Thursday, 21 April 2011

A sacred gem

We are quite spoilt for delightful little churches in the UK - almost every village and small town has an old and interesting place of worship, many of which have been around for the best part of a thousand years or more. But sometimes we find unexpected gems, often in the smallest and most tucked away of places. Such is St Andrew's in the Cotswold village of
Sevenhampton. Although it has Norman origins, the tower is of a later build, 'Early English' - or, more simply, the Medieval period. It also has a octagonal stairway running up it, which is visible from outside. You would have to be tiny - or from another century - to get up it without some discomfort.

The tower was a later addition, courtesy of a wool merchant John Camber who stipulated in his will that whatever parish he died in, there he would be buried and the church benefit. So the tower was built in his honour in 1497, but necessitated inner supports; to see flying buttresses on a church this small would be unusual - to see them inside is, in my limited opinion, nothing short of astonishing. Looking down the nave, you can just see the diagonals propping up the tower.

The South side buttress -

The North side buttress

View of both buttresses from the North side. Disused Charles 11 font (17th Century) visible -

The tower itself is small but impressive, with simple fan vaulting. This is also the bell tower, housing three bells, the earliest dating from sometime in the 15th century, the most recent on from the 18th. A mere stripling.

For me, even more fascinating than the buttresses, was the concealed mensa stone, the old original altar - many of these mensa's were removed (and hidden) during the
16th century Reformation. Some have since been replaced, but this one became part of a 'squint' - it is very low, as the floor was raised at some later date. The mensa at St Andrews forms the top of the squint -

By holding my camera inside, I was able to take a couple of (blurry) shots of two of the five consecration crosses inscribed on what would have been the altar top.

What I love about our churches is their unpretentiousness. Despite their antiquity and historic pedigree, they are still places of worship and although loved, cared for and continually restored, they are often appear somewhat 'lived in'; things are stashed away, biros and sweets left in a favourite pew, always a box of old toys tucked away to keep little ones quiet during service. Sometimes they form quite beautiful, if unintentional, still lives.

Sometimes it is as if the spirits of past worshippers look down from the very walls...

...and the gradual process of centuries of aging renders a humble, rustic Medieval stoup into something quite divine.

Now we leave St Andrews and continue our walk, looking back for a final glimpse.


  1. Dear Gretel,

    You make me feel as if I am there with you (someday!)

    You are so correct...these are fabulous historical gems that you live among. You are so lucky. Thanks for sharing these beauties with us.

    This is why I look forward to all your posts.

    Janet xox

  2. Hello Gretel,

    I want to second all that Janet has already written. When I read posts like this one of yours, I just want to never leave a place that keeps a St Andrews taken care of.

    There is nothing like that over here. Nothing.

    Changing topics, I also want to let you know that I need to refresh my cricket info, and thank you again for giving me access to such good lessons.

    Happy Easter to you and Andy!

  3. How wonderful to think of those centuries of folks, bringing their worshiping, troubles, joys and everyday life to that church to share with others.

    I'm so grateful that you share these things with us who live so very far away. It's a view of another world from ours here in America. Thank you for sharing with us.

  4. Is it a tad rude to admit that I am insanely jealous of the historic beauty that surrounds you?

  5. I'm always amazed at the construction of these beautiful little stone churches and grand cathedrals. I always get a mental picture of what it took to build them...then I'm even more amazed at their beauty. Lovely post, beautiful pics...

  6. Can I live with you please?

  7. Really enjoyed this, thanks so much!

  8. Looks like a great place for a royal wedding.

    Great photos of a great old building.

  9. The ambiance of that little church is almost
    palpable, even at this distance. Oh dear, does anyone know a cure for homesickness?

  10. I must see these places one day. You have no idea how inspiring the photos in and around your village are to me. My heart seems to long for Olde England, I suppose because my ancestry goes way back to these ancient places..

  11. What an interesting and beautiful blog.
    You write so well, I could feel my hand running over the cool stone and sense the peace in this holy structure.


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