Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Winchcombe, Gloucestershire

My world, and welcome to it

It’s customary, even in these difficult times, to count the number of shopping days to Christmas. But this year I’m counting the number of writing days left before the publishing business shuts down the corporate computers for the festive season, because I have a Christmas deadline. Travelling to look at old buildings has taken a backseat, and my blog posts may shrink in length and number. I’m fortunate, though, to live in Gloucestershire, a county rich in interesting buildings, so I’ll be putting up some posts about local buildings in the next week or two.

And for me, this is as local as it gets. If I crane my neck a bit, this is the view from my desk. It’s the tower of St Peter’s church, Winchcombe, its Cotswold stone walls glowing in the golden light of a winter’s afternoon a couple of days ago. The church was built in the 1460s, during a building boom in the area that saw many churches acquire new windows, extra aisles, taller towers, or complete makeovers. Winchcombe got its new church through the generosity in part of the abbot of Winchcombe Abbey, whose own church, long gone, was a close neighbour, and of Ralph Boteler, a local grandee – well, not that grand: his name suggests that he came from a rather distinguished family of butlers. The tower is not that grand, either. No elegant spire, as it might have in Northamptonshire; no elaborate carving as there might be in Somerset. Just good honest building in beautiful stone.

The fine weathercock was regilded recently and looked about 5 feet five tall when, swathed in bubblewrap, it was hoisted back up the tower. It came here in 1874 from the much larger church of St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol. According to which version of the story you believe it was either too small or too big for the spire of St Mary Redcliffe. A stonemason who worked on the Bristol spire claimed he’d climbed on to, or into, the cockerel, ‘which was the size of a donkey’. Having seen the bird close-up, I can tell you that’s not such a cock and bull story as it sounds.


Peter Ashley said...

It's very difficult to talk about weathercocks and the size of them without tittering from the cheap seats in the Bloggerama, but suffice it say I did see the weathercock from Finedon church down at churchyard level and I couldn't believe how big it was. My father took advantage of the weathercock being removed for repair from St.Dinosaur's church in Market Harborough, and had it placed centre stage at the town fete. He charged people a pound to jump over it, and gave them a certificate to prove they'd done it.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Fascinating addition to the lore and history of weathervanes (which begins at least as far back as Athens, 1st century BC): thank you.

Vinogirl said...

Fab piccy. I am jealous of your view...but I am rather partial to my English Bull terrier weathervane.

Adam said...

Just come across your blog and it is really fascinating. Very interesting to know that you live in Winchcombe too, as I have family in the town and know it very well.