Durham Cathedral: Cloister

DurhamCath1

Durham cathedral is described as “the finest and most complete of all the Norman cathedrals surviving in Britain” (Tatton-Brown, 1989). The location of the building is high above the River Wear making its magnificent setting very striking. Bishop William of St Calais decided to build a new cathedral in 1092 resulting in the complete demolition of the existing church on the site which had been built almost a century before. The first foundation trenches for the new church were dug on 29th July 1093, in the presence of the bishop and the prior, and on 11 August the first stones were ceremoniously laid. When Bishop William died in 1096 the monks carried on the building work and after Rannulf Flambard was made bishop in 1099, the church was “made as far as the nave” (Chronicle of Simeon of Durham, c1104-1108). The coffin of St Cuthbert was moved to its new resting place within the eastern apse on 29th August 1104 and the 12th century English historian William of Malmesbury tells us that “there was a premature but harmless collapse of the centring upon which the vault over the east end was erected.” The walls of the nave were complete “up to the covering” (Chronicle of Simeon of Durham, c1104-1108) when Bishop Flambard died in 1128 and work was completed during the course of the next five years. It is thought likely that Durham was the first great cathedral in Europe to be vaulted throughout and the spectacular structure was constructed within a period of forty years ((Tatton-Brown, 1989).

DurhamCath6

The plan of Durham cathedral is uniform throughout and is based on the plan of Lanfranc’s cathedral at Canterbury some twenty years earlier. The technological high point of English Romanesque architecture was fully embodied at Durham. At a time when many new ideas were reaching north west Europe from the east, and following the period of the First Crusade, the masons skilfully introduced remarkable innovations. With the introduction of new building techniques, the massive solid early Norman structures were gradually enhanced with much more decorated and beautiful buildings of the High Romanesque architecture of the 12th century. Benedictine cathedral monasticism drew to a close at the beginning of the 12th century and was followed by the Cistercians who started to build churches in a very different way.

DurhamCath5

Needless to say, the materials that a building is constructed from will play an important part in its visual impact. Durham cathedral is constructed of dressed sandstone and as Clifton-Taylor (1983) notes, a building of stone “has something of the monument about it.” The Conquest effected a revolution in English stone building when the Norman prelates required enormous churches and the stonemasons of the Middle Ages were among the best paid and most highly regarded of all workers. These trained craftsmen were needed in huge numbers during an incredible age for building and with many of the finest cathedrals and castles dating to the Norman period, numerous masons were Norman French arriving in England to undertake the vast scale of architectural work of the period. Many architectural terms are of French origin and are a direct result of the introduction of the Norman stonemasons’ words. The standardization of building units is of Norman influence and the glorious art and architecture of the 700 years that followed was equally met by the craftsmanship of the stonemasons. The master mason was for many centuries considered the key figure of building construction. Supervising the works and often assuming the role of architect before architecture became a separate profession, the master masons were under direct control of the Crown, the church and high dignitaries. They were responsible for overseeing the quarrying of the stone, arranging transportation to site, preparing full scale layouts (drawings) and working the building stone entirely by hand (Clifton-Taylor, 1983).

DurhamCath4

On the south side of Durham Cathedral is the cloister. From the Latin ‘claustrum’, meaning enclosed space, the word cloister generally refers to the covered ambulatory around a monastery or college quadrangle. Benedictine and Cistercian cloisters were very often majestic in scale compared to those of the Franciscans which were of more modest proportions (Jenner, 1993). Although construction began in 1093, when the cathedral was begun, the buildings contained within the cloister date from the 15th century and later. In monastic cathedrals such as Durham, the cloister was at the heart of a complex of buildings which included the chapter house, dormitory and refectory. Once built, a cathedral would have been profusely decorated with stained glass, sculpture and wall paintings (Tatton-Brown, 1989). Window tracery was an exacting task for banker masons with nearly all designs rooted in geometry. At the Reformation, and again during the Cromwellian period, such ornamentation was considered to be heretical and idolatrous resulting in widespread destruction. Clifton-Taylor (1974) describes the destruction of medieval stained glass as “the greatest calamity that has ever befallen English art.” The Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century by Henry VIII was far more than an act of ecclesiastical reform. The period also saw the most radical redistribution of land ownership since the Norman Conquest despite Henry VIII’s principle policy of destroying monastic buildings being motivated by his desire to acquire their valuable fittings (Jenner,1993). As it was not possible to destroy all the hundreds of abbeys, priories and friaries which had been built over so many centuries, thankfully the ruinous beauty and majesty of monastic architecture can still be appreciated.

