Sunday, August 19, 2007

Holy Trinity, Teigh, Rutland

A tiny gem in a Rutland village. In 1782, Robert Sherard, fourth Earl of Harborough, commissioned an architect to rebuild the church at Teigh. The result was rather unusual. The medieval tower was kept and extended. It acts as an entrance hall into the main body of the church, which was completely remodelled. Unusually, the pews, instead of facing the altar at the east end in the normal way, are placed facing each other along the length of the church, like cathedral choir stalls or the seats in a college chapel. Parishioners sitting in these pews look one way to the high altar, the other to the west end, where a pulpit and a pair of reading desks are arranged around the entrance door. The vicar climbs a narrow stair from the tower to appear as if by magic in the pulpit above the entrance door. The charming arrangement is completed with a painting of a window, which frames the pulpit.

Who was the architect of this unusual and surprising little building? It was probably George Richardson, who had designed two other churches for the earl. Richardson didn’t design many buildings, but was well known in the late-18th century because he published a number of popular architectural books, generally illustrated with his own engravings. Most of these were pattern books, volumes with titles like A Book Of Ornamental Ceilings or Original Designs For Country Seats Or Villas, containing designs which readers or their builders could use or adapt for their own homes. Richardson also worked for years as a draftsman and designer in the office of the famous Adam brothers. The delicacy of the design – with the domestic-looking plaster ceiling, the little pulpit and tiny reading desks, and the trompe l’oeuil foliage in the painted window – would have certainly been within the scope of someone who worked for Robert Adam and his brothers.

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