Sunday, 24 June 2012

St Mary, Walberton

Walberton is a prosperous village, mostly modern except for a leafy enclave around the church, and its wooded churchyard.

The Domesday Book records a priest and church, and the Nave of the current church may well date from the Saxon period. The nave arcades were cut through in the 12th century to link to the aisles. The chancel dates from the 13th, as does the substantial stone porch. The aisles were rebuilt in the 14th or 15th centuries and again in the 17th and 18th, when dormers were added and galleries inserted. There are a number of original lancets, but the rest of the windows date from more recent restorations.

The church is – slightly unfortunately – notorious for a severe restoration in 1903 by the architect Richard Creed. He rebuilt the aisles, roof and belfry (including the supporting frame), faced the walls in hard flint, scraped the interior and replaced the aisle windows in the 14th century  style and the west window in that of the 16th century. He removed a large amount of the archaeological detail, including some of the Saxon walling which incorporated red Roman bricks and tiles in the quoins. The protests led to the establishment of Diocesan Advisory Committees although, arguably, many Victorian restorations were just as drastic.

The setting is delightful and, like nearby Yapton, the roofs sweep low over the aisles. Inside, the most noticeable feature is the irregularity of the arcades: there are four bays to the south and three to the north, similar in style (very plain, round headed and unmoulded), but of varying widths and heights.
The chancel fared better under the restoration, and retains its lancets and 13th century feel.

Furnishings of note are limited to a tub font, from the late 11th century (restored in 1903 from a nearby farmyard), and the glass to Lord Woolton (d. 1964) in the south aisle, which lists his appointments rather like a CV.  The graveyard has a huge early 19th century vault for the Prime family, and a charmingly macabre one to Charles Cook (d. 1767), which graphically depicts his death by a falling tree.

 St Mary's Church, Church Lane, Walberton, Arundel, West Sussex BN18 0PQ

Saturday, 23 June 2012

St Mary, Yapton

Yapton has a delightful church set in a quiet corner of the village. For once, the lovely exterior leads to an equally charming interior, only lightly restored by the Victorians.

Although there was a church on the site in the Saxon period, all that remains of this is the lower part of the tower – the north tower wall is the south wall of the Saxon nave. Most of the structure dates from 1180-1220; the nave and tower date from 1180-1200 and the chancel from 1200-1220. The pretty porch was added some time after 1400, along with the west window. The additional buttressing of the tower, to counter the clear effects of subsidence, may also have been added in this period.

Dormer windows were inserted in the ceiling in the 17th century, and the present East Window inserted in 1902. This replaced an 18th century one which itself replaced the original lancets (the remains of which are clearly visible).

From the outside the church is picture-postcard pretty, with the leaning and heavily-buttressed tower flanking the nave and porch. From the sides, the roofs sweep low over the aisles to barely 5ft above the ground.

Inside, the nave has four bays of plain, barely pointed arches, resting on square capitals. The capitals are decorated with foliage, though those on the south aisle look unfinished – local legend has it that the masons were called away to repair Chichester Cathedral after the fire of 1187 before they could finish. The fine king-post roof with its tie-beams is probably original.

The south aisle has an old round-headed window to the east, and two small round windows indicate an early attempt to let in more light. The chancel arch rests on two fluted corbels, and the spacious chancel beyond has pairs of tall lancets to the north and south

Of its furnishings, the church claims its font to be Saxon, but others point to an early Norman date. Either way, it pre-dates the present church. It is decorated with chevron banding and arcades of arches enclosing Maltese crosses, all executed in low relief. The north aisle has indecipherable traces of mediaeval wall painting.

Outside, the south wall has a number of scratch mass-dials, the two clearest of which are on the jamb of the Priest’s door to the south chancel. Its churchyard is exquisite - neatly mowed lawns around more recent graves give way to grassy paths and wild flowers in older sections, all shaded by mature trees.

St Mary's has a regular morning Sunday service and a monthly contemporary-worship evening service

St Mary's Church, Church Lane, Yapton, Arundel, West Sussex BN18 0EE

Monday, 11 June 2012

St Mark's, Wimbledon, Greater London

St Mark’s is a friendly Anglican church in the liberal Catholic tradition, just a stone’s throw from Wimbledon rail and underground station.

The church itself is of modern design, built in brick around a concrete frame in 1968-9 to designs by Humphrys & Hurst in association with David Nye, replacing a late Victorian church. Very unusually for a church, it is pentagonal in layout, with five large concrete arches meeting at a central point to give a spacious tent-like interior, incorporating a roof-top lantern.

The walls are pierced by rectangular windows filled with vibrantly coloured modern glass, portraying elements of the creation: look carefully and there are planets, fish and whales. Although very much of its time, it works well as a worship space: worship is effectively in the round, with a large sanctuary (and the longest altar I’ve ever seen) surrounded by pews on three sides.

The church also has a small chapel, as well as a church hall and an attractive lawned area at the rear - a small green oasis (complete with a wooden play castle for children).

Worship is in a modern, liberal Catholic style (but no incense), and attracts a friendly mixed-age congregation. There is a creche and a Sunday School for children, and there is a youth group for those aged 13-18.

St Mark's Place, Wimbledon, London SW19 7ND