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English Church Architecture.

 

ADLESTROP, St. Mary Magdalene  (SP 243 269),

GLOUCESTERSHIRE. 

(Bedrock:  Lower Jurassic, Dyrham Formation,)

 

A church in a village more famous for its literary associations

 than for any especial architectural merit.

This is the Cotswold village with the picturesque-sounding name, made famous by Edward Thomas's poem, written on a hot summer's day in June 1914. The poem itself is rather spare and only its first stanza is particularly memorable, but the depressive Thomas, who was to perish at Arras, was soon to become famous as one of the poets of the Great War, and although Adlestrop is not a war poem as such, it has come to occupy an honorary position among the pantheon of contemporary verse as representing what Sir Arnold Bax later referred to as "that sinister carnival time" immediately preceding the conflagration.  The railway, to the west of the village centre, around which the poem is based, is still the main line from Oxford to Worcester, but the station has long gone.  However, the setting remains otherwise, perhaps not very dissimilar to the way Thomas remembered it, and Adlestrop has other claims to literary fame too, for Jane Austen made several visits here to stay with her uncle, the Reverend Thomas Leigh, and it has been suggested that the rectory and its grounds, Adlestrop House and Park, were the setting for her novel Mansfield Park, published exactly one hundred years before, in 1814.

 

Perhaps inevitably after this, the church does not really measure up to its illustrious situation, being a relatively modest building, heavily restored in 1860, when all the windows appear to have been renewed in mock late thirteenth century style.  It is pseudo-cruciform in plan (i.e. with transepts but no true crossing), with the addition of a W. tower and a lean-to vestry against the west end of the chancel N. wall, but the tower appears still to be essentially mediaeval, even though its features have been renewed.  It rises in three stages to battlements, supported by diagonal buttresses to the first stage only, which also serves as a porch, entrance to the church being gained through the W. door.  The tower arch and transept arches inside the church are probably early thirteenth century in date.

 

    "Yes, I remember Adlestrop -
    The name, because one afternoon
    Of heat the express-train drew up there
    Unwontedly.  It was late June.
 
    "The steam hissed. Some one cleared his throat.
    No one left and no one came
    On the bare platform. What I saw
    Was Adlestrop - only the name.
 
    "And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
    And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
    No whit less still and lonely fair
    Than the high cloudlets in the sky.
 
    "And for that minute a blackbird sang
    Close by, and round him, mistier,
    Farther and farther, all the birds
    Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire."