Sunday 29 September 2019

Kilpeck church - Part II

I just had to use this pair as the top photo  - you can see why!  They look so cartoon character.  The Bestiary describes the dog as having 'more understanding than any other beast.  They also know their name and love their master'.  Dogs are like the preachers who by warnings and by righteous living turn aside the ambushes of the devil, lest he seize God's treasure". The hare 'represents men who fear God, and who put their trust not in themselves but in the Creator.'

Well, that was a wild and windy - and WET - night, for sure.  I know our river will be well up today, and I shall go and check how bad it is once it's light.  Yet it didn't stop the annual night-time rally, although fortunately their route wasn't past our front gate as it is sometimes.  I could hear them somewhere in the valley about 1.30 a.m. onwards.  Just as well their route wasn't along the valley bottom or they may have charged into the flood on that bottom lane.  Here's the river as you first see it coming down our hill:

Yesterday we had a bit of light relief when a cow wandered past our kitchen window.  Of course, she was not meant to be there and I have yet to discover where she got in (possibly along the stream as there is a "hanging" fence there.)  Anyway, we had to don boots, open the front gate and gently chivy her out and into next door's yard.  (Just discovered the calving heifers are back in our top field so this must have been one of them and in which case, I know where she came through and will have to ask Next Door to mend the fence.

Anyway, back to Kilpeck and the many and wonderful corbels.  All quotes are from Malcolm Thurlby's book:

"This corbel is a humanoid lion's head with a mane and curly cap of hair between the damaged ears on top of the head.  The wide mouth derives from the classical theatrical mask".

The familiar Agnus Dei - the Lamb of God.

A ram's head. There are three corbels denoting this around the church. The rams signify the Apostles or the princes of the Church.

A rather foxy-looking carving, next to a flower which has its equivalent at Aulnay-de-Sainatoigne, Western France.  The flowercorbel : 'As  for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. . .' (Psalm 103).

'A bland, earless frog-like head with a large swollen tongue or other object in its mouth.'  

Don't scroll down if you are easily offended, as a Sheela-na-Gig comes next . . .

Oh dear!  This carving represented "low morals" - I can't think why!!!  

Here is a pig with a damaged snout/mouth.  'The pig (porcus) is a filthy beast (spurcus); it sucks up filth, wallows in mud, and smears itself with slime . . .  Sows signify sinners, the unclean and heretics.  The sow thinks on carnal things . . .'

The fiddle player also represents low morals (!) whilst the pair of figures on the next corbal are  dancing (or perhaps wrestling?) - another nod to low morals.

A muzzled bear with two human heads poking out of its mouth.

'A grotesque head with flared lips', 'a simple plain beak head biting a human face.'  Intertwined serpents and another ram's head.

A horse's head, 'bird with back-turned head and crescent-shaped wing', and a stag running up the corbel.

Finally (thank heavens, can I hear you saying?) a dog or wolf being pounced on by a Beast of some description, which wasn't a corbel but up near one of the windows.

If you get the chance, do visit Kilpeck - it is really something else when it comes to church architecture.

Saturday 28 September 2019

A quick Gingerbread recipe

Apologies for blurry photo, but you get the general idea!

This recipe (Sledmere Gingerbread) was in a Baking Heaven magazine I bought last year.  Keith loves ginger, so I added some chopped preserved ginger (the stuff in syrup):


450g (1 lb) plain flour
225g (1/2 lb) butter
225g (1/2 lb) raw sugar - I used Muscavado
225g (1/2 lb) treacle
4 free-range eggs
15g (1/2 oz) ground ginger
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Preheat the oven to 150 deg. C/Gas Mark 2/300 deg. F.  Put the butter, sugar and treacle into a saucepan to melt.  beat the eggs, then stir the (cooled) treacle mixture into them.  Add the ginger.  Dissolve the bicarbonate of soda in a little water, add to the mixture.  Stir altogether into the flour, then bake at once, either in round tins or dropped with a spoon onto a baking sheet.  They are done when a knife inserted into the centre comes out clean.

