Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bishops Cannings, Wiltshire

Leaves, Wilts

I wanted to visit the parish church of St Mary at Bishops Cannings because I’d read it was an interesting example of Early English Gothic, the style of architecture that became fashionable at the end of the 12th century and remained current for much of the 13th century. And, with its array of lancet windows and stone vaulted chancel, the church certainly is a wonderful example of the style. But, as is often the way, something different caught my eye. This bit of carving, worn but still enjoyable, is on the entrance to the porch. Its leaves are typical not of the 13th but of the 14th century – the kind of architecture the Victorians called Decorated, and that was characterized by, amongst other things, lovely naturalistic carvings of foliage. Below the leaves, there are also some ballflowers, of the type I noticed recently at Ledbury, although the ones in my picture are so eroded it’s difficult to make them out at first.

So the people of Bishops Cannings, having built a substantial and elegant church in the 13th century, carried on improving it and adding to it in the next century, these leaves being among the results. They could afford to do this because the church was at the heart of a large and rich parish held by the bishops of Salisbury. It’s even possible that some of the masons who had built Salisbury Cathedral also worked here – the main body of the cathedral was built between 1220 and 1258, with the famous tower and spire completed later, around 1330. Whoever was responsible for them, these graceful carvings form a delightful addition to the building.


worm said...

Lovely! I always miss these sorts of little flourishes!

Vinogirl said...

The worn leaves do indeed look like they are 'wilting' a little :)

Philip Wilkinson said...

Thank you both.

Vinogirl: I will look out for some crisper, better preserved leaves!