Saturday, January 28, 2012
Perceptions of the doors (2)
The door of 78, Derngate, subject of the previous post, is a very arresting example of the way in which a door can act as a symbol of the building to which it gives entry, signalling what we can expect inside. Here’s another door, at the tiny parish church of Inglesham in Wiltshire. Although my photograph shows only part of it, even this few square feet of timber and couple of bits of ironmongery speak volumes.
Inglesham is an isolated medieval country church, wholly unspoiled by the kind of 19th-century restoration that affected so many English churches. As I explained in an earlier post, the preservation of this church was in large part due to William Morris, who lived not far away at Kelmscott and supported the building’s sensitive conservation. Thanks to Morris, the building retains its patina of age and reads as an architectural palimpsest, containing as it does stonework and woodwork of a range of periods between the Saxon and the Jacobean, plus a variety of fragments of wall paintings, sometimes overlapping and fading into one another, to create an interior that is both fascinating and moving.
The door signals the sensitivity with which this church has been preserved. According to the principles of the SPAB, of which Morris was co-founder, when a repair is necessary, a minimum of the old fabric is removed and the new material is fitted to the old, not the other way around; in addition, there should not be any attempt at disguising the new material by fake ‘antiquing’ or distressing. These principles seem to have been followed with the woodwork of this door – just a sliver of weak or rotting wood has been taken away and a narrow fillet of timber inserted. It’s clear that it’s more recent, but that doesn’t matter – the difference helps make the history of the fabric clear.
At some point the door also needed a new handle. Again, the principle is, don’t fake a medieval handle, use something that’s modern, but works. That’s not a call for a piece of Bauhaus-inspired door furniture on a medieval door, though this handle has a simplicity and economy and kindness to the hand that Gropius and his Bauhausers would have admired. It’s just a bent strip of metal, but it’s elegant and it works. I wonder when it was fitted on the door? In Morris’s time? Later, perhaps, given the screw fixing? I don’t know. It’s timeless, and efficient, and makes a minimum impact on the ancient timber of the door. It remains true, too, to the spirit of tactful conservation that this wonderful building embodies.
Note This church is cared for by the Churches Conservation Trust.
St John the Baptist, Inglesham, exterior