Telltale Heads

Most sculpture of the medieval period was produced by carvers whose names are now lost to us. In the twelfth-century, long before the emergence of professional stone carvers or ‘imagers’ which occurred from around the 1300s onward, there are sometimes few clues to identify the work of even a team of masons. Occasionally, however, the archaeology itself suggests connections between different sites based upon similarities of design; if we’re lucky, sometimes we get near identical carvings.  (more…)

Vanishing Dragons

‘To one whose mind is still full of the memories of some great English Abbey or Cathedral’ wrote the architect Edmund Sedding in 1909, considering the church of St Winwaloe at Tremaine in North Cornwall, ‘this desolate little sanctuary would seem hardly worthy of notice’. However, to ‘the few who love the work of the medieval craftsmen, these works they have left us are beyond price’. It is easy to understand Sedding’s reflective prose inspired by the tiny church at Tremaine. Framed by beech trees it sits on the very top of a hill, its weatherbeaten masonry changing colour with the passing clouds whose shadows collect in the fields and woodlands far below. It is a simple structure of chancel, nave and tower. On a still day it holds a loud, ear-ringing silence. (more…)

Forgotten Stones and Lost Fragments

It’s a bright winter’s day on the south coast of Cornwall. Sunlight dazzles on windows and windscreens.  The coast path rises through a straggle of trees; behind them I can see the St Austell river forming a wide loop across the beach before it reaches the mirror-like sea. I’m here to find the source of one of Cornwall’s best carving stones, the fine-grained, straw-coloured igneous rock that takes its name from the village far below: Pentewan. (more…)

The Romanesque font at Fowey

Heavy rain despite the forecast otherwise, slanting, driven rain. Two fonts are the objective, one at Fowey and another at Lanreath. We drive to Fowey first of all. Fowey is built into the steep sides of a river valley and is deserted today, midweek, late November. Inside the church a handful of lights pierce the gloom.  (more…)