Wednesday, 10 March 2010

A little Saxon church

This is one part of the tale of two churches, lying within a mile or so of each other. The first church (as seen in my previous post '
A Cotwolds bonbon') is the one situated above, in the village of Coln St Dennis and is Norman in origin, though almost certainly built on the site of a previous Saxon church. We visited both on a chilly Spring day last week. Each is a tiny, simple jewel, and each contains a similar story with different endings. To visit this first one, you need to go over to my other blog. But here, we are continuing our walk, on to Coln St Rogers.

Instead of following this inviting lane, we turned off left, and took a sideways route along the riverbank, the church just visible to our right.

The pussy willow was out - who can resist stroking the silky soft furry buds?

The South porch is a later addition, as is the bell tower.

Inside, an earlier, Norman entrance with recessed Typanum (the top of the arch).

We are still in the early learning stage of 'reading a church' and our slim knowledge is often confused and groping - which is a shame because this marvellous little building is as rich in history as any grand cathedral. The central chancel arch seen here is apparently part of the first Saxon building, making at least 1,000 years old. St Andrews is a rare example of an very early church which has retained much of its original ground plan.

On top of the solid stone jambs, pellet ornament and you can see behind Saxon 'long and short work' - the supporting masonry surrounding the tall window. The pulpit to the right of the chancel arch is from the later Gothic 'Perpenicular period'; the late 1300's to the 1500's.

There are more wonderful old features than I could possibly list here, but we intend to return and I will continue my lecture another day. One final poppet - the remains of a Gothic period glass figure of St Margaret, about the same age as the stone pulpit (1300's - 1500's).

On the way out I picked up a jar of homemade marmalade -

Sat on top of the Norman tub-shaped font in a tupperware box -

and only 80p. It's an honesty system and you pop your money in a little 'letterbox' safe in the wall.

A country church may appear deserted, but there will be some neighbour keeping a watchful eye on the odd visitor. Here I found Andy with a volunteer gardener, discussing the Great War (World War One) and the devastating impact it had on the population of British villages. And here is the parting of the way in my tale of two villages.

For while in neighbouring Coln St Dennis, many young lives were lost, miraculously all the servicemen from Coln Rogers - and one woman who was in the
Voluntary Aid Detachment - returned. I found myself wondering what repercussions this had on relationships between the villages, which, being in an isolated spot and so close to each other, must have had tight bonds. Were there undercurrents of resentment or a general feeling of thankfulness that at least some had been spared?

As usual I am indebted for my clumsy knowledge to the Internet and the useful little pamphlet provided by a local amateur historian.


  1. What a wonderful little history lesson! How funny to see a tupperware box sitting in a 1,000 year old church...the contrast made me smile. Make a list Gretel, because someday you will tell me these stories in person ;-) I can't think of anything more wonderful. As always..thank you for bringing us along on your walk and sharing the gem you call the Cotwolds. You are so lucky to live where you do with so much magic around you.
    love to you and Andy,

  2. It was lovely to wander down the lanes with you to visit these two lovely churches and hear their stories...thanks for sharing!

  3. 80p? A bargain at twice the price. :)

    This church was beautiful, and the sense of history very nearly palpable. Thank you.

  4. PG, what beauty you show us, over and over again. Whenever I have been able to visit such remarkable little churches like this one, there always comes a moment when I can't help it, I just start crying. There is truly something very powerful about experiencing the presence of a place that has seen so much over centuries.

    The marmalade actually makes an important contribution to the spirit of that church, much greater than 80p.

    Many thanks to you. xo

  5. I wonder what will have changed and who will be telling the story of these ancient places 500 years from now.
    Such a powerful post. Thank you.

    Incidentally the two world wars cast a very long shadow. Canada lost more than 67000 men. There are war memorials in churches and town squares all across the country.

  6. What a beautiful and interesting old church, I think it's one of the nicest I've seen in both real and blog life. I enjoyed the post about the Norman church too, finding the clay pipe is a real link with the past, marvellous to think that someoneelse paused to enjoy that same view all those years ago.

  7. I love the warm honey coloured stone and the feeling of age around these two Churches. It must have been hard indeed during the war for both villages, when only one had returning soldiers. Thank you for this post, I'll be pondering on it much I think.

    We have some gorgeous and old churches in my area, but I'm usually drawn to the graves rather than inside!

  8. what a beautiful revealing of the
    glorious chapel.

    your blogs are incredible.

    thank you for sharing,

  9. Thank-you for this afternoon's adventure. I love these Gretel and appreciate your letting us see what you discover

  10. Thousands survived WW I severely damaged mentally and physically. And when the world moved on and put the war behind them, hard on the veterans who couldn't. So who knows what stories the "lucky" village could tell? Was the VAD a woman??

  11. I love following along on your visits to churches. Both of the churches are so full of history ~ your photographs are wonderful visuals to go along with your words. It's hard to fathom just many lives were lost in the wars. Your post made me think of a book I am currently reading, 'The Great Silence:, Living in the Shadow of the Great War' by Juliet Nicholson.

  12. I love walking into English history thorough your photographs and words. What wonderful ancient places you have all around you, I envy you that and thank you for sharing it with us. So many of our ancestors come from England, I guess that is one reason why we Americans have such a strong interest in your country, as we see it as part of our history as well. I hope to visit Britain one day and see all these marvelous places in person.

  13. I'm glad you posted a link this morning!


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