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Gothic vaulting at Peterborough Cathedral and a Spider's web in Cambridgeshire.
'I want to break free
I want to break free from your lines
You're so self wonkified, I don't need you
I've got to break free.'
Queen: I Want To Break Free (with a few additions inspired by Lavenham).
The timber framed houses along High Street all have a wonk on and when you find yourself singing and cauterising the words of a Queen classic, you know it's time to move on. I’ve been here since first light and my sense of balance needs levelling up. So I head for the church.
People rarely talk of how places are revealed and concealed during movement. The path to St. Peter and St. Paul is dotted with neatly clipped yews and the mere act of walking lifts the church above the yew-line like a majestic swan. The movie-maker in me walks it a few times for effect.
As soon as I arrive at the porch I regain my balance. Order is restored through the parallel lines that rise into the ether, for this building represents the height of Gothic perpendicular architecture.
I’m too early, the porch gate is locked, so I skirt around the church and watch its tower pirouette in the sunlight; until I hear the jingle of keys - somebody is opening up the church an hour before the public listings. The vicar is at the door. He offers a warm welcome and invites me in. Other than the vicar I’ve got the place to myself.
It’s that time of day where the sun reveals and conceals. Pockets of light pepper gnarled and ancient surfaces. At times like this I get caught between my urge to date and categorise and the unadulterated joy of simply observing the pattern of things.
The aesthete wins out and I get deep into my task, until I notice the parclose in the north aisle. It has the most intricate wood carving. I can feel it beckoning. Like a fly being drawn to a web of mesmerising lines I start to walk towards the screen.
Until I hear a cough, and I’m stopped in my tracks before I’m completely immersed in the spidery spandrels. The vicar is standing next to me.
‘I hope you don’t mind.’ He says. ‘I wonder if you might help me dust the chancel arch?’
Plucked from the parclose, I’m hurled into the clerestory, a murky world of spider's webs, dust motes and detritus.
From one web of intrigue to another.
Lavenham, Suffolk - Part One
Whenever I visit Lavenham, I always have to break it down into its constituent parts. This little village has a mighty punch. What I love about this place is that it isn't full of touristy shops. People just come here to participate in its ambience. It can be a little overwhelming during the high season - but if you visit first thing - you might just have the place to yourself.
Lavenham was one of the wealthiest medieval towns in England. It's wealth came from wool, and its church is one of the most iconic of 'wool churches' in the area, in spite of the cobwebs.
St. Peter and St. Paul, Lavenham.
The church is a wonderful example of C15th-C16th perpendicular architecture and, in the early morning light, presents itself like a richly inlaid jewellery box.
Much of its surface is faceted and sculpted. The porch especially so..
The interior is spacious and cathedral like.
The font looks much older than the building itself.
It's a wood thing...
Most of all, I'm drawn to the wood. The C15th choir stalls have some wonderful finial carvings - although some of them haven't survived iconoclastic times.
The misericords are beautifully carved. They have a softness of line that is really engaging. The artist that carved these had a genius for spatial awareness - thinking through the design in three dimensions, envisioning the vignette, and pulling it out of the wood with tools that haven't changed to this very day.
Above: A dead man’s head with ears being pulled by an ibis on one side and a spoonbill on the other.
The misericords have three roles. Firstly as a seat for the choristor and then (after lifting) as a support whilst standing. Finally they have a didactic role through the symbolism behind the carvings. Many are inspired by the Bestiaries of the day.
Above: half-woman, half beast playing a viol, and another, half-man half beast beast, mimics her by playing a pair of bellows with a crutch.
Above: Pelican in her piety - feeds her young with her own flesh
The Spring Chantry Chapel
The early C16th parclose screen was built to enclose 'rich clothier' Thomas Spring's tomb. It's a triumph of carpentry, lavishly made whilst the tower was being completed (funded by Thomas Spring's money).
Every single detail from the fluting to the finials has been cut to the glory of God but funded by the humble sheep.
After helping with the dusting, I'm left to wander around the church and capture the pattern and repetition; an unthinking eye, drawn into spaces by the genius and ingenuity of those that have come before us.
✨ Members can immerse themselves in a wonderful aerial VR of Lavenham with St. Peter and St. Paul's church by clicking the box below (viewable on any device):
✨ Members can also see a glorious aerial video that spirals around the church with extensive views of the surrounding landscape - helps put the church and village in context.
Next Week in Part 2: Lavenham the buildings
You don't want to miss this..
Next week's cover:
Winter Van Life
I'm lucky to have a home base in the North West of England, but I'm travelling the length and breadth of the country over several weeks in January and February and March (Some really exciting news for March soon).
The van has a Webasto heater with a thermostat - so, on the colder nights, I can keep the indoor temperature at a reasonable level.
I have extra rugs for the floor, an insulated duvet and lots of throws. Porridge with lots of fruit is a daily staple.
..and potato cakes with real butter.
Hot coffee is an absolute must.
And the odd prayer for milder weather..
Can you help support me and keep Woody on the road?
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This time last year:
'It’s only when the light orb reaches the shaft of the font that I notice some movement within its sphere. I bend down to focus in, and realise that I’m witnessing an act of magic that has mesmerised human beings for millennia. The world outside has been transported along this shaft of light onto the font, the traditional place of new beginnings. The clouds in sharp relief are moving at a pace across the orb at the base of the font.'
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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.