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Wednesday, 01 January 2020

Travels to England's Cotswolds: An Architectural Tour - Page 3

Written by Emily and Russ Firlik
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The Anglo-Saxon Period from 600 - 1,066 ACE. During this period the system of construction came from two sources: (1) The Greek column and beam system, and (2) Arch and the vault. An important technical innovation was the use of concrete, which made Roman architecture massive and heavy. Since the Cotswolds were one of the provinces further from Rome, the buildings were smaller and less grand than those buildings in Rome.

Examples of this period included the Saxon church of St. George in village of Coln Rogers and St. Nicholas and All Angels Church in Winson, which used stone and timber. Their doorways were narrow and without moldings. The windows in Saxon times were narrow with stonework around the windows. These churches’ windows were either semicircular or triangular, typical of this period. These old churches prey to your senses: the smell of old stone and timber, the sight of 800 year old stone as they were, touching the detailed stone carvings, and the sound of silence that resonates within these old Saxon churches.

SAXON - 600- 1066 - Village of Cole Rogers - St. George Church

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SAXON ; 600-1066 - Village of Winson at St. Nicholas and All Angles Church

The period from 1,066 to 1,190, or Anglo-Norman architecture was superior to the Anglo-Saxon and visibly more decorative. This period was the transition to Gothic style. The Norman church of St. Peter in Cassington and St. Mary the Virgin Church at Charlbury showed the beginning of the highly ornamented stone carvings, capitals highly decorated with carved figures or foliage, moldings to the width of the door openings, and heavy recessed western entryways. It was the first time seeing a groin vault - cross ribs making an “X” shape within each bay. 

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ROMANESQUE - NORMAN : 1066-1190 - Cassington village - St. Peters Church

Gothic architecture, 1,190 to 1,485, dominated for the next 300 years. Gothic architecture in England is divided into three distinct periods: (1). Early English -1,190. To 1,290; (2). Decorative - 1,290 - 1,375; and, (3). Perpendicular - 1,375 - 1,485. The obvious Early English characteristics found in St. Mary church in Witney and in Asthall’s St. Nicholas church, included pointed arches which made it possible for the construction of rectangular rib vaults (which doubles the amount of support for the high rib vaults).

Other characteristics observed in these churches included our first sighting of flying buttresses, which brought down the weight allowing for the larger windows, pointed arches in the doorways, taller windows with tracery, an essential feature of this Gothic period. The tracery is stonework that supports the large glass windows. Some of the capitals were nicely preserved showing either foliage or animals sitting upon plain cylindrical columns. A first time sighting of a triforium or attic, above the aisle vault, and the replacement of the wooden roofs of the Norman period to new Gothic stone vault. These 13th century churches emphasized vertical, highly rule bound aesthetic, soaring, clean and crisp lines.

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GOTHIC: 1190 - 1485 - Early English 1190 -1290 example Chadlington’s St. Nicholas Church

In Bloxham and Taynton, we found the best examples of the Gothic Decorated Period (1,290-1,375) in the Cotswolds. There were key indicators of this period at St. Mary’s church and St. John the Baptist. This is the time in which Gothic style reached its maturity in England. The arches were equilateral and symmetrical. The windows were enlarged and divided by mullions and tracery much more dedicated. What surprised us was the new effects of light and shade, a celebrity of the variety of windows in these churches. This was the first time we saw stained glass, tile work and playful themes on the capitals. Whereas the columns in the Early English period were plain and cylindrical, these Decorated columns, or pillars, had clustered shafts, and the capitals were circular with foliage in natural form. St. Mary’s church had curvilinear windows with the “ogee” or “S” curves - Brilliant!

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GOTHIC: 1190 - 1185 - Decorated - 1290 -1375 - the village of  Taynton: Church of St. Mary

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Last modified on Thursday, 02 January 2020

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