Sunday, March 17, 2019

Gaulby, Leicestershire

The far pagodas

My recent visit to Leicestershire involved the great pleasure of being taken to a couple of churches I’d not seen before. It’s always good to be on the road with my Leicestershire correspondent, and to be taken to little known gems via scenic routes in an under-appreciated but often beautiful part of the country. The church at Gaulby is just such a place, and just the sort of thing I like to celebrate on this blog: not great architecture, but interesting, distinctive building that is worth a closer look.

St Peter’s Gaulby* was rebuilt in 1741 for the squire William Fortrey by the architect John Wing, whose son designed the church at nearby King’s Norton for the same squire. At Gaulby the chancel was left as it was and the rest of the church built anew. Wing took his cue for the architecture of the nave from the existing chancel, which has a five-light east window under a depressed arch, the whole window divided in two by a horizontal bar (known as a transom). So the nave also has transomed windows, also under depressed arches.§

But for the tower, Wing changed styles and made it a classical job with big round-arched bell openings in the upper stage and tiny circular and semicircular windows lower down. At the top of the tower, he added an impressive if bizarre array of pinnacles – little ones like obelisks halfway along each parapet and at the corners tall ones topped with structures like miniature pagodas. I’ve no idea whether the architecture was consciously influenced by pagodas – 1741 seems a little early for architecture chinoiserie in England.† Wherever they come from, they’re certainly arresting, adding an exotic and eccentric highlight to the prevailing texture of vernacular marlstone buildings and stately trees.

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* The name’s alternative form is Galby.

§ The light was rather strong on the morning we were there. It might help to click on the picture to bring the details more clearly into view.

† Sir William Chambers’ book Designs of Chinese Buildings, for example, fruit of his youthful travels with the East India Company, came out in 1757.

1 comment:

Stephen Barker said...

For anyone interested in churches in Leicestershire and Rutland I can recommend the following site it is a photographic survey of the churches in the two counties. Each entry has exterior and interior photos with a short history of the church and notes on its main features.

The entry for Gaulby shows the very plain interior which is a disappointment after the details of the tower. There is a good close up shot of one of the pagodas. The chancel was not rebuilt in 1741 as William Fortrey had a falling out with the Rector and the chancel is the Rector's responsibility.