Sunday, February 3, 2013
Upton on Severn, Worcestershire
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".