Saturday, August 16, 2014

Hoarwithy, Herefordshire

Oasis, or Odd things in churches (9)

There are certain churches that I like to return to every now and then. They are mostly small and often remote or in villages that are off the beaten track in places like Herefordshire or Gloucestershire. They are usually old and quiet and though (as with Abbey Dore or Kilpeck) they may be architectural treasures, it is often atmosphere and peace as much as architecture that occupy me – these qualities take me back, for example, to Dunitsbourne Rouse or Inglesham, places where the combination of isolation and layers of history suggest that they have been oases of calm for hundreds of years.

Hoarwithy, J P Seddon’s great Byzantine-revival church in Herefordshire, is starting to become another of these places. There is not much to beat the way its square sandstone pyramid-topped tower rises out of the landscape, so that, if you look the right way, you can imagine yourself in Tuscany or the Veneto talking not of a bell-tower but of a campanile. Mosaics, tessellated flooring, carved capitals, and hanging lamps fulfil the promise inside.

But then, on my most recent visit, there was this small shock. A flower vase placed carefully on the floor of the nave, with yellow Post-It Notes nearby. ‘TO CATCH RAIN!’ say the notes. The building has already undergone some major repairs to the tower stonework recently, so one hopes, given the small size of the bowl full of water-absorbing material, that the roof has only a minor leak, and that the parish will soon be able to get the problem put right.

I nearly called this post ‘Sad things in churches’, because it is sad, when buckets and vases have to be pressed into service to catch rain. But as I sat in the nave and pondered this state of affairs and savoured the quiet, I remembered that the water-absorbing floral foam in the vase is also known by the name of Oasis. Reminded once more of those oases of calm, I hoped that dryness would be restored as soon as possible, stuck a donation in the alms box, and went, quietly, on my way.

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My earlier post about this church, here, provides some more architectural detail, and a couple of different photographs.


Joe Treasure said...

You evoke the atmosphere of this place wonderfully, Phil.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Thanks, Joe. I meant to add a link to a post I did a few years ago about this place. Will insert a link into the post.

Peter Ashley said...

On your last Hoarwithy post I commented about Michael Winner shooting Italianate scenes here for his film The Sentinel in the hot summer of 1976. Something of which six years on from your post I've still not been able to verify. I did try and watch it once, but fell asleep. Anyway, perhaps these Herefordshire scenes ended up on the cutting room floor. Or it was another film altogether.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Peter: There's half a minute of footage here that seems to show Winner shooting something on the slopes beneath the church at Hoarwithy.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Peter: That link doesn't seem to work. Try pasting this into your browser: