Sunday, February 3, 2013

Upton on Severn, Worcestershire

Pepper pot

Boston Stump, the Gherkin, the Shard: we like to give nicknames to buildings, especially towers, of unusual shape, and this selection suggests a tendency to try and bring them down a peg or two – but in an affectionate sort of way. There's something of the same effect about this example, sometimes known as the Pepper Pot. It's one of the major landmarks in Upton on Severn, and is an eyecatching sight as you enter the town from the Malvern side.

It started out as the tower of Upton's church and was a plain medieval sandstone structure topped with a spire and with buttresses at the western corners. In the 17th century the church was the scene of fighting when Royalists tried to stop Parliamentary troops crossing the nearby bridge over the Severn. In the 1750s the medieval church to the east of it was rebuilt in classical style and in 1769–70, when the spire became unsafe, the octagonal pepper-pot, copper-clad dome, and tiny openwork lantern on top were added, to make the tower look more in keeping with the rebuilt church. The architect was Anthony Keck, who had quite a large practice designing country houses in Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire, and South Wales. He was a classicist and a follower of Adam, and his addition to the Upton tower has something of Adam's delicacy.

About a hundred years after Keck's pepper pot was added to the tower, it was decided to go in for a larger church at the other end of the town. This, a Gothic structure with a spire, became Upton's main church and in 1937 the old church was pulled down.* All except for its tower and ornamental pepper-pot top, which remains to house a heritage centre and to surprise passers-by.

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* Putting their cards on the table as usual, the BBC reported recently on their website that "the knave of the church was demolished in 1937".


Peter Ashley said...

Another fascinating subject- church towers without the churches. Springing to mind are the twin towers of Mistley in Essex, and of course what remains of St.Michael's on Glastonbury Tor.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Yes, those are good ones. Just towers remain of a few of the bombed City churches by Wren, for example St Mary Somerset and Christchurch Greyfriars. There's another lone tower at Long Marston, in Hertfordahire, and some web research revealed another at Wybunbury, Cheshire and one at Thundridge, Herts.

Jane Aston said...

Such a strange mix of styles. The charming rambling stone tower with a rather pretentious bit stuck on top of it.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Jane: Yes, it is an odd mixture. But I rather like odd mixtures, especially ones that show how people's ideas about a building have changed over the centuries.

Jane Aston said...

I agree the 2 styles are what make this tower so special and of course the missing church.