DurhamCath3

Often covering the intersection of vaulting or a ceiling intersect, roof bosses are a prolific feature at Durham Cathedral. The wooden ceiling above the arcades in the cloister is richly ornamented with these beautiful architectural features which would originally have been brightly coloured. With the advent of Gothic architecture, these decorative bosses became widespread and are often elaborately carved with foliage, heraldic shields, animals and grotesques. Not only was their purpose to cover a joint, in stone or wood, the boss could be applied when the structure was complete or be an integral part of the structure. The bosses, capitals and ornamentation surrounding windows was the responsibility of the carver who was usually trained in a masons’ yard (Clifton-Taylor, 1983). Several wooden benches are all that now furnish the cloister yet walking along the arcades and looking out onto the grass courtyard, there’s an ambience that takes you back to the hustle and bustle of times long since passed.

The lack of comfort and extremely cold temperatures in some of our religious buildings is humourously noted in 1771 by Tobias Smollett in The Expedition of Humphry Clinker: 

“the builder’s intention fhould be to keep the people dry and warm – For my part, I never entered the Abbey church at Bath but once, and the moment I flept over the threfhold, I found myself chilled to the very marrow of my bones – When we confider, that in our churches, in general, we breathe a grofs ftagnated air, furcharged with damps from vaults, tombs, and charnel-houfes, may we not term them fo many magazines of rheums, created for the benefit of the medical faculty? and fafely aver, that more bodies are loft, than souls faved, by going to church, in the winter efpecially, which may be faid to engrofs eight months in the year. I fhould be glad to know, what offence it would give to tender confciences, if the houfe of God was made more comfortable, or lefs dangerous to the health of valetudinarians; and whether it would not be an encouragement to piety, as well as the falvation of many lives, if the place of worfhip was well floored, wainfcotted, warmed, and ventilated, and its area kept facred from the pollution of the dead.”

Durham Cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Grade I Listed.

DurhamCath2

Grange Over Sands: Holker Hall

Holker3

Holker Estate stands within the stunning landscape of South Lakeland and encompasses a large area of the Cartmel Peninsula. While Holker’s Norse origins may be lost in the mists of time, the earliest records of a house on the present site date back to the early 16th century. The estate formed part of the holdings of Cartmel Priory until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1536 after which, it was purchased by the Preston family who were already substantial local landowners. George Preston established his family at Holker in about 1610 and the current building dates to the early 18th century with various extensions and alterations.

Holker2

Lord George Augustus Cavendish inherited Holker in 1756 and engaged the architect John Carr of York. Carr made additions in an elegant modern gothic style to the east and north wings between 1783-1793 and also made extensive alterations to the grounds by replacing the Dutch gardens with a contrived natural landscape. Further alterations were carried out in 1818 by Lord George Augustus Henry Cavendish who faced the front of the house with Roman cement. Between 1838-1842 Lord Burlington (7th Duke of Devonshire) employed the Kendal architect G Webster who altered and refaced the entire house. Giving the building a gothic appearance, Webster added tall ornamental chimneys, gables, square-headed, mullioned and transomed windows and added a new kitchen garden, arboretum, conservatory and fountain.

Holker1

Cavendish Crest above the front door

Disaster struck in March 1871 when the entire west wing was destroyed by fire. The destruction was devastating with many of the contents and principal rooms lost forever. The 7th Duke began plans to rebuild the west wing on an even grander scale and employed the architects Paley and Austin of Lancaster. Covering the same site as the previous wing, the building was constructed of red sandstone in the Elizabethan style with the addition of a projecting bow window, a high roof with dormer windows, square parapeted tower and a copper cupola. Despite emulating Elizabethan architecture, it remains unmistakably Victorian and a wonderful reflection of its age.

Holker6

Rich ornamentation (entrance porch)

The principle building is constructed of roughcast stone with ashlar dressings and features a first floor sill band and modillioned cornice. The courtyard reveals varied fenestration with a projecting Doric entrance porch. The building also features a two stage octagonal tower with ogival cupola and an octagonal open cupola on square base. Holker Hall is Grade II* Listed.

