Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Loxley, Warwickshire


Last night I gave a talk about parish churches to an appreciative local audience. January is usually a quiet month for talks – people tend not to book me to travel far in the unpredictable winter weather, but this talk was in a venue so close by I could easily have walked there, had it not been for the impedimenta (laptop, projector, extension lead, notes, wires, and other odds and ends) that I take with me on such occasions.

One picture that got a strong reaction was a wall made of rubble in a Cotswold churchyard, a place I’ve already featured on this blog. It reminded me that a few weeks ago I came across another example of a wall partly made of recycled bits and pieces at Loxley in Warwickshire. The winter afternoon was already coming to an end by the time I got there and found somewhere to park, and in the low light I thought I’d got the measure of the building as I looked at it from the road: medieval beginnings with lots of changes in the Georgian period including the nave windows and the upper stage of the oddly placed southwest tower.
A closer look revealed a lot of Saxon-looking herringbone masonry in the chancel and a vestry partly built of 17th- or 18th-century gravestones and parts of chest tombs. Winged putti, skulls, crossed bones, extinguished torches and a cornucopia, together with plentiful cartouches and scrolls, some of them quite vigorously carved, feature in these stones, along with some baluster shafts that are now doing duty as window jambs. They’re all arranged quite artfully, almost as if the size of this small extension has been dictated in part by the proportions of the recycled slabs.

Most of the inscriptions on these slabs have worn away completely or in part – those still legible seem to be to members of the Southam family. Their decay is sad in one way. But I for one would not mind if, a century for three after my demise, my memorial was repurposed in this way. Preferable at least to having my stone heaped in some corner to gather dust and moss. On the tower is a sundial with a motto: ‘I DIE TODAY & LIVE TOMORROW’. Indeed.

1 comment:

Joe Treasure said...

It occurs to me, Phil, that this recycling is a particularly telling example of the organic nature of buildings like this. The church in your first picture looks perfect. At the same time, the varied colours of the stone, the uncertain angles, the inconsistent windows indicate the evolved and almost accidental nature of that perfection.