Sunday, 15 October 2017

Five Church Interiors

On holiday I went into quite a number of churches, and some of them struck me particularly.

First, St Mary's, Beaminster. This is a big, rambling sort of church but I thought this side chapel was beautifully simple, with its laid wood floor (like ours at Swanvale Halt): uncluttered and concentrated.

To one side of Bridport is St Swithun's, Allington, part of the Bridport Team of churches. It began life as an early-19th-century chapel and is Classical in style. It was built as a bare preaching box, but eventually adhered very thoroughly to the Catholic version of Anglicanism. This combination makes the interior very unusual. The green decor is calming and delicate (more so than it looks in this photo, which is a bit too green), although so much has been added piecemeal to the church that it's also a little confused (three shrines of the Blessed Virgin must be enough for any church, while surely no congregation needs two sets of the Stations of the Cross, one above the other).

Bothenhampton, south of Bridport, has two churches, dedicated to the Holy Trinity. This is the newer one, famously rather ahead of its time when it was built in the 1880s. I've given you two photos, taken either side of the wrought-iron chancel screen, the first looking east towards the altar, and the second, west, so you can see the great stone transverse arches spanning the roof. Unfussily arranged and very welcoming, this church reminds me of Goremead, which I used to look after. It contains everything a church needs, and nothing more. But perhaps Allington could give them a statue or two, there's plenty of space.

Up a lane from the new church of Bothenhampton is the old one. Only the tower, chancel and transept - now containing the font - remain, and this church is redundant. The structure is medieval but the fittings are Georgian, and you can easily imagine an 18th-century clergyman in a tricorn hat meeting a couple from the village bringing their baby to that bare stone font. The past is powerfully present here, and so are the souls who used to worship in Old Holy Trinity.

Finally, a very well-known church but one I've never been into: St George Reforne on the Isle of Portland. It's redundant too, though it used to be the main church of the area, and what a remarkable building it is. Designed by an amateur local architect in the 1750s, it really is a perfect period piece from the time when the Church of England was closer to Nonconformist Protestantism than at any other time in its history: preaching was what churches were for, and the celebration of the sacraments was very much subordinate. So at St George the altar table was stuck in a small alcove at the end and the font looks like a bird-bath. You will note the two pulpits - almost, though not quite, unique in Anglican churches - and the high box pews. Remember that at one point there was a fourth gallery running across the arch you can see in the foreground, and that therefore a good portion of the congregation would have sat with their backs to the altar, and you realise what this building is all about. It really would be very hard to use for 'normal' modern Anglican worship - either Catholic or Evangelical! - but it's great that it still survives. I was speeding on my way back to the cottage when I went past, but I couldn't, simply couldn't, ignore the sign that said 'church open', could I?

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