The Annual gathering of the Friends of DHCT will take place in October 2018.
Following the success of last year's Lecture/Lunches, we are pleased to report on two more succesful events in early 2018:
'Signs and Symbols in Stained Glass' by Sue Smith
Thursday 22nd March at The Langton Arms, Tarrant Monkton, DT11 8RX
Over 40 members of the Friends of Dorset Churches gathered at the Langton Arms on Thursday 22nd March for this winter’s second and last lecture-and-lunch meeting.
On this occasion the Secretary of the Friends, Ms Sue Smith, spoke on the subject of interpreting the symbols used in church art. Although she used many illustrations from her own specialism, stained glass, the talk took in examples of other arts, including painting, wood and stone carving, heraldry and illuminated manuscripts.
One of the main difficulties of interpreting symbols of this nature is to be clear of the context, as the same image can represent different properties when presented in different settings. Owls, for instance, have been symbols of wisdom from the time of the ancient Greeks to the present day. Yet they appear in Ashmole Bestiary of the early thirteenth century as a symbol of sloth (presumably because owls sleep through the day) and are also at other times associated with funerals.
Ms Smith also spoke about oak leaves, which to the Celts were a symbol of strength, while in Christian thought they have become associated with the planting and growth of faith.
Further symbols were illustrated with copious examples from all over Dorset and quite widely beyond. In the Middle Ages, many were drawn from nature and everyday creatures and plants, which would have been clearly understood by the unlettered poor, for whom these symbols were a valued teaching system.
Hence the audience was asked to consider eagles (symbols of St John the Evangelist since about 400AD), butterflies (the three stages of Christ’s life), the Good Shepherd (who treats us all as his sheep), pelicans (whose supposed self-pecking to draw blood to feed its young is an image of Christ’s sacrifice) and swallows (a symbol of resurrection which arose because they were thought, in the time before migration was understood, to over-winter in holes in the ground .)
Ms Smith’s lecture covered a wide range of ideas and images, yet was gently paced allowing the audience to take in and consider each of the beautiful images displayed.
Before a splendid hot lunch cooked by the staff at the Langton Arms, Simon Pomeroy, the Chairman of the Dorset Historic Churches Trust, offered a vote of thanks to Ms Smith which was followed by warm applause from the assembled audience.
'Reformation and the English Church' by Dr Tim Connor (Report)
The Langton Arms, Tarrant Monkton
22nd February, 2018
One of the prime functions of these winter lunch lectures is to encourage members to consider in a wider context some of the churches they visit during the summer Church Crawls. Relying on the top duo of organizer, Sue Smith, and lecturer Dr Tim Connor, this friendly and relaxed event provided food for mind and body on a chilly February day.
Dr Connor’s easily accessible presenting style allowed him to cover a wide range of ideas about the English Reformation in the sixteenth century and to focus upon many examples provided by the Dorset churches that we can visit today.
After a very brief historical introduction and the merest hint of the theology of the Reformation, the audience studied images of some of the rare survivals of the iconoclastic fervour of the reformers, such as the shrine to St Candida (Wite) at Whitchurch Canonicorum. Surviving chantry chapels which were illustrated included those at Silton, Marnhull and Stalbridge.
Although a few medieval images in stone, