Tuesday, April 21, 2015
Pillerton Hersey, Warwickshire
Sun and stone
It’s a plain doorway and belongs to a modest church. The one bit of ornate carving – the cluster of leaves on the terminal to the dripstone – is badly worn (the different colour of its stone suggests it is a replacement anyway). What we’re left with, framing the Victorian panelled door, is a trio of slender shafts topped with the simplest of capitals and leading the eye upwards to a matching trio of mouldings that make up the inner part of the arch. Framing this are more mouldings, then the dripstone and its terminal. The subtleties of these mouldings haven’t quite been obliterated by the attacks that wind, rain, and frost have launched on the soft surface of the stone. They’re quite deeply cut – in some places undercut – to make the best of the sunlight on this south-facing wall and produce a pattern of light and shade. This pattern varies with the depth of the cutting and the breadth of the mouldings, some thick, some thin.
Thirteenth-century masons had a repertoire of moulding patterns to produce effects like this – Victorian antiquaries spent much time tracing the patterns of these mouldings and recording them in books as examples of the style they called Early English Gothic. But what matters is that with simple visual means they could create a unified look that wonderfully exploited the contrasts of natural light and shade. The result could be as simple as a pair of plain shafts on either side of a window, or as complex as the deep mouldings achieve in some greater churches and monasteries. At Pillerton Hersey we are somewhere between these two extremes, but with enough ridge and furrow that we can enjoy the magical effects of sun on stone.