Holker4

The Grade II Listed stable courtyard (above & below) dates to 1864 and is constructed of stone rubble with ashlar dressings. The two storey buildings feature decorative bargeboards and a central open timber bell turret with a pyramidal roof and four face clock. The wings feature segmental-headed coach house doors and the buildings are now home to Holker Food Hall, offices and a cafe.

Holker5

New Abbey: Sweetheart Abbey

SHeart8

The ingenious wheel window in the south transept

Located on the eastern edge of the village of New Abbey stands an impressive shrine to human and divine love. The ruin of Sweetheart Abbey sits between the grey granite bulk of Criffel and the waters of the Solway Firth. Lord John Balliol of Barnard Castle died in 1268 and his grieving widow, Lady Dervorgilla of Galloway, had his heart embalmed and put into an ivory casket. Dervorgilla undertook many charitable acts which included establishing the Cistercian abbey of Sweetheart, not far from her home at Buittle Castle. When she died in 1289 her body and her husband’s heart were buried there.

SHeart6

View from the west front towards the presbytery

Established in 1273, the abbey was a daughter house of Dundrennan Abbey near kirkcudbright and was devoted to the worship of God. While builders were still working on the abbey church, the Wars of Independence erupted and after 50 years of bloodshed, the monastery was in a poor state of repair. The new lord of Galloway, Archibald Douglas ‘the Grim’, had the abbey repaired but thereafter little is heard of the abbey until its demise following the Protestant Reformation of 1560. Despite the prolonged wars with England, much of the abbey survives almost entire providing a lasting testament to the monastic ideal that was of such pivotal importance in the medieval age.

SHeart5

The crossing tower

The site of the abbey was perfect for the Cistercian way of life with shelter provided by rising ground to the west with fertile land drained into a slow winding burn, Abbey Pow, and a neighbouring loch provided water for drinking, flushing toilets and powering corn mills. A little over a mile from the abbey was a safe natural harbour for ships bringing in building materials and other provisions and carrying away the produce of the monastery’s granges (estate centres).

SHeart1

View along the nave to the west front

The abbey church at Sweetheart, in common with all Cistercian churches, was dedicated to St Mary the Virgin. It was planned in the shape of a cross and divided up into different areas including the presbytery, monks’ choir, transepts and nave. A pulpitum (timber screen) to the west of the central crossing divided the long church into two with the presbytery and monks’ choir to the east and the nave to the west. The west front and upper part of the nave were only built in the later 14th century as a result of the Wars of Independence interrupting the building schedule.

SHeart3

The wheel window in the west front

The abbey would have been designed by a master mason appointed by the abbot. The builders lived in temporary wooden huts as did the monks themselves until their new home was ready. The land was cleared of granite boulders which were used to build the precinct wall, the domestic buildings and the cores of the church walls. The red sandstone for the church and for the window and door surrounds in the cloister buildings was brought from nearby quarries. Oak for the roof and fir trees for scaffolding may have been imported by sea. Although the building has beautiful stone tracery in the windows, Cistercian austerity is evident in the planning of the building. There is no triforium and the tower over the crossing was deliberately kept low in deference to a ban in 1157 on bell towers. The battlements and gables above the tower were added much later.

SHeart4

Stone boss bearing the Douglas arms in the vaulting of the south transept chapel

The stone tracery in the presbytery windows demonstrates the influence of the style of Gothic architecture which developed in France in the 1230’s. The presbytery, in the east end, was the most sacred part of the church where the high altar was situated. In the vaulted ceiling of the south transept chapel (above) is a stone boss bearing two croziers in saltire together with a heart and three stars (the Douglas arms). This is evidence that the abbey church was repaired by the Douglas family after the Wars of Independence. The nave is six bays long and aisled down both sides. The phased construction of the abbey church is visible not only in the clerestory, where the two eastern windows are of a different design from the other ‘eyebrow’ windows (below), but also in the arcade where the moulded capitals on top of the two eastern pillars have simple mouldings while the four western ones have carved foliage.

SHeart9

‘Eyebrow’ windows along the top of the nave

The monks who built Sweetheart Abbey were Cistercians. The order was founded in 1098 at Citeaux, near Dijon in France, by monks desiring to return to a purer observance of the monastic rule compiled by Benedict of Nursia for his monastery at Monte Cassino in Italy in around 540. The Cistercians, or ‘white monks’ as they were known from the colour of their habit, first arrived in Scotland from Rievaulx settling in Melrose in the eastern borders in 1136. Sweetheart Abbey was the last of 12 Cistercian monasteries set up in Scotland.

