Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Sapperton, Gloucestershire.

The village of Sapperton is situated just off the A419 approximately half way between the towns of Stroud and Cirencester. It associates itself emphatically with the historical character of the latter rather than with industrial Stroud.

The village is well known for having a large proportion of Arts and Crafts buildings, mainly by the Barnsleys and Ernest Gimson and Norman Jewson, all of whom are buried in the churchyard, ( Jewson is commemorated by a singularly inapt gravestone of pinkish marble, completely out of place in a limestone village with such associations).

The church is interesting for , although it has obvious origins as far back as the C12th, it has, unusually for the area, a very strong atmosphere of the Classical Period of the C17th/18th.

The original Norman and Early English church was rebuilt in approx. 1730 to such an extent that it feels almost entirely C18th in character but of course the chancel arches are C13th and are the base of the tower expressed in the interior of the church. Unusually the transepts are entered West of the tower, thus creating a very long chancel which stretched from the beginning of the tower to the East end.

Both nave and chancel have huge round headed windows full of clear, slightly greenish class which flood the church with light.

Just below the church , on the slope of the hill is the large terrace on which stood Sapperton Manor which was demolished by its owners in the early C18th., ( for reasons unknown to me). Much of the woodwork in the church was in fact removed from the manor and this explains to some degree the lack of religious references in its profuse imagery. There are Mermaids, and indeed mermen, and all sorts of exotic looking creatures parading themselves on the pew ends., as well as a great deal of heraldic work , in places running from floor to ceiling.

There are two really fine tombs, one in each of the transepts, elaborate, architectural ensembles, with obelisks, urns and all manner if Jacobean fantasy. But the effigies themselves are touchingly lifelike.

Sapperton is also famous for its tunnel. The canal which links the Thames at Lechlade with the Atlantic at Sharpness passes under the village by means of a tunnel approximately five miles long. It is so shallow that the boats were propelled along it by " leggers", boatmen lying on their backs and pushing with their feet on the roof of the tunnel. The illustration is of the opening of the tunnel hidden away in the wood at the bottom of the valley.

There are controversial plans under way to reopen the canal but it is such a remote and quiet place that I could not be in favour.

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