I’m an architectural photographer and writer.
On my van-life travels through the British Isles I’m building up a word and photo-hoard of material culture that celebrates the value and distinctiveness of our built heritage and contributes to a sense of place.
My van is my time-machine, it gives me fresh perspectives on our remarkable places, shared here on a weekly basis. 📸🚐🏛
🏛 Missed the last Digest? Here it is.
🚐 View Digest Archive here.
Thanks to all for your continued support and encouragement. It takes a day a week to produce this digest. With your support, I'm able to keep this digest free and public facing. 📸🏛🚐
❓Can you help support this digest? More here. ℹ️
⚡️The Member's Patina Edition will be posted out on Sunday.
Lighting up the winter nights.
Images that have soaked up the sun and light up the winter darkness.
"Our hands imbibe like roots,
so I place them on what is beautiful in this world."
St. Francis of Assisi
The Soul House
I'm at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge and I'm here to view the collection of Egyptian objects on display. As I walk through the cultural detritus of thousands of years of ancient history, there emerges, out of a shadowy glass cabinet, the humble rectangular form of a small muddied artefact. What I have come to see, within the basement of the museum, in a room devoted to Ancient Egypt is a "soul house". This particular soul house is a little bigger than a large format camera, made from terracotta, with two arcaded storeys. It is accessed by an exterior staircase springing from a courtyard floor embossed with offerings.
It was Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie who first brought the worlds attention to these transient entities in 1907. He excavated a number of these clay houses from Rifeh - a series of cemeteries near to the ancient town of Shashotep in Egypt dating from 2025-1700 BC. There are a number also held at the Manchester Museum and they are thought to be descended from the offering table placed inside the tombs of the deceased.
It is thought that these soul houses were created to be residences for spiritual allurement; to allow the soul of the deceased to dwell; the offerings to nourish the soul and the stairs to allow it to meander without becoming restless. Some of the houses also have a portico or 'loggia' - a covered exterior space, neither inside or outside - the physical embodiment of transience - perhaps a conscious recognition of a space in-between.
I have a visual in my mind: a soul house is being made by Ancient Egyptian fingers, caked in clay, pinching out a stairway, thumbing in a colonnade, pricking out a window. The loved one is within the cross-hairs of the maker’s mind, but the grieving has been deferred in order to honour the process, to create an object that will hold for perpetuity the dead in suspended animation.
Much later, at St. Mary in Ketton I come across a textile map that replaces the soul house thumbing process with that of cross stitch. It's a map of the village with every single building represented. The end result is essentially the same: a powerful work of art that transcends its material form through the cohesive act of its creation - the fabric is infused by the people who made it.
In the same way that I imagine the soul house being made, I imagine the creation of the textile map - the coming together, the chatter, the memories and the laughter - all being inmbibed into every stitch of this fabric of place. In return the textile map becomes totemic - hung within the church - a powerful beacon contributing to community identity and wellbeing, and a dwelling place for future generations.
💫 The textile map and kneelers at St Mary, Ketton have been added to my Treasure Hoard Gazetteer.
The Radcliffe Songlines Community Map
I'm very proud to be involved with a project called Spirit of Place, Radcliffe. As a part of that project Rowan Bridgwood and Corinne Cottam have designed a textile map which has been made by members of the Radcliffe, Greater Manchester community. It is a thing of beauty, and has had many stories and memories woven into its fabric. Here are some photos from the making of the textile map.
The Road Trip
I have a plethora of photo shoots around the Midlands and so I feed them into a road trip that takes on Anglo Saxon towers and Georgian towns. The full visual of the road trip is on Polarsteps via the link below:
Follow Andy's Georgian Towns and Anglo Saxon Towers trip
Road trip Highlights
All photos shot on iPhone.
The village is the church and the church is the village, quite literally.
Both secular and spiritual are tied together inextricably by its material fabric. To walk along the high street, you have to pass through the lychgate. The path is bordered by a lyrical set of Georgian headstones. The walking experience is immersive. As is the driving - the drive through from east to west has to be one of the best 60 seconds driving in the country.
The village buildings are built with Ketton stone from the local quarry - some have Collyweston slate roofs from nearby. The church is built with Barnack stone.
⚡️Top Tip: If you're visiting Rutland Water, Ketton is not too far away. Pop out for a pub lunch and visit the church which is jam packed full of material culture, community cohesion and a Ninian Comper ceiling.
St. Mary the Virgin, Ketton
There is a chancel full of angels painted by Ninian Comper and some remarkable choir stall finials carved to perfection but the joy of this church is the textile map and kneelers made by the local community.
A leap of faith...
Below: layers of history - the chevroned arch is the earliest part of the fabric (looks C12th) with a later intervention beneath.
The angels and trusses were painted by Ninian Comper.
