Thursday, August 04, 2016
Rutland's finest: St Peter and St Paul, Tickencote
Tickencote begins with a bus shelter on a slip road of the A1. So unpromising a location does it look that it took some persuasion for the driver to drop me there.
I am glad I persisted, because the little Rutland village you find at the end of the lane from there has one of the most remarkable churches I have ever seen.
St Peter and St Paul is a Norman church that had fallen into disrepair by the end of the 18th century. It was then rescued by the local Wingfield family.
The chancel was restored, though possibly in a rather imaginative way. If its vaulting is a faithful copy of the original, it is something quite remarkable.
A new nave was built that feels Georgian but pays tribute to its Norman predecessor. (Some sources suggest that the Norman nave had already been rebuilt once in a later medieval gothic style.) The incursion of stained glass in the 19th and 20th centuries have not improved it, though the sun can produce pleasing effects.
Above all, the restoration left the extraordinary chancel arch untouched. It is a riot of decoration, with geometric motifs, stylised leaves, and half-human and half-animal heads - some friendly, some beaked and sinister.
Simon Jenkins suggests it was once the external entrance in the days when the chancel served as a smaller chapel, and that would explain its remarkable preservation.
The Norman font that stands beside it goes almost unremarked at Tickencote. In almost any other church it would be the most striking feature.
The exterior of the church, along with its tower containing a room for the priest, features a free interpretation of the Norman style to be found within - note the influence of the font. The effect is somehow Continental and not at all something you expect to find in an English village.
Somewhere the other side of the AI is Losecoat Field, the site of a considerable battle of the Wars of the Roses. Sources suggest the defeated rebels against Edward IV were mown down by lorries as they fled.