Thursday 19 April 2012

April Book Walk

Our small gathering of readers rejoiced in a beautiful morning on the Brampton Valley Way and couldn't wait to share our pleasure in the two chosen books. We all felt that Through England on a Side-Saddle by Celia Fiennes had a wonderfully conversational style, even though she was writing in the lanuage of the time, which may sound strange to the modern reader. She writes as though she is sitting in a drawing room, recounting the things she has seen, to an intimate gathering of family and friends. 

Kate (seen above) discussing Through England on a Side-Saddle by Celia Fiennes and Country Churches by Simon Jenkins with fresh coffee and apple turnovers. 

It was amazing to think that she set out across the country on horseback, aged 24 and that her two journeys, which took in many of the spa towns, was taken ostensibly to improve her health! The other remarkable thing about her account is the interest and delight she took in all the innovations and industrial processes she saw along the way. She comments on the inhabitants and their various plights, in a concerned manner showing a keen interest in Anthropology. She notices the local diet and highlights the fact that most meals consist of some form of bread. The Old Foodie has a lovely blog about Celia Fiennes and Clap Bread.

Celia Fiennes also stayed in many fine Manor Houses during her travels and was obviously very well connected. By following this link you can see illustrations of some of the views she would have seen and there is also a lovely image of the Celia Fiennes Way Marker. There were stopping points that were both familiar and strange to us, Andrew had a very recent knowledge of Staffordshire and particularly Newcastle-under-Lyme (spelt Newcastle-under-Line in Celia's journal) and Kate had very clear recollections of Devon. We were left curious about this intrepid traveller and wondered what the rest of her life had been like.

With Country Churches by Simon Jenkins we became aware of just what a huge part photography plays in our everyday understanding and interpretation of structure and place. He gives a succinct description of notable country churches just in words, there are no illustrations. Reading this book was reminder of what a fulfilling experience it can be to visit a country church even if one lacks any kind of religious conviction. We discussed the churches we had visited that were mentioned in the book and were struck by the fact that they were not merely symbols of faith, but they also contained clues about the industrial, political and agricultural history of a village community.

As we were all visual people and Kate is a professional photographer, she had gone that extra mile for us. One of the churches described by Simon Jenkins was in Wellingborough, very close to Kettering and Corby, so Kate went on her own exploratory journey to visit St Mary the Virgin, Knox Road "Comper's masterpiece interior".  She was given a tour of the church after knocking on a door and asking for the key, very much as an earlier traveller might have done. You can see below a selection of marvellous images taken by Kate. We saw them on her laptop, whilst sitting at a picnic table at a stopping point on the Brampton Valley way. Celia Feinnes would have approved!

Please be aware that the copyright of all these images belong to Kate Dyer and should not be reproduced without her permission. Kate can be contacted via Corby Community Arts

We take the architecture and existence of our country churches for granted but their future cannot be taken for granted. For more on this topic you might like to read A Little History Of The English Country Church by Sir Roy Strong and you can read more about the work of the Churches Conservation Trust here .

1 comment:

  1. Sad I couldn't join you but I did read the books, love Celia's description of the area around Chester as we visit it quite often and is quite different now though some passages are still very recognisable.

    I always thing that we are very lucky in Northamptonshire to have such beautifully kept churches despite their often small congregations.