Monday 4 November 2019

Plain and Coloured

I've been on my Mercian travels again, this time mainly in Lincolnshire...
The picture above (not mine, but the rest are) shows the beautiful church of St Helen's, Brant Broughton, near the Nottinghamshire border, with its tall and elegant spire (just shy of 200ft). The interior, mostly of the 14th and 15th centuries and wonderfully rich in decorative detail, is as fine as the outside. It also serves as a superb example of how good Victorian restoration could be. Restoration and, indeed, rebuilding; the chancel, with its wooden vault, was rebuilt by Bodley in 1876 – and it works beautifully –

All the stained glass in the church is Victorian, and all of it is good. It was mostly designed by Canon F.H. Sutton (the Rector here from 1873 to 1888) and made by the famous Kempe, in co-operation with the Canon, who was clearly a man of excellent taste. There is stained glass in every window, and the effect in sunlight is gloriously polychromatic.
The restoration even extended to a heart-lifting angel roof. Those Victorian Gothicists were so good when they got it right (and so bad when they didn't, of course)...

The other big church highlight, every bit as breathtaking in its very different way, was Holy Trinity, Tattershall, hard by the remains of the castle. This is a vast, classically Perpendicular church, built in one build and at great expense, but with a bare minimum of ornament, and barely altered since (except in one particular, which I'm coming to).
It is the classic 'house of glass', its walls almost all window, the kind of thing you'd expect to find in East Anglia – and the interior is flooded with light, to dazzling effect. This is because, in contrast to Brant Broughton, almost all the windows are of clear glass. All that remains of the church's original glass has been reassembled, to beautiful effect, to fill the lower part of the great East window. The rest went to St Martin's, Stamford, and to the great hall at Burghley. A shame Canon Sutton wasn't in charge here – he'd have had a few ideas about what to do with those walls of glass...

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