Churches Project No.23 – Inglesham, an ancient wonder
As I entered through the south door of this 13th Century church I felt as if I had been transported back in time. Ancient, peaceful, unspoilt and lacking any discernible recent restoration, the church of St John the Baptist at Inglesham in Wiltshire is an exquisite wonder.
In the south wall the carving is thought to date back to Saxon times. It depicts Madonna with the hand of God pointing down to her child.
To the right of the main door and lining the south and north aisles are carved timber screens dating from the 15th or early 16th century.
To the left of the entrance is the 15th century font which was originally painted. Between 1589 and 1840 the parish registry records over 500 baptisms.
The box pews are from the 17th and 18th century. It was traditional for farming families to occupy their own box pew for services.
The nave appears to date from the early 13th century. The floor is formed of uneven slabs. At the end of the nave where it joins the chancel there is a huge stone with the indentation of an unknown knight.
Turn round, face East and you are greeted with the splendid sacristy, arguably the finest feature of the church. The painted walls and inscription which are 7 layers thick in places are an absolute delight.
For a colour version of the above photograph please click here and read my previous post.
As you walk around this medieval building, historic details reveal themselves. For example this round metal holder which after the reformation would have held an hour glass to regulate the length of a sermon. Sermons often lasted 2 or 3 hours in the late 16th and 17th century, so the preacher would ask for ‘one more turn’ of the glass! If the sermon went on for 3 or even 4 hours then it entailed ‘turn after turn’ which may be based on the principle that ‘one good turn deserves another’.
When making images my aim is always to capture the true essence and special atmosphere of the place. I rejoice in the fact that it remains open daily to the public and has been maintained by the Churches Conservation Trust since 1979. In fact we have to thank William Morris, the designer, novelist and conservation campaigner who in 1887 recognised the importance of this church. He successfully raised sufficient funds so that works could be undertaken ensuring that the building did not fall into ruin. This very act secured its survival to the present day.
Although it’s the interior that holds the greatest appeal the exterior of the church is well worth photographing too.
With the exception of a few notices and leaflets about the Churches Conservation Trust, St John the Baptist Church is a timeless joy and long may it stay that way. I spent about 4 hours looking around and taking photographs. During my visit 3 small groups of other people came through the door, but they didn’t spend more than 15 minutes inside. A pity, as I doubt they could have truly absorbed and fully appreciated the special atmosphere in such a short period of time. I considered myself fortunate as I virtually had the place to myself. Tranquility, sanctuary and ancient history all rolled together into a delightful experience and most rewarding afternoon.