Friday, April 23, 2010

Lamport and Maidwell, churches and houses

There is no solution to the current problem of care and maintentance unless it is recognised that an ancient and beautiful Church fulfils its primary function merely by existing. It is, in itself, an act of worship.

Such a church, whatever its surroundings, is a perpetual reminder of spiritual values. In Shakespeare's phrase it is "a sermon in stone" and its message is delivered, not just for an hour on Sunday, but for every hour of every day in the year - not merely for those who enter, but to all who pass by.

This passage is quoted on the title page of Sir Gyles Isham's guide book to All Hallows, Lamport. As I cannot find it anywhere on the net, I assume that it is taken from Isham's longer work about the church, All Saints' (All Hallows) Lamport, published in 1950.

I have chosen to illustrate it with a picture of St Mary the Virgin, Maidwell. This is because All Hallows, Lamport, after the changes they wrought upon it in the 18th century, is dedicated at least as much to the glory of the Isham family as to that of God.

Next to St Mary the Virgin stands Maidwell Hall, now an expensive prep school. This puts me in mind of another passage. This one comes from The Dog Beneath the Skin by Auden and Isherwood:

I see barns falling, fences broken,
Pasture not ploughland, weeds not wheat,
The great houses remain but only half are inhabited,
Dusty the gunrooms and the stable clocks stationary.
Some have been turned into prep-schools where the diet in the hands of an experienced matron,
Others into club-houses for the golf-bore and the top-hole.

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