Saturday, 25 May 2019

St Builth Wells

Last weeks jaunt took us up into Powys and Llandridnod Wells, Builth and Llanwrtyd Wells.  Llandridnod is a quite extraordinary place, as though a late nineteenth century suburb of London had been uprooted and then dropped into rural  mid-wales - all Queen Anne revival, Olde English, plus the odd splash of Gothic revival, Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau.  A rather laid back sort of place, perhaps lacking in direction.  I have never seen so many intact Victorian and Edwardian shop fronts.  Extraordinary.  But far too many parked cars to make photography easy.
Then on to Builth Wells, one of the three market towns of the old county of Breconshire. (It still has a functioning cattle market - quite a rare thing to find these days esp for someone like me from eastern England where most have disappeared.) A small attractive place hugging the south bank of the Wye with a long, narrow high street. There is plenty to admire both in terms of townscape and individual buildings - though there was nothing outstanding.  I did however like the neo-Georgian Post Office.
Like Llandridnod Builth's heyday was probably in the nineteenth century - everything spoke of a relatively comfortable provincial life.  Food, however, was my big concern as we were walking around but I did  make the effort and take some pictures of the parish church. To be honest since visiting Oystermouth and Llancarfan I've been a bit hesitant to take photographs of churches - hence I snapped nothing of the slightly bizarre, and florid, Holy Trinity, Llandridnod. St Mary's Builth, standing in a large graveyard full of monuments, is a mix of Victorian and Medieval. The tower is massive and blunt, 13th centrury; the church which dates from 1875 and is the work of John Norton, is High Victorian Gothic, muscular and tough. Mincer-pate tracery in some of the windows. Perhaps a little unlovely though well detailed in places.  Hard to believe it is nearly 150 years old - will it ever weather and mellow? The ast end of tower, chancel and organ chamber is well composed.  But all together more successful perhaps if the interior wasn't so cold and cavernous. It's the sort of building that Bodley should have got hold of and decorate. At present it just looks tatty and barren. It really needs some help.  I'm pretty sure I saw day-light through the roof. I suppose too that as a gay man I ought to be grateful that this place trumpets its inclusiveness. It however does nothing for me. A church is a temple of transformation, God orientated, where the worshipper encounters and participates in and with the divine, it is not a place for the semi-secular centred upon our selves. For all the well meaning banners etc I really wouldn't worship there. Sorry to bang on about this yet again but I'm slowly feeling my Anglicanism wither and die and it's a far from pleasant experience.  Trouble is that being an Anglican these days is hardly intellectually or spiritually or even aesthetically satisfying.

Friday, 17 May 2019

Vale of Glamorgan

We've been out on a mystery tour, thanks to the bf.  We headed west along the M4 (while I came up with ever wilder guesses as to our destination  - the 'Pobol y Cwm Experience', the 'The Esma Cannon Museum'?) and into the rather posh Vale of Glamorgan. I was in the need of cheering up and the bf knew what would help, and after traversing some ridiculously narrow country lanes (thanks to the sat-nav) we arrived at the village of Llancarfan and the church.  And here the narrative ends, except to say that there was I happily snapping away inside only to espy a notice stating that to post images of the church, even on social media, one had to seek permission from the PCC, which seems an inordinately and ultimately futile way of controlling images of the church, and one I won't endorse by applying.

Our second port of call was eminently middle-class community of Cowbridge, a linear community along what was once the main road west out of Cardiff.  It has a not inconsiderable charm. The church, dedicated to The Holy Cross, is a big muscular sort of building, but was actually a chapel-of-ease to Llanbethan.  It forms an interesting grouping with the Grammar School and town gate. The interior highlights the problems of both using and spatially unifying a structure that was built for a standing, not sitting, congregation. It is also an example of what one could call civic Anglicanism - something that tends to leave me cold.  First however let's start with the exterior which is varied and interesting. The brooding, defensive-looking central tower dominates.  The double nave is long and low - in common with many Welsh churches the clerestory is absent - the windows are all Perp.  The E end is complex, even picturesque, with chancel, N chapel (with blocked windows) and deeply projecting vestry.  The inside is more varied still consisting of essentially three disparate spaces: nave, tower and chancel.  The former chancel chapel is screened off and closed off which is a shame as it would add a welcome unexpected element to the interior.  The best things are the mural monuments and the inner door of the porch by George Pace on his best behaviour, and is really quite sensitive. It should look even better with age. Otherwise it is far too dark and there is too much semi-secular clutter.  The fine spaciousness of the nave with its elegant perp arcade deserves better. It would benefit from a wholesale removal of pews and a re-flooring in stone.

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Tea with Jones and Gray

Wednesday in Great Week the bf and I were lucky to take afternoon tea with the remarkable Jones & Grey at their house and studio. The duo are insatiable neo-classicists - artists and artisans who can turn their able hands to drawing, painting, model making and plasterwork - with a particular love for the work of the English architect James Wyatt (1746 -1813). Here is their coolly neo-classical website.
Their house is a testament of both their enthusiasm (which is great) and their appreciable skills for each room is graced with their work in the form of the most delicate neo-classical ceilings. The over all effect is utterly enchanting, and the cake was delicious too!

Alas my poor photography isn't equal to the subject, but at least they'll give you an idea of what has been created.

Saturday, 27 April 2019

Own work: Collage

My latest collage - 23.4 x 30.0 cms, mixed media.

Own work: The Rustiche of Sebastiano Serlio XXVII

Been a bit tardy in posting this, still 'better late than never'.  The usual rules apply.

Saturday, 20 April 2019

over the hills and far away.... II

From one atmospheric church to another: the numinous St Michael, Myddfai. Myddfai is a very small but immensely attractive village, a meeting of three roads - think of the letter 'Y' or, better still, a cocktail glass with the church as the olive in the martini.  The feel is, oddly, just a little urban.
The church is a delight, hardly any clutter and filled with light.  There are old floors and limewashed walls.  As at Llanddeusant the church consists of two naves separated by an arcade and roofed with wooden barrel vaults, all however on a larger, more spacious scale.  hard to believe that the churh has been restored three times since 1870.  Some good fittings too in the way of memorials and the like: in the porch is an early eighteenth century slab commemorating two of the 'Physicians of Myddfai', David Jones and his son also called David; and in the N chancel some ledger stones including one to Henry Owen, that also commemorating also his uncle the Laudian cleric Morgan Owen - Laud's chaplain, commissioner the s porch of St Mary the Virgin in Oxford from Nicholas Stone (1637) and from 1639 Bishop of Llandaff.  the Civil War prevented him from taking up his position and he died in 1644, being buried here in his childhood village. There used to be a monument but it was broken up in the 19th century. A pity. The liturgical fittings aren't up to much but that is of small report when the church itself is so beautiful and atmospheric.