Friday, September 22, 2017

Great Bourton, Oxfordshire


Here’s an unusual and striking combination of functions. At Great Bourton in Oxfordshire the architect William White (great nephew of the naturalist Gilbert White of Selborne) was called in to do an almost complete rebuild of the parish church. Instead of making the tower part of the church building, he built a detached bell tower – and combined it with the lychgate that forms the entrance to the churchyard.

It’s a stand-out feature and really makes a mark in the village street, forming a landmark next to the pub, and making a very dramatic entrance point to the churchyard. The stonework is very plain (look at those austere lancet windows), but it doesn’t need to be fancy: the rich orangey colour of the local stone is attractive in itself. And up above at the top of the tower comes the unusual feature: the bell chamber is an open framework structure of oak, dominated by sweeping arches and a very steeply pitched roof.

The bells must sound out loud and clear from this tower calling people away from their pints in the traditional way. Even if they don’t heed the call and return to their drinks, they have something special to look at. Your good health!


bazza said...

This looks like a very unusual structure. I suppose the position of the tower dominates the parishoners in a way that a conventional tower would not have done. Also, it's seems odd that the clock is not centralised.
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Hels said...

A gate was certainly required, but I wonder if a lynchgate was chosen for a decorative or a theological reason.

Stephen Barker said...

I too was struck by the clock was off centre and why it wasn't on the face overlooking the street. It is an interesting and novel design and must be a striking feature in the village.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Thank you all. The clock's off-centre position is odd. I wonder if it post-dates the luxuriant growth of the tree - it's certainly easier to see where it is. The fact that it's on this face works quite well - it's actually easier to see here than it would have been on the side facing the street.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Hels: There certainly seems to have been a fashion for lychgates in the Victorian period. I wonder whether they were still used during funeral services (the original idea was that the funeral service began as the coffin entered the churchyard), a bit of ritual that might well have been observed by 'High' Victorian vicars - but this is just a guess.

Joseph Biddulph (Publisher) said...

Lychgates because they were Gothic and medieval perhaps - see Pugin's designs. Also, in a climate where it rains a lot, and the church itself may be locked, those little seats in the lychgate might save you a wetting when visiting a funeral or a grave. Also useful for setting down the coffin once it had been borne there on men's shoulders, old-style, perhaps from a distant address in the parish, while waiting for it to be received. A good example of some consideration for the poor and those who didn't arrive in carriages. This poor man has sheltered in many a one on his rambles: in his humble opinion, there's not nearly enough of them, old or new.