Sunday, 4 August 2019

Holy Innocents, Highnam, Gloucestershire.

The church of Holy Innocents is Grade 1 listed, and was described by John Betjeman as "The most complete and significant Victorian church in the country" 
Holy Innocents was designed and built in less than two years for Thomas Gambier Parry between 1849 and 1851. The Architect was Henry Woodyer, a pupil of William Butterfield and a disciple of A.W.N. Pugin. 
The church of Holy Innocents is Parry's personal memorial to his beloved wife, Isabella, and to three of their children who died in infancy. 
As I entered the church I reflected on a visit made in 2015 to the Taj Mahal, 
Sunset
where a heartbroken Emperor Shah Jahan also built a profound monument to his much favoured third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, a Persian princess, who had died giving birth to their 14th child.
※ ※ ※ ※
Gambier-Parry painted most of Highnam's interior himself, including the high vaulted ceiling. He used a new 'spirit fresco' method that he devised from his study of Italian fresco painters. 
 
Isabella died 1848
When Highnam church was finished in April 1851, one of Parry's three surviving children, a son, Clinton Charles, wrote "On the eve before the consecration, when all of the guests had gone to bed, and the new church stood in silence under the moon, father made his way there alone. He carried in his arms a marble bust of Isabella which he placed in a niche within the small private chapel". 
Today, the bust of Isabella remains in the same spot where Gambier Parry set it to rest.
Isabella was 32 years old when she died of Tuberculosis. It was just 12 days after having given birth to a son, Charles Hubert, who as an adult became Sir Charles Hubert Parry, the proclaimed English composer, teacher and historian of music. He became head of the Royal College of Music and Professor of Music at Oxford University. He wrote the choral music to accompany Blake's poem Jerusalem..... "And did those feet in ancient time", and also wrote the coronation anthem "I was glad".
No expense was spared at Highnam. Parry even concealed the cost from himself by having all the bills go directly to his bank manager. 

The whole of the South wall depicts the Palm Sunday procession into Jerusalem - this is just a small section.
Dominating the church on the Chancel arch Parry has painted an impressive, even stately Last Judgment. For a Doom Wall it is benign and sympathetic, especially when compared to medieval church Doom Walls, and Last Judgment frescoes carried out during the Italian Renaissance.
The fresco is full of symbolism and great detail. 

The uppermost part is occupied by the heavenly host, sounding trumpets, ushering the day of the Lord; Immediately above Christ's head is a hand holding a book, sealed 'with seven seals', and 'no man was able to open the book', but 'the Lion of the tribe of Judah' Christ, 'the King of Glory'.
In the centre 'Christ in his Majesty'. He is beckoning with his right hand gathering his saints unto him. Beneath his feet is a cross, token of his suffering whereby he was perfected.
Encircling Christ on his throne is a rainbow.
On either side sit the 12 Apostles on 12 thrones, assessors of judgment.
On the extreme right is Moses, holding a
tablet showing The Ten Commandments. His arm is obscuring the face of St. Matthew who cannot be seen, according to convention.
On the extreme left stands St. Paul, recognisable by his symbol of a sword.
The scroll around the arch to the left states "come ye blessed of my father" and to the right "depart ye cursed".The angels for the 'blessed' carry crowns and palms. To them the cry 'behold the bridegroom cometh' is the sound of joy.
On the right the angels carry flaming swords, tokens of self-chosen punishment. It is the fulfilment of his word, 'vengeance is mine'.
Every single wall in the church has been frescoed by Parry apart from the lettering and diaper patterns, as can be seen above. These were designed by him but painted by his Assistants.
The floor tiles, made by Minton, become increasingly more ornate as you near the altar.
This is the organ where the young Sir Charles Hubert Parry learnt to play as a boy. 
The organ was made by the Nicholson company from nearby Worcester, who today are still a thriving business. They are responsible for many fine organs found all across the British Isles and also around the world.

39 comments:

  1. I wonder whether the acoustics are good? If so, I would love to hear a little JS Bach played on that pipe organ.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How wonderful it would be if it was possible to hear the great composer and musician himself, Sir Charles Hubert Parry, actually play that organ.
      There are lots of concerts held in the church throughout the year, and given the families background, I feel pretty confident that the acoustics would be extremely good.

      Delete
  2. Strange that the Victorians were renowned for white-washing over colourful medieval wall paintings (or even stripping them off completely) but put so much colour in their own churches.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Fortunately, the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood had ideas that were at odds to that of many Victorians, and 'God's Own Architect', Pugin, brought back the great revival in medieval Gothic architecture and decoration.

      Delete
    2. Have you seen the Watts Memorial chapel near Farnham? Built by the locals. I used to live next to it.

      Delete
    3. Yes I have, and in fact I did a post on it. I love the chapel and also the lovely terracotta tomb stones in the graveyard.
      The post I did is below if you are interested. It is rather old as it was done over 7 years ago.
      https://wherefivevalleysmeet.blogspot.com/2012/02/watts-cemetery-chapel-compton-surrey.html

      Delete
  3. A remarkable church that I would like to visit some time. The tower and spire look almost identical to that of the Catholic Church in Cambridge, and as that was built in the 1890s I presume that the architects were "inspired by" Highnam.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is highly likely as although Highnam church is not Catholic, Gambier Parry and his architect Henry Woodyer, were both greatly influenced by the Gothic Revival style which was introduced into Catholic churches by Augustus Pugin.
      If you do want to visit at sometime in the future, do make sure that you check out their website to find out just when they are open. I know that at the moment it is open to view on Sunday afternoons for a couple of hours. They have a person in attendance which I presume is to protect some of the valuable objects within the church.

