"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Villages and Churches along the Worcestershire Blossom Trail - Part 1: Harvington and Fladbury

Last week we decided to have a family day out and follow some of the Worcestershire Blossom Trail stopping off to explore villages en route. There was plenty of blossom to see in the various villages but I think we were a little too early to see the plum and apple blossom at its best in the orchards we passed.

First port of call was the picturesque village of Harvington.

So many lovely villages seem to have a brook somewhere in the vicinity and Harvington was no exception. This stream was surrounded by wild flowers and several butterflies were spotted - Orange Tip and Holly Blue.

Next stop was the village of Fladbury which was mentioned in the Domesday book hence the community is over 1000 years old. It is located on the banks of the River Avon and has many historic half timbered brick 17th century houses.

We parked opposite the church and, while the rest of the family set off in search of a loo, I grabbed the opportunity for a whistle stop (20 minutes!) tour of the church and churchyard.

The steps leading up to the churchyard were made up of fragments of ancient gravestones.

The church of St John the Baptist parts of which date back to Norman times.

Good to see that this is another churchyard where wildlife is encouraged into "God's Acre".

Propped up against the church wall is this 13th/14th century grave cover. It would originally have been laid horizontally and was probably once inside the church.

I was that busy admiring this Easter decoration that I completely missed what Pevsner describes as a "splendid rib-vaulted porch".

The Painswick stone pulpit was installed during the 1870 restoration

This photo is rather blurred so I haven't bothered cropping it but I have included it because it contains an early 14th glass stained glass panel depicting the Virgin and Child. If I had known this at the time I would have taken a lot more care over the photo!

Of course, when I got home and read the church guide I realised that, as usual, I had managed to miss many of the most interesting features of the church including a 15th century tomb chest (Throckmorton memorial), 15th century wall posts, a stone head depicting Portia the Rectory dog and, worst of all some 14th century Heraldic Glass. In fact as luck would have it the latter was one of the few stained glass windows I didn't take a photo of! A few photos of the stained glass I did take - some of the windows are by Frederick Preedy.

I mentioned in a recent post how Amanda from the Quiet Walker blog had inspired me to take far more notice of old gravestones and tombs. I have recently finished reading a really interesting book by Trevor Yorke called "Gravestones, Tombs and Memorials" which describes how tombstones and memorials have changed in design/inscriptions/carved symbols over the centuries.

The earliest gravestones in churchyards generally tend to date back to 1660 and The Restoration of the Monarchy. Originally they were just slabs with crude lettering as most people were unable to write. As time passed work became of a higher standard with a border round the edge of the tombstone and symbols of death and time.

In the 18th century gravestones were still mainly for the more affluent members of the parish, for example, farmers, vicars and merchants. Some were plain stone with names and death of the deceased in the family listed. By mid-century the Rococo style became popular. Late 17th to early 18th century showed a morbid interest with the subject of time and death with skulls, crossbones, hour glasses and winged cherubs' heads being used as symbols.

The early 19th century saw alterations in the types of symbols and decorations. Carving was more deliberate and Classical imagery such as weeping trees, full length angels, urns and mourning figures replaced the more morbid themes. The Greek Revival style was also popular at the beginning of the century with decorations including swags, garlands and draped fabric. Phrases such as "Sacred" and "In Memory" were used along with emotional inscriptions.

In Victorian times the development of cemeteries and a rise in wealthy urban middle classes coincided with a change in gravestone design. The cross (rarely used before this time as it was seen as a symbol of popery) returned and arched slabs, altar tombs, coped stones and Celtic Crosses became popular. One distinctive feature of Victorian memorials is the use of different types of stone for example marble and polished granite.

There were lots of old gravestones in this particular churchyard - such a shame I didn't have more time to explore.

Some were illegible and covered in mosses and lichens.

There were lots of interesting inscriptions and carvings on this horizonal tombstone if only I could work out what they are! I can just discern a date of 1799.

So many wildflowers too to see - cowslips, dandelions, speedwell, primroses, daisies and cuckoo flower.

Trees shown upright on gravestones such as this weeping willow represent life and were popular late 18th century to Victorian times.

The urn as a symbol on this memorial to Richard Curtis who died on 27th December, 1851, aged 65 years, usually represents the soul.

This 1718 tombstone has moving verses (if you click on the image it should enlarge).

A memorial to 2 Farmer Bullocks one who died in 1799 and one in 1826.

Some interesting carvings - flowers (a cut flower could represent a life cut down in its prime), winged cherubs' heads which symbolise Resurrection and a figure holding a staff/cross and a book (Father Time or a figure of mourning?). Books may represent the Bible and may symbolise resurrection or sometimes wisdom.

A few early 18th Century tombstones - I think I can make out carvings of cherubs' heads

At this stage I noticed the family were sitting in the car looking rather fed up. No sign of any toilets so we decided to stop off in Evesham briefly and then continue on our journey to Bretforton - one of the most interesting villages I have ever visited but I will save the rest of the day for another post!


"A guide to The Church of St John the Baptist, Fladbury" by Frank Bentley
"Gravestones, Tombs and Memorials" (A Living History) by Trevor Yorke


Midmarsh John said...

The thatched cottage with thatched bay windows is fascinating. Not seen that sort of thing before.
Brilliant photos of the stained glass windows, never an easy subject.

Ragged Robin said...

Midmarsh John - Thanks so much John. I thought the thatched bay windows were rather unusual too. Really had ought to make the effort to go to Worcestershire more often - closer travel-wise than I thought and there are some lovely buildings. So pleased you liked the stained glass window photos - thank you :)

CherryPie said...

The flowers look pretty and the village looks quaint :-)

Ragged Robin said...

CherryPie - Thank you - it is a lovely area :)

Rosie said...

The blossom trail looks wonderful and the village of Harvington is so pretty with its black and white thatched cottages. It was great that the church at Fladbury was open and you were able to pop inside even if for a short while and you saw some fascinating gravestones in the churchyard too. I see this is part one of the blossom trail, I look forward to reading and seeing more in your next post:)

Ragged Robin said...

Rosie - Thanks so much Rosie - so pleased you enjoyed the post. Have been keen to go on the Blossom Trail for years so we pleased we finally made the effort to do at least some of it :) Will post Part 2 some time next week. Hope you had a good Easter break.

Pam said...

Churches/churchyards are fascinating for so many reasons aren't they! There's a lot of blossom around here at the moment, it's so pretty!

Ragged Robin said...

Pam - Thanks Pam - yes always so much to see in a churchyard and churches. It seems a good year for blossom locally - so cheering to see all the delicate colours as you travel/walk about :)

amanda peters said...

Wow, I was looking forward to this post and this church does not disappoint, what a lovely church and grave stones, they are full of interesting marks and symbols. You did well to find all this in 20 min, I bet you were wishing you could have stayed all day...
Thanks for the mention and I am so glad you are finding this subject so interesting, I am enjoying seeing what you find.

Another church thinking about wild life too which is good.
Great post and photos...
Amanda xx

Ragged Robin said...

Amanda Peters - Thanks so much Amanda for your very kind comment! Yes, could easily have spent half a day there! Just had to take as many photos as possible and take it all in when I got home and could look at them :)

Yes, I was pleased to find another churchyard where they consider wildlife :)

Am reading the Yorke book on Villages at the minute - v. interesting again. I notice he does one on Exploring Churches - already have a quite a few books on the subject but I may be tempted when I have finished the Villages one!