More from Kilpeck tomorrow, if we haven't floated away meanwhile . . .

Wednesday 25 September 2019

Finally, Kilpeck - Part I

All information is taken from Malcolm Thurlby's excellent book, "The Herefordshire School of Romanesque Sculpture", first published in 1999,by Logaston Press.

Kilpeck is eight miles S-W of Hereford and this is the parish church of St Mary and St David, which has been described as "one of the most perfect Norman village churches in England".  It stands beside the remains of the mottle and bailey Norman castle, although little of the castle remain inside the  well-defined bailey.  This planned pairing of Castle and Church was a standard Norman practice, as they sought to control the populace in mind and body.

There was also a Priory on the site, given by Hugh, lord of Kilpeck Castle.

The church is built from Old Red Sandstone and divided into three spaces - the rounded apse, chancel and nave very similar to the design of the church at Moccas, and the larger four cell church at Peterchurch.

Over the amazingly-carved doorway is this beautiful tympanum, "carved with sparse foliage and grape clusters on striated stems" - this is the Tree of Life (or the tree of good and evil).  In the Bestiary it is mentioned that "the perindens is a tree found in India - the fruit of this tree is very sweet andn pleasant, and doves delight in its fruit and live in the tree, feeding on it.  The dragon, which is the enemy of doves, fears the tree, because of the shade in which the doves rest, and it can approach neither the tree nor its shadow."  Note dragon (or Basilisk according to Thurlby) in the capital at the top . . .

The figures featured entwined in interlace, are knights wearing phrygian caps, what appear to be quilted garments ("striated hauberks" according to the book) and armed with a cross, and below, a sword.

The doorway seen close-to, with below, a close up of that scaredy-cat dragon (or Basilisk):

Below: some happy doves, billing and cooing, and SAFE from the dragon!

A splendid green man on the other capitol.

The carvings on the right pillar.

Here is the "evil lion" . . .  "Your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour" - Peter (5:8).

Above the typanum is a double arch showing various beasties and carvings, none, I would suggest, being at all whimsical but based on similar adornments found at Hereford and Gloucester Cathedrals,and ultimately to a source in France - Notre-Dame-la-Grande, Poitiers and other French churches, whilst the figures on the south doorway have their parallel echo those found at Mailezais, Vendee.

Beak heads and angels, dragons and manticores, and variations on these, jostle for position.  I rather like the "green man" type image which has foliage hanging from his mouth like two unrolled tongues.

The SUPERB decorative ironwork on the door.  Some of the nicest I've ever seen.

The  stoup looks rather odd, having hands clasped around a portly or pregnant belly and reptilian heads for feet . . .  Apparently it is probably pre-Saxon and came from nearby Wormbridge.  

I believe these are meant to represent Saints.  Their positioning, one on top of another, hints at the influence of similar sculptures at Santiago de Compostella (the gate of Silversmiths).

The semi-circular apse with its wonderful domed roof, which was a sign of Heaven to the early Christians.

Finally today, a nod to the locale with these swags of hops hanging up.

Sunday 22 September 2019

A bit of a tidy up

I have no energy today, but I thought I ought to start going through cupboards and having a clear-out. The desperate clear out (of the 9/10 that went back in) will start should we get an offer at any time in the future.

A lot from this first cupboard went back in, but most of it is writing paper and notelets, some documents which need to stay regardless, some photos ditto,  patchwork runners for the kitchen table and some other really beautiful embroidered pieces I have picked up down the years, a couple of boxes of business cards, hole puncher, staplers etc.  What went were divorce letters (!), a Pony Club diary from 1981, random ancient letters from penpals, and several-years-old bank statements.

I also found a couple of blank verse poems I wrote - I can remember stopping the car on the way back from my dear friend Annie's when I had visited when she was so sick with pancreatic cancer.  If I have shared them with you before, my apologies.