      Delete
  4. What an amazingly beautiful church...from spires to floor tiles, and oh my goodness, those frescoes!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. All painted out of the love for his lost wife and children.

      Delete
  5. It's good that you are allowed to photograph the interior. So much to examine in that wonderful fresco. I would love to attend a organ recital there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's a lovely church to visit, and a great testament to Gambier-Parry's love for Isabella.

      Delete
  6. What a glorious colourful place and to think it only took two years to build. Definitely one for my list of ‘must sees’. B x

    ReplyDelete
  7. What a wonderful village church.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have visited a few times and each time I spot something that I haven't noticed previously.

      Delete
  8. Oh, this is lovely Rosemary, and another to add to my 'wish list'. As a memorial to Isabella and their children, it does make one think of the Taj Mahal. Isabella's bust sits in a beautiful setting in the niche, and the fresco of the Last Judgement is absolutely gorgeous in its sweet and gentle colours. Very appropriate as a feminine memorial. What a great family they were, and I love that that pretty organ was played by Sir Charles Hubert Parry, their son. The music of 'Jerusalem' is one of my favourites, and great to sing with a choir. Thank you for sharing Holy Innocents Church.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thomas Gambier Parry was himself orphaned when just a young boy, but he was raised by aunts and uncles. He inherited a huge fortune when he was just 15 years old.
      He collected late medieval and Early Renaissance paintings, small sculpted reliefs, ivories, and maiolica, but he also had a significant early collection of Islamic metalwork, pottery and glass, along with a great variety of other types of objects. The bulk of his collection i.e. 324 precious objects are now held in the Courtauld Gallery, London where one large room is devoted to much of it

      Delete
  9. Absolute heavenly beauty !

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Jane - so pleased that you enjoyed it.

      Delete
  10. Beautiful buildings and history. Weirdly, I've seen several photos of a black Taj Mahal online over the years- so much so that I had to check it didn't exist in reality and was just a popular myth.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The legendary black Taj Mahal was simply that, a myth, created by a European traveller by the name of Jean Baptiste Tavernier who visited Agra in 1665. He said that the heartbroken Emperor Shah Jahan was going to build a black marble mausoleum to replicate the Taj Mahal on the other side of the river from the one he built for his wife.

      Delete
  11. Just all so lovely and the story very interesting. I'm now going to listen to 'Jerusalem', always a favorite since we a sang it in school. With so much sadness in this country over the weekend, and the entire world being in such a state of flux, I need some time to feel calm.
    Beautiful photos Rosemary - thank you.
    Hugs, Mary.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 'Jerusalem' is such an evocative piece of English music. There are so many terrible happenings going on in our world today, but music does help to calm the spirit. Take care dear MaryX

      Delete
  12. Hello Rosemary, That church looks colorful even for a Victorian building. I wonder if there was an unusual amount of light inside, or your camera was good at compensating, or the colors were just that vivid. And speaking of color, those are certainly the most colorful organ pipes I have ever seen.
    --Jim

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Jim - there were plenty of spots lights on in the church, and some were a nuisance whilst I was trying to take photos. There was a major restoration of the church and the frescoes done about 25 years ago. The organ was one of the things that I did have a problem photographing because of a large spotlight shinning all over the front of it.

      Delete
  13. What a lovely post with beautiful pictures...
    Have a great week Rosemary, take care :)
    Titti

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Titti - pleased that you enjoyed.

      Delete
  14. Oh, Rosemary your photos are absolutely stunning! And what an absolutely beautiful place to visit and a story to touch the heart too. Thank you for sharing this lovely post. Best, Jane xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am delighted that you enjoyed seeing the photos - it is a story of great love but also lots of sadness too - thank you very much Jane💙

      Delete
  15. The colors have stayed vibrant all of these years! As usual great photography.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There was some restoration work done 25 years ago, but the colours are really lovely, especially those on the Last Judgement wall.

      Delete
  16. Dearest Rosemary,
    What a remarkable person Thomas Gambier Parry was and oh so talented as an artist!
    His lifestyle as a collector, artist, philanthropist he could live due to the inheritance from his family who earned their wealth as directors of the East India Trading Company.
    Still he left the world and even more so his country men quite a statement of love as he did this in memory of his young wife. Sad story in fact and still so uplifting too!
    Thanks for sharing this.
    Hugs,
    Mariette

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Mariette - I agree that it is a sad story but one filled with so much love too. Gambier Parry did an incredible amount of wonderful painting inside the church which he carried out within such a short time period.
      I have been doing some very ordinary paint jobs around the house this week, simply painting some furniture, windowsills and our front door, and when I think of all the time that it has taken me to do these jobs, I marvel even more at his great achievement.

      Delete

❖PLEASE NOTE❖ Comments made by those who hide their identity will be deleted

“You can't stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you - you have to go to them sometimes”
― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh