildings of today will still be around in 1000 years time?
      We had this very nice outing on Good Friday, but the rest of the time has been quiet and relaxing - hope that your Easter was happy.

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  11. Rosemary
    Wonderful photo's and lovely to read your post too.
    Yes I like the 'jam tart' name for that window, quite apt.

    I hope you've been enjoying the Easter weekend.

    All the best Jan

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    1. Thank you Jan - yes I recall my mother making jam tarts with a lattice effect on the top, but I have never made one like that myself.
      Hope that Easter has been happy for you.

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  12. Nice macro of the dog. Our easter flowers are already out since 6 weeks.

    Greetings,
    Filip

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    1. He was certainly a cute little dog

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  13. Rosemary
    Continuous as the stars that shine and twinkle on the Milky Way..... these wondrous sights will be with us forever regardless of terrorists.
    What a glorious sight that greet you on your Good Friday outing - simple beauty lifts our spirits.
    I've visited Gloucestershire twice, it's a beautiful part of England, steeped in history. I need to go back and see more!
    Thank you for this interesting post of the two Churches, built by masters in their craft and still standing centuries later.
    You do these posts so well Rosemary.
    I often borrow the Country Life magazine from the library - I read it from cover to cover, even the Real Estate ads!
    The nature and architecture articles are my faves - I won't be. Surprised when I see your name on one of those articles one day!
    You have a natural writing talent.
    Shane

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    1. We have lived in the Cotswolds for almost 20 years now, and I am still discovering new places to visit all of the time, even right on my own doorstep.
      I try not to make the posts too complicated as I know it can be a big turn off, but sometimes it is difficult. If you enjoy reading the posts then that is a delight for me - thank you so much.

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  14. Lovely old churches which i would no doubt see unless you posted a post.
    That old door impressed me, it looks awesome. Each photo does actually.
    Cute little friend there who just happened to drop in/pass.

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    1. We both had a turn at opening and shutting the old door and it worked like it was made yesterday even though it is almost a 1000 years old.

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  15. I miss churches, this post was perfect for Easter in a muslim country.

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    1. I can understand that - glad you enjoyed seeing them

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  16. These native daffodils are lovely Rosemary, as are the beautiful old churches. These churches are something I loved to visit when I've been in England. No buildings anywhere near as ancient in this country. Thank you for all of the lovely images.

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    1. Apparently all of the fields in the 'golden triangle' used to be filled with the wild daffodil, but following WWl most of them were ploughed up for agriculture. I am wondering now why they are so sporadic across our countryside and profuse in so few areas.

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  17. Wild daffodils, not native!

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  18. Happy Easter Rosemary to you and your family.
    Many thanks for sharing the lovely post - enjoyed seeing the magnificent old churches and reading about the history.
    Also great to see the pretty daffodils.
    Hugs and blessings
    Carolyn

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    1. Hope you and your family have also enjoyed a happy Eastertime Carolyn - I have never seen our wild daffodils growing in great quantities before, so both of the churches and the flowers were a treat for me to see.

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  19. Rosemary - thank you for sharing those two wonderful churches and the lovely wild daffodils. I hope your Easter was a happy one.

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    1. Thank you Susan - we had a lovely day out in the 'golden triangle' on Good Friday - the cherry on the cake was the sunny warm weather.

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  20. As always an interesting post , so many things to see and know . Hope you had a happy Easter.

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    1. Thanks Jane - we made the most of the one really good day last Friday by visiting this golden triangle area - hope Easter was happy time for you and your family.

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  21. To think that I almost missed this wonderful post! Thank you, Rosemary - I instantly jotted down "Kempley" and think both churches very interesting! (I once visited Hidcote as an Arts and Crafts Garden). I did not know about the symbolism of the mother-and-pearl inlays. Thank you for your beautiful photos too!

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    1. Glad that you enjoyed it Britta and hope that you manage a visit some time in the future.

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  22. Impressive churches Rosemary. I enjoyed reading more about them. How pretty those wild daffodils look! Those fields full of them must be such a pretty sight.

    My daughters and I will be visiting your country in a months time (East Sussex). Hope some more spring flowers, like the bluebells, will be in bloom.

    Have a good new week!

    Madelief x

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    1. End of April should be a perfect time to see a bluebell wood Madelief - you can check out places on the internet that may be near to where you are staying or ask some local people where to find them. Everyone knows where their nearest bluebell wood is.
      It was lovely to see the wild daffodils growing, they are much more delicate and fragile than our garden ones.