A carapace of moss spews over boulders -
A disrupted harmony of drystone blocks
And the tealeaf brown of leaves.
Tumbles of small birds swarm
In Beech trees that listen for spring,
Trunks plastered emerald from
Winter's steady drip.
Ancient boundaries slew with knotted roots,
Heaving boulders with nonchalance, and
A dank miasma of mist slimes the boggy valley
Like an abandoned shroud.


Gauntly tottering by, spectres at a feast,
In a field of bones and scattered fleece,
Athwart the rubble of a wall,
A death of ravens maul a carcass,
Wild of eye with bloodied beaks,
While the last survivors look in fear,
Aghast at their own fate.

Saturday 21 September 2019

Kempley - part II

I will quote shamelessly from the little brochure I got from the church.  Of the Frescoes in the Chancel, it says this:

"The scheme of painting in the chancel is internationally significant and certainly comprises one of the most important schemes of wall painting in England.  The frescoes are remarkable in that the scheme is cirtually complete and are dated on stylistic grounds to the 1120s."

"The style of the Chancel paintings is recognizably Romanesque and has its roots in late Anglo-Saxon as well as western French painting.  Influences also come ultimately from Italy and Byzantium, and from the pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela.  It has been suggested that one of the pilgrim figures is not a de Lacy but St James himself, whose shrine was at Santiago."

"The chancel paintings are usually described as frescoes, where pigment is applied to damp (i.e.fresh) plaster and the pigments are fixed by carbonisation of the lime.  Kempley's paintings are probably mezzo-frescoes where the painting is done before the full carbonisation of the plaster using limewater and casein as the binder of the pigment.  Azurite, a natural blue mineral pigment visible within the haloes and draperies, is unsuitable as a fresco pigment as it turns black in reaction to the alkalinity of the lime."

The Altar Window was made by Victorian stained glass artist Charles E Kemp (1837-1907) and was commissioned by the Reverend Drummond in memory of his wife, Armynel, who died in April 1876 when they had only been married for 8 years.  What an unusual Christian name.  Kempe's work is typified by the peacock feathers in the wings of the Angels, and also the blond curls  and cherubic faces (not that you can see this detail in the photo, sadly).  I have discovered there is actually a Kempe Society under the auspices of the National Churches Trust.

Friday 20 September 2019

Viewing time . . .

To my chagrin, I mistook the day and got it all mixed up with the dental appt. (which I changed because I thought it clashed yesterday).  The viewing was actually today, but of course, I had the house all tidy, with fresh flowers, clean bathroom mats and towels, fresh bedding on the beds, and everything sorted to my satisfaction yesterday.  I even baked a cake (which we made inroads into when I realized it was the wrong day and it was my Manderin Orange Cake and looked SO tempting!)  I made a fresh cake this morning (another Spicy Dorset Apple cake) and some Walnut Biscuits and had them laid out on a patchwork runner on the table.

Suffice it to say, it seemed to go well, and the lady stayed 2 hours!  She went around the house with us, and then twice on her own.  She is coming back in a month or so to see how the house is when it's not 20 degrees outside and the air will be much colder and probably the rainy season will have started.  So, we shall see . . . but ours is the only house she is interested in.

Wednesday 18 September 2019

All ship-shape

There is another viewing in the offing, so I have been playing Mrs Mop and having a big vacuum round.  More or less still on top of things from the last cancelled viewing.  I have some cut flowers in the hall and the kitchen - I enjoy the flowers and hopefully they will make the house look inviting.  

Tam and I went for a walk today, just up the valley a bit, and I really enjoyed it, but then I had tummy cramps and IBS and had to ask Tam to come and fetch me in her car.  Fell asleep on the sofa for a bit, and was wary of eating my evening meal.  Hopefully I will be back to normal tomorrow. 

A Common Sexton Beetle - he was approaching a very dead Mole on the road . . .

Some more views of our walk.  Yawning here now as I'm listening to a wonderful video of a stream in a wooded valley, with Spring birdsong - great if you have trouble getting to sleep.  It's a meditation I return to regularly.