Tuesday, September 30, 2008

More churches

Avebury Church

I have an obsession with country churches, it is there peaceful presence in a quiet countryside that triggers this response. Too often in this western secular world we rant against religion, but these small country churches the last vestiges of a dying religion please me greatly.

Fyfield Church, said to be by a Roman road

Fyfield Church porch

The font

Their grassy grave yards with leaning headstones bear the minimum of words as to birth and death, or if you are wealthy, written with a flourish of words witnessing the greatness of god or man; it tells us of our brief stay on this earth numbers so neatly carved. Nature folds round the stone foundations of these old buildings, sunk deep into the earth, surrounded by the dead bones of the past.

Yet there is still life when it comes to the major festivals of the year, Christmas, Easter and Harvest Festival, people are drawn to the church to celebrate, unwittingly, or maybe in memory of a pagan past, to once more garland the church and remember. So it was so when visiting several churches round Avebury on the Autumn Solstice, women in East Kennet, arranging flowers in the small church, talking amongst themselves, two children with a spaniel waiting outside the church, the greyness of the interior lit up by the colour of the flowers. Outside the sun shone on the small pond that is attached to the church with the great sarsen stone half hidden by vegetation; ducks sitting on a very small green, someone sat on a chair working outside their cottage in the sun, a peaceful idyllic life.

The sarsen beside the pond at East Kennet Church

East Kennet church banner - EKLB and Avebury stones



The old East Kennet church


In the other churches, West Overton, Fyfield and Winterbourne Monkton, women were cleaning the churches, arranging flowers, and by the altars you could spy tins of food, the autumn harvest come home to roost in a modern convenient form.
West Overton church has a cottage bordering its edge, whilst to the east another cottage sits beneath its benevolent gaze, a steep drop of about 15 feet to a patio beneath, this I noticed because Moss bounding around had to put his brakes on sharply or he would have tumbled over to the garden below.
Perhaps I should mention one more church, the one at Avebury, sitting on the bench surrounded by the small village of old houses with the Manor peeping over a stone wall, the sense of time past is keenly felt. People pass by ambling slowly in the warmth of the sun, the church door invites you in, Moss is territorial about this bit of land, he has so often been here before and he barks at people he doesnt like - children mostly.
Churches have of course been 'restored' William Morris in the 19th century was anti-restoration of course and formed a society for the protection of churches. But if you read Pevenser most churches have been restored 'beribboned and adorned' by such people as Butterfield they lose the classic simpleness of the old plain churches.

And of course one can't write about country church yards without recalling to mind Thomas Gray's poem, which does tend to send me off into fits of giggles, the moping owl especially, and perhaps he should take his place under David Inshaw's paintings of Silbury hill with Owl on my other blog. A few verses, the rest is far too long!


"ELEGY WRITTEN IN A COUNTRY CHURCH-YARD"


The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd winds slowly o'er the lea,
The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight,
And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight
And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds:

Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tower
The moping owl does to the moon complain
Of such as, wandering near her secret bower
Molest her ancient solitary reign.

Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree's shade,
Where heaves the turf in many a mouldering heap,
Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,
The rude Forefathers of the hamlet sleep.

the rest can be found here;.. http://www.blupete.com/Literature/Poetry/Elegy.htm

Some church history......

http://www.upperkennetnews.co.uk/churchHistories/churchesOfTheUpperKennet.htm

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