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I'm an architectural photographer. I travel around Britain interacting with special places. I work from my camper van called Woody and I share my experiences via this digest.

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Perhaps one of the most enigmatic gables in the country: St. John's Court in Malmesbury is a C17th almshouse which incorporates a beautiful C12th doorway from a former chapel on the site. Lovely example of Cotswold vernacular building.


'I'm just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.''

Notting Hill


I’m just a porch standing in front of a church looking for a person to spark me into life.

I’m in Malmesbury and I’m stood outside my van feeling a little frustrated. My 360 virtual reality cam is playing up. The battery has a loose connection. I was hoping to get a virtual shot of the porch at Malmesbury Abbey.

Now that I’m stood in front of the porch, my disappointment has been dissipated. This is one of the marvels of medieval England: In Nikolaus Pevsner’s words, it is one of ‘the best pieces of Norman sculpture and decoration in England

The day is blessed with a rare quality of light which allows the pattern and iconography on the eight orders of the C12th porch to fizz into life.

The light is storyboarding the building and unravelling the beliefs, hopes and fears of the medieval mind by pricking out the small medallions and their contents within.

The contents tell the story of time itself from the creation to salvation. Many of the roundels are remarkably intact and reveal vignettes that I remember from my childhood: David and Goliath, Samson and the Lion and Noah and the Ark.

Then I notice more carvings beyond the entrance and walk into the porch to see them. And, in one of those rare moments of correspondence with the past, it hits me: here, stood in the centre of the porch, I’m being embraced by a narrative.

On the tympanum over the door is a depiction of Christ surrounded by angels. To the left and right of me, on the east and west walls of the porch, are carvings of the apostles with angels floating above their heads.

They’re achingly beautiful - with swirling swags and patterns that underpin the ecstasy of the moment. They remind me of the ripples in a pond - as if the Christ in Majesty on the tympanum is impacting every molecule of their being.

But the apostles are set apart and talking and nodding their heads - their feet tell us that they’re grounded in the here and now, coping with their earthly reality with hope for the future. It’s a scene that goes beyond the theocentric message of the day. It’s a theme that is inherently human: they’re just like us.

Stood here in this wrap around space, I’m reminded of David Hockney’s Joiners' art which, through a montage of photographs, combine several perspectives to make an image that embraces a scene. Hockney’s work reveals a truth that is hidden in plain sight: the things we see and experience aren’t from one fixed perspective.

Hockney has spent a lifetime trying to create a work of art that defines the truth that replicates the nuance of our visual experience. But here, at Malmesbury, several hundred years before Hockney, they did it with stone and mortar and volume and light.

I can’t help but sense that I’m at the heart of a space built to create a medieval virtual reality as impactful as the VR images created by my 360 cam.

The porch tally’s up the visual embrace with the passage of time. Transitioning from the exterior to the interior, the observer finds themselves at the heart of the narrative, traversing realms of myth and legend to the grounded realities depicted by the apostles. This journey culminates in a heavenly vista, brimming with promise and aspiration

Arriving at the sweet spot the observer becomes the fuse that sparks it into life, and the vessel they’ve ignited reveals a flicker of the latent memory captured within the stone.

The porch at Malmesbury is mesmerising. It is a place that goes beyond virtual reality - one that includes the observer and a fourth dimension of time within a structure that is a portal in more ways than one.

The porch at Malmesbury Abbey has been added to my Treasure Hoard Gazetteer:

🟦 Andy Marshall’s Treasure Hoard Gazetteer
The gazetteer is my personal collection of material treasures. It’s a growing map of wonders that I’ve spent over forty years documenting. The treasures that I list here are not of any monetary value, but far more valuable.

Memberships are helping sustain my career as a photographer in difficult times. Can you help support this Digest and keep Woody on the road?

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Malmesbury, Wiltshire.

Malmesbury is famously the burial site of the first king of all England: Aethelstan.

His tomb remains (emptied of his bones which are now lost in time) within Malmesbury Abbey. The town became one of the fortified burhs of King Alfred, Aethelstan's grandfather.

Courtesy of Google Maps

Malmesbury Abbey.

Founded in the C7th, but a fragment remains of the original abbey which was largely destroyed by the collapse of the west tower in 1550. It is perhaps, one of the most romantic ruins in all of England.

After the orchestrated experience of the porch, there is the organic impact of the ancient door which has a beautiful patina.

What does survive of the abbey is magnificent. It includes the porch, of course, but also a delightful nave of great beauty.

The nave is of the C12th and has an arcade with round shafts and scalloped capitals.

In the north aisle is the empty C15th tomb of King Aethelstan (who died in 939).

A Sad Aside

Little did I know that the following image may have been one of the last photographs taken of the priceless Malmesbury Abbey silver. Three days later it was stolen.

The Buildings of Malmesbury (Pure Scroll No Words)

My Malmesbury photo footprint
St. Aldhelm Catholic Church

I'm not yet done with Malmesbury - there's so much more to see and discover including an Anglo Saxon chapel recently discovered within the bounds of a house and the impact of one of the greatest medieval scholars: St. Aldhelm.

More Scroll Through locations here:

a scroll through - Andy Marshall’s Genius Loci Digest


I lodge over in one of my favourite campsites at Cirencester. The view towards the town is unrivalled.

Van Life Gallery
My van, Woody, is my time-travelling machine, taking me to some remarkable places that have altered my mind like wine through water.


Silver dating back to 1700s stolen from Malmesbury Abbey
Thieves have stolen a number of historic goblets and ornaments from the 12th Century Malmesbury Abbey.
Treasure of the Faroes: my amazing underwater drive through a Viking-tinged artwork
A tunnel has opened up more than 150m below the Atlantic, boasting a six-mile-long art installation complete with its own spectral soundtrack picked up by car radio. Our writer has the ride of his life
Who holds the purse strings for England’s cash-strapped churches? | Letters
Letters: Rev David Muir and Simon Hunter respond to letters on the upkeep of church buildings


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In essence I’m offering my professional services for free to historic locations in Britain.

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A new location/building for Member Powered Photography (MPP)!

I'm so pleased to share that I'll be carrying out a new MPP project in the coming months. The project will be shared with Members and I'll update you with the location and story behind it soon.

Member Powered Photography is carried out for free at historic locations in need. Photography at previous sites has helped provide professional media to news outlets. In other ways it has helped re-connect communities to their heritage and form attachments to place which help bolster protection.

Member Powered Photography Status Page
In essence I’m offering my professional services for free to historic locations in Britain.

Member Powered Photography wouldn't be possible without the Genius Loci Digest Members - Thank You 🙏

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Photographs and words by Andy Marshall (unless otherwise stated). Most photographs are taken with Iphone 14 Pro and DJI Mini 3 Pro.