Sunday, June 29, 2014
Survival and change
The parish church in the middle of Deddington, built of toffee-coloured stone like much of the town, is a mixture of periods, with notable details from the 13th, 14th, 15th, and 17th centuries. The 17th-century parts include the north porch, an example of the survival of a kind of Gothic into the period when much English architecture was turning Classical. The old antiquarians used to call this style ‘debased’, because it was a kind of mongrel mixture of traditional late-medieval Gothic with other elements that owed something to the new classicism – and the Gothic elements weren’t always very orthodox. The more current designation, ‘Gothic survival’, doesn’t do it justice either. Gothic has done more than survived: it has changed, sometimes in very interesting ways.
My photograph, of the roof of the north porch, shows, I think, some of this interest. The basic form is a shallow dome, but if this sounds like a classical kind of roof, there’s nothing classical about the details. The dome is finished with a network of ribs a bit like those in a fan vault – but forming a circle, not a fan. It’s almost like a rose window, with the glazed parts filled in with stone and the central part finished with the ubiquitous quatrefoil. By adding a trefoil at each corner, the circle is squared. The whole design is a telling example of the coming together of tradition and innovation, and the sort of quiet architectural surprise which keeps me visiting parish churches.