Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Horton, Dorset

Inspired by Vanbrugh?

Readers of my previous post may be interested to see a picture of the church at Horton that I mentioned there. It’s a very unusual building, with a curious L-shaped plan and a striking tower topped with a stone spire like an elongated truncated pyramid. This spire and the tower’s cornice are similar to details appearing on plans made by Sir John Vanbrugh, famous as the designer of Blenheim Palace and Castle Howard, for Eastbury Manor at Tarrant Gunville. It’s not known who designed the church. There is a chance it could have been Vanbrugh himself, but it is more likely that it was designed under his influence, perhaps by John Chapman, the mason who is recorded in the churchwarden’s accounts as having rebuilt the tower and other parts of the building in the 1720s.

Whoever it was produced a strong design, in which the tower’s exaggerated cornice, the chunky window surrounds, and other details catch the light memorably, and in which the spire gives the place a special character. When Vanbrugh wrote a memorandum on church-building for the Commission for Building Fifty New Churches in London in the 1712, he expressed his wish that the new churches should be ‘monuments to posterity…ornaments to the Town, and a credit to the Nation.’ The imposing quality of the tower and spire at Horton embodies this wish for monumental churches – but this time in a rural setting. The result is as characterful a country church as you could wish for. Vanbrugh would no doubt have approved.


Terry said...

Beautiful. There are plenty of clapboard "corner tower" L-Shaped rural churches in my state. I wonder if this is the archetype?

This one is in Lumber City Georgia:

Philip Wilkinson said...

That's really interesting, Terry. There are differences, though, between the plan of Horton church and the Lumber City one, which has the entrance via the tower and an 'L-shape' with equal-size branches.