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English Church Architecture -



DAYLESFORD, St. Peter (SP 243 259)   (April 2015)

(Bedrock:  Lower Jurassic, Dyrham Formation)


This is a grade 1 listed building currently in limbo - redundant yet not in the care of either the Churches Conservation Trust or The Friends of Friendless Churches, but awaiting instead the setting up of its own individual trust fund, which is proving a long and convoluted time a-coming, while huge patches of damp creep inexorably across the internal walls.


Constructed in 1859-63, St. Peter's, Daylesford (seen left, from the northwest), can possibly claim to be the most overtly High Victorian church ever designed by John Loughborough Pearson (1817-97), its chief competitors being St. Leonard's, Scorborough (East Riding), St. James's, Titsey (Surrey) and Christ Church, Appleton-le-Moors (North Yorkshire), which were all constructed around the same time (in 1857-59, 1860-61 & 1863-65 respectively).  If the present building accords best of these four with the arguments in Ruskin's The Seven Lamps of Architecture (pub. 1849), it is due to its blocky appearance, in line with the principles established in chapter three, "The Lamp of Power" - an appearance deriving (a) from its cruciform plan and (b) from a tower fully as wide as the chancel or transepts are long, surmounted, in David Verey's words (in The Buildings of England) by "a powerful pyramidal spire with marked entasis".  These features give the church a "turrifom" profile in the manner of a number of late Saxon buildings in southern England such as St. Mary's, Breamore (Hampshire) and St. Mary-in-Castro, Dover (Kent).  The tower is unbuttressed above the nave, chancel and transept roofs, but except round the vestry, all other corners of the building are enclosed in heavy clasping buttresses, surely more for appearances sake than as a consequence of structural needs.


Of course, St. Peter's is late Early English in style (see the chancel, left), as every good Ruskinian church was expected to be, to meet the requirements expounded in "The Lamp of Truth", though no English thirteenth century church ever looked at all like this.  Indeed, very much to the contrary, the building appears foreign in every possible way.  The spire rises flush from the bell-stage walls, like Pearson's spire at Appleton-le-Moors or William Butterfield's spires at Baldersby St. James (North Yorkshire) and All Saints, Margaret Street (Westminster).  The bell-openings and all the windows around the building, are untraceried lancets, albeit provided with highly elaborate surrounds.  Structural colour, introduced as always in Pearson's work with much more restraint than in that of some of his confrères, is chiefly to be found in the red Mansfield shafts, found beside all windows, both outside and in.  However, Pearson relies mainly on carving for ornamentation, not least through the employment of short friezes above or beneath the string courses, sometimes consisting of deeply cut blank quatrefoils, like the one that goes all the way round the tower at the springing level of the bell-openings, but more often formed of repeating leaf or floral motifs in accordance this time with "The Lamp of Beauty", that all beauty comes from nature and from nature alone.


Here are a few detailed descriptions of some of the church's external features:

1.    The tower bell-openings establish the general manner in which Pearson also treats the windows in this church.  They consist of a pair of lancets in each wall, with a red Mansfield shaft in a shaft-ring topped by an intricately carved capital between, and two further orders of similar shafts on either side, with the whole arrangement set deeply inside an encompassing arch with yet another pair of side-shafts towards the front, roll mouldings and chevron around the arch head, and a tall, very acutely-pointed gable above, reaching a third of the way up the spire.  This is surely as ornate a setting as anyone could possibly design for two modest lancets, which seems to have been the aim of the exercise.

2.    Similarly, to give another example, the N. transept N. wall (right) is pierced by two lancets recessed within the second and fourth of five trefoil-cusped blank arches, each with red Mansfield side-shafts and deeply-carved leaf capitals, and set beneath a very large wheel window formed of eight trefoil-headed shapes with shafts with capitals between, arranged like the spokes of a wheel, round an encircled quatrefoil.

3.    Immediately west of this, a picturesque accompaniment to the tower is the very tall, circular stair turret set in the re-entrant between the N. transept and the nave, which rises to a conical roof at the level of the ringing chamber.  This was a feature Pearson would use again and on a grander scale - for example, at Holy Trinity, Wentworth (Rotherham) in 1873-77.  An arcade formed of eight blank arches encircles the top, within which little trefoil-cusped windows look out in the cardinal directions.   The northwest-facing door at the base of the turret is so narrow one imagines many might have to enter sideways.

4.    The S. porch is two bays deep, each lit by a window on either side formed of two stumpy trefoiled lights, separated, as ever, by short red Mansfield shafts, outside and in.  The outer doorway is decorated with two orders of shafts set in the plane of the jambs, with shaft-rings decorated with nailhead and the ubiqitous carved capitals.  Less expected are the carvings between the bays, inside the porch, depicting the Agnus Dei on the left and a Pelican in its Piety on the right.


The inside of the church does not fully live up to the promise of the exterior.  The principal features are inevitably the crossing arches (seen left, from the nave), all equally large and carrying a series of roll mouldings above jambs replete with two orders of shafts in black and grey marble.   The transept arches are filled with wrought iron screens now much in need of restoration but retaining enough patches of gilding and red paint to hint at their former glory.  The chancel walls are covered in marble mosaic and there are three blank arches to the north and south of which the central one on the south side contains a lancet with a dropped sill to provide a modest sedilia.  The floor tiling pattern throughout the chancel is intricate and attractive but the tunnel vault overhead is not especially remarkable and is, moreover, the only stone vault to any part of the building - a  relatively unusual state of affairs among Pearson's more ambitious churches for vault construction was above all things, where he most excelled.  Perhaps money was running low by the time building operations had got this far. The patron of the church - which replaced a mediaeval building that had itself been almost totally reconstructed using the old materials, as recently as 1818 - was Harman Grisewood, owner of Daylesford Estate (church guide by P. Bucknell & J. Chatwin, pub. 2012), but Quiney does not record how much the project cost (John Loughborough Pearson, pub. Yale University Press, 1979).  Pearson was not given to wasting his client's money, however.  The slightly smaller but still more ornate Christ Church, Appleton-le-Moors, cost its patron just £7,000.  Street, by comparison, was capable of spending money much more freely than this:  his little church of St. Mary, West Lutton (North Yorkshire) which has a mere belfry rather than a tower, ran up a bill of £13,125!