The choir stall carved finials are a delight. They're quite 'heavy' - maybe early C17th?
Green man finial - a kind of sprite face emerging from a leaf.
Pelican symbol - unusual depiction of a pelican feeding its young from its own blood - a symbol of sacrifice.
⚡️Patrons can see an updated comperandum of Pelicans here.
Earls Barton, Northamptonshire.
It wasn't the easiest of park ups for the camper, for Earls Barton is a busy little village. But, the wait was worth it. Earls Barton has one of the best surviving Anglo-Saxon towers in England. It's dated to around AD970.
For me its appeal is in the patterned long and short work that makes it look like a gingerbread tower. They have built a thing of compression, but structure it out with slim plinths of stone, as if it were held together by tension (like a timber framed house).
The Saxons didn't have a stone building culture - indeed timber derives from an old Saxon word meaning 'building.' A number of surviving Saxon texts and poems talk of extant stone buildings as if they have been built by giants (in reality the Romans).
This was an easier park up with a huge (paid) car park on Rutland water. I was on my way home and I'd been tipped off my a subscriber as to the famous church on the water.
Normanton church is a real oddity. The church was scheduled for demolition when the Gwash valley was flooded to form a new reservoir in the 1970's. The locals saved half of it - thus accounting for the odd proportions of the church from a distance. It looks like it has sunk into the ground. The base of the church was filled with rubble and is now beneath water level.
⚡️Top Tip: Rutland water is now a centre for water sports and nature activities with a wonderful cycle path that circles the entire circumference of the water. It's a great day out.
I'm on a commission to photograph a commercial building and I've got an hour whilst I wait for the sun to move on to the commissioned buildings facade.
I make a pilgrimage to one of my favourite modern buildings and then into typography heaven in the Baltic. But first to Oriel Chambers..
It's a grade I listed building - the same as a medieval cathedral. The listing describes it as 'a pioneering building in the use of expressed cast iron construction.' Others claim it is the first ever skyscraper in the world. For me, it has a beauty of design that is modern and yet rooted in the past. Its oriel 'egg-box' style windows have been echoed across the city in later buildings.
Oh the joy of finding a cafe (with good coffee) within Oriel Chambers! A chance to see the pioneering internal construction. A good 'engineers' cafe.
These buildings are a strong reminder of Liverpool's industrial heritage. How long will the ghost signs last ?
I'm going to draw the words 'SHIPS CHANDLERS' back up into our current day, via the magic potion of adding it to the Treasure Hoard Gazetteer to counteract the inertia of contemporary times that is smitten with words like permacrisis, quiet quitting and algorithm.
These words will be transported to the Treasure Hoard Gazetteer in perpetuity.
💫 The ghost signs have been added to my Treasure Hoard Gazetteer.
I've upgraded my bed view to add another 'counties' map to the ceiling. Gives me a little more perspective as to where I am. The two plastic boxes at the top of the photo are carbon monoxide and fire alarms. The curtain on the right is a privacy curtain (there is a loo in the back). When it's cold I close the curtain to keep in the warmth. Next to the curtain is my 'van charm' - a growing string of token objects collected from the places I visit.
At the bottom of the photo you can just make out my boss replicas. I've managed to come across a few more architectural bits and pieces - and, I fear, it won't be too long before the inside of the van will look like Sir John Soane's museum.
On My Coffee Table
From The Charo's
£3 from a charity shop in Stockbridge, Edinburgh.
Artwork from the Parish Maps project
The Long Now Foundation is a nonprofit encouraging imagination at the timescale of civilization— the next and last 10,000 years— what we call the long now.
This event has been rescheduled from the 3 November 2022. £70/£35 (student ticket) Following successful symposia held by the Group in previous
Film and Sound
Melvyn Bragg looks at the rich legacy of Magna Carta, examining the ways in which it has influenced ideas of liberty, human rights and even political systems. King John's Great Charter, formally agreed in a field at Runnymede in 1215, became a cause celebre during the English Civil War and later exerted a crucial influence on American constitutional thought. 800 years after it was sealed, Magna Carta remains a document of global importance.
Opening the Medieval Stone Coffin Found at the Richard III Burial Site
From the Twittersphere
Treasure Hoard Gazetteer
Andy Marshall’s Treasure Hoard Gazetteer Map
My Treasure Hoard Map is open to all. It is an evolving enterprise and I’ll be adding more entries as time passes.
Thanks to all subscribers for your continued support
Thanks to Patrons and Members for helping keep the Genius Loci Digest free and public facing.
At St. Mary, Ketton, I got the oddest feeling I was not alone. Found this little guy hiding behind a pew. It felt like a scene from Toy Story. Every time I looked away I sensed movement. Maybe the gargoyles come out to play at night?