Friday, May 7, 2021

Temple Guiting, Gloucestershire


Tradition and the individual

This chunky tower had me scratching my head when I first saw it standing out across the fields. The tower’s position at the church’s west end and its diagonal buttresses are just the sort of thing seen time and time again on Cotswold churches. Usually these towers were added in the 15th century, when the region was prospering from the wool trade. But few of the other details look much like 15th-century Gothic. In particular, the collection of openings – the very plain semi-circular arched doorway, the odd squat pointed window just above it, and the rather more elegant two-light opening near the top – did not seem like typical medieval work. Neither did the very stubby pinnacles with their almost pyramidal finials.*

Seeing it up close, appended to the small church of Temple Guiting in the Cotswolds, it made a little more sense. Temple Guiting was a medieval church: the village name reveals an ancient connection with the order of the Knights Templar, but this is not evident in the architecture and as far as the tower is concerned is a red herring. The history of the tower begins much later. It seems to have been added to the church in the 17th century and is thus an example of the survival of Gothic architecture into a time when Classical styles had become fashionable. This is not at all unusual, especially in rural areas where masons carried on building in a version of the style that had been passed on from master to apprentice, father to son, through the generations. So it’s an eclectic mix of motifs from here and there, and no less charming for that, and for the sense that the structure shows the sort of originality that can emerge when a 17th-century provincial mason blends what he has learned from tradition with the strength of purpose to go his own way.

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* Pevsner has a go at this part of the tower, sneering at the ‘clumsy top stage, naive gargoyles and big square pinnacles’. But I don’t mind either the rather bulky pinnacles or the gargoyles – aren’t most rural gargoyles naive, and isn’t this part of what makes them effective visually? 

1 comment:

Joseph Biddulph (Publisher) said...

What a pleasing building - a lot of the spirit of Gothic as well as an imitation. No need for local apprenticeship traditions to be invoked. Indeed, architectural/masonry practices would be more likely to be based in towns, surely? Anyway, that door without mouldings suggests someone trained in a different tradition.