English Church Architecture -
ADLESTROP, St. Mary Magdalene (SP 243 269) (September 2009)
(Bedrock: Lower Jurassic, Dyrham Formation)
"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."
This is the village made famous by Edward Thomas's poem of that name, written in June 1914, on the eve of the Great War, in which Thomas was to perish at Arras. The railway, to the west of the village centre, is still the main line between Oxford and Worcester, but the station has long gone. However, the setting remains as idyllic as Thomas remembered it on that beautiful summer's day in what Sir Arnold Bax referred to as "that sinister carnival time", and Adlestrop has other claims to literary fame also, 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, Adelstrop House and Park, were the setting for her novel Mansfield Park, published in 1814.
Perhaps inevitably after this introduction, the church (shown at the top of the page, from the northeast) does not really measure up to this illustriousness, 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 (see Appendix 3) 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 to be still largely 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. According to David Verey and Alan Brooks (The Buildings of England: Gloucestershire - the Cotswolds, pub. Penguin, 1970), the now unreadable stone tablet on the N. wall of the chancel commemorates Anthony Greenhill, who died in 1596.
Inside the building, the tower arch, though restored, is probably essentially early thirteenth century in date: it retains the characteristic massiveness of the twelfth century but is formed of a pointed arch rising from jambs with two attached pairs of shafts with leaf-carved capitals, supporting two rolls beneath the soffit, and there are two further orders of rolls around the arch on the E. side, sitting on a further (single) order of shafts. The transept and chancel arches are double-flat-chamfered but whereas the former die into the walls, the latter (shown left) has mouldings which continue down the responds after the intervention of narrow moulded imposts.
The church furnishings and carpentry are mostly nineteenth century in date and hard to examine closely in the gloom cast by the oppressive Victorian glass. However, the monuments are worthy of some attention and include: (i) a monument to Lady Caroline Leigh (d. 1804), by Lancelot Edward Wood (fl. 1804-29), whose "tablets are competent but dull" (Dictionary of British Sculptors: 1660 - 1851 by Rupert Gunnis, pub. The Abbey Library, 1951); (ii) a plain tablet dedicated to Jane Austen's uncle, the Reverend Thomas Leigh (d. 1817), by John Charles Felix Rossi (1762 - 1839), an important sculptor of his day, who worked for a time for Mrs. Eleanor Coade at her factory in Lambeth, on the site of the present Royal Festival Hall, and who “gained much experience in the art of modelling in terra-cotta [there]” (ibid.); and (iii), a wall monument to Emily Wingfield (d. 1837) (shown right), by Edward Gaffin, who was at work from around 1805 - 1840, featuring a weeping cherub sitting on a tomb-chest.