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  23. WOW, Rosemary! This post is truly a labour of love and so jam packed full of fascinating historical information on those incredible churches as well as providing your wonderful photos! Whenever I come here, as I just said to my wife, Alexandra, you never cease to amaze me at what an incredible part of the world you live in. I mean, of course, (being rather ethnocentric here) England is already the most rich place for beauty and history all around but your nook seems even more so. Like you note: how many places are there with BOTH Norman and Arts & Crafts churches nearby?

    I was really interested in the Norman church as the ones near where my mother used to live in Norfolk all had "typical" of that era, ROUND towers but yours is more the square footprint. That timber roof is outstanding in just how well preserved it is (As are many of the pieces like that wheel of life which I saw on the site link you provided. Haha, I had to laugh at all the other tabs I had opened by the end of my "visit" here with your blog post. In fact, it took a bit to figure out my way back here to leave a comment. There were that many open! I definitely feel more knowledgeable now, as it were.

    Isn't it amazing how that timber door is still functioning? And with all the damp too. I love things like that. My fave photo will surprise you though. Why? Because it is so common but I love the 2nd one in particular. I've always found those pathways to these entries of ancient worship still so magical with the tombstones, surrounding shrubs, gates, etc.

    Walter James' relief work on the more "modern" church is so beautiful too. Sorry to say, but I doubt there is anything even remotely as lovely in figurative relief work as that here...and the town to the south of me is known for its sculpture shows worldwide apparently (not my style though as most of it is Western bronze work and wild animals.)

    Anyway, finally, let me just note how much I love those daffodils but then again, those are my favourite flowers already to being with.

    I hope you had a marvelous Easter! Did you actually attend an Easter service at one of these two places?

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    1. Gosh Michael I don't really know where to start - the Norman church is redunant and is now in the care of English Heritagae. I do like those round towers in Norfolk which are so remeniscent of France, but then that is hardly surprising being Norman built.
      I presume that from the link you were able to take the red ladder up into the roof, but what a relieve to know that in the end you managed to escape from the Kempley Tardis!!!

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    2. Ha, yes, very true! :) I did.

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  24. What a treat it was to see such lovely photos of both churches, Rosemary. I don't know which appeals to me more - each is so beautiful in its own way. I think I'd like to have had a picnic in the church yard.

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    1. Hello H - the Norman church is now redundant and in the hands of English Heritage who have put several seats in hidden places within the grounds. Although I love the Arts and Crafts movement - architecture, furniture, and metalwork etc. the Norman church just has the edge for me mainly because of it's long survival and interesting history.

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  25. I felt like that faint scent of daffodils wafting from the daffodil field in the images. I would recite “Daffodils” by heart and Japanese narcissi fields of my each visit remind me of the poem. The architecture of the two churches is my favorite; I prefer English wooden or stone building. The ceiling made of timbers kind of look like Japanese, though material woods are different. Have fragrant spring ahead, Rosemary.

    Yoko

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    1. Good Friday was a perfect day to take an outing to see these two lovely churches and the beautiful wild daffodils growing there. It seems as if the whole world knows Wordsworth's poem - it paints such a glorious picture of his vision on suddenly encountering them as he walked through the beautiful landscape of the Lake District - I must try and return there myself this year.

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  26. Such magnificent churches and so impossibly old! (At least by Canadian standards, where our oldest church might be 300 years old).

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    1. My SiL is Canadian and when her mother came over to stay I recall how excited she was at seeing and visiting so many old buildings.

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  27. Those two churches are so different but both of them are so beautiful. I always enjoy seeing examples of Art and crafts.I missed Countryfile this week so I will watch it on catch up. It must have been lovely siting in the sun and admiring the view. Sarah x

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    1. It was strange that we should visit Kempley at the very time a programme was being aired on TV, but it was just coincidental.
      We have visited these two churches years ago when we first moved here, and I was impressed at all the restoration work that has been done subsequently to the Norman church.

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  28. Oh such beautiful pictures! Lovely old church and countryside. My ancesters were Normans and I'll have to visit the areas of England where they lived. Adorable pup, who must enjoy roaming around the grounds! I love the fact that he can roam safely.

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    1. Thank you for visiting Debra - hope that you get the opportunity to track down your ancesters at sometime in the future.

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  29. Lovely post, Rosemary. Daffodils and Spring - perfect together. I must say that that parish trunk gave me the shivers. Can you imagine the many hands that have touched it over the centuries?

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    1. Yes, first the snowdrops, then the daffodils, and next is the bluebells.

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