 

Carlisle Cathedral: Francis Close

FClose1

Located in the north nave aisle in Carlisle Cathedral is a monument to Francis Close. Born in 1797 in Corston Somerset, Francis was the youngest son of a noted agriculturalist – Henry Jackson Close. Francis graduated from St John’s College Cambridge in 1820 and became the first licensed curate of Holy Trinity Church in Cheltenham in 1824. He remained Perpetual Curate of Cheltenham until 1856 and during his ministry in the Gloucestershire parish, Francis erected a cemetery chapel and four district churches. Following a near fatal accident in Geneva in 1855, Francis reduced his workload, sermons and attended few public meetings. In December 1856, Francis became Dean of Carlisle Cathedral – a post which he held until 1881.

FClose2

The marble effigy depicts the Dean clutching a bible over his chest with his head supported by pillows. The monument sits within a carved Gothic canopy and is the work of the 19th century English sculptor Henry Hugh Armstead.

Kirkby Stephen: Church of St Stephen

Kirkby4

Located on the north side of Market Square in Kirkby Stephen is the parish church of St Stephen. Rebuilt in the early 13th century, the church is constructed of coursed squared rubble and ashlar. The 16th century west tower is of three stages and features an embattled parapet with pinnacles.

Kirkby5

The church features a clerestory detailing double and triple mullioned windows which date to the 19th century.

Kirkby7

The church features a seven bay nave with much of the interior stonework replaced or reworked during the 19th century.

Kirkby1

The aisles have 15th century windows with tracery which dates to the 19th century.

Kirkby2

The ornately decorated pulpit is constructed of various coloured marble and dates to c1871. The Church of St Stephen is Grade II* Listed.

Ely: Cathedral of the Holy Trinity

Ely1

Construction of the monastic church in Ely began in 1083 under the leadership of the Abbot Simeon, who was a kinsman of William the Conquerer. The church became a cathedral in 1109 with completion of the building in its present form by 1350.

Ely3

Also known as the Ship of the Fens, the cathedral is constructed of ashlar faced Barnack limestone. Flying buttresses support the 12th century exterior which retains numerous carved figure heads and grotesques adorning the towers with pinnacles.

Ely2

The cathedral contains early Norman to late Perpendicular examples of Gothic architecture with windows of several architectural styles which have been added throughout the course of its history.

Ely4

The 12th century Norman nave features a ceiling of painted panels which depict the history of man with figures of patriarchs, prophets and evangelists. The painting of the nave ceiling was started during the Victorian restoration of the building by the amateur artist Henry Styleman Le Strange in 1858 and following his death in 1862, the painting was completed by the English artist Thomas Gambicr Parry in 1865.

Ely6

Arcades of undecorated columns line the aisles with floor tiles which date to the 19th century restorations.

Ely7

The richly decorated pulpit dates to the 19th century Victorian restorations under the direction of architect Sir George Gilbert Scott.

Ely5

Beautiful vaulted ceilings adorn the cathedral interior which rise up from wall shafts between the windows. The Cathedral of the Holy Trinity is Grade I Listed.

Ely8

Barrow in Furness: Furness Abbey

FAbbey5

Furness Abbey was founded in 1127 by monks belonging to the Savigniac Order. The Savigniac Order was part of the great monastic reform movement which spread throughout Europe during the 12th century. Savigniac abbeys followed the Benedictine layout and were self contained complexes for self sufficient communities. The church at Furness had an open plan with side chapels accessed through arches within the presbytery walls. Excavations at Furness have revealed the 900 year old foundations of the Savigniac presbytery and confirm that the east end was apsidal, which was normal for Savigniac church architecture.

FAbbey2

Constructed of red sandstone, the abbey became part of the Cistercian Order in 1147. The Cistercian Order was the monastic powerhouse of the Middle Ages and while both orders shared similar spiritual ideals, the Cistercians were more austere which led to major architectural differences. The Cistercians demolished most of the east end of the church including the transepts and presbytery rebuilding it in a much plainer style.

FAbbey4

The church was rebuilt with Early Gothic style pointed arches and each of the transepts having three chapels. The church decoration was sparse in comparison with the richly decorative Savigniac architecture. The remains of the abbey include the east end and west tower of the church, cloister buildings and ornately decorated chapter house. Furness Abbey is Grade I Listed and a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

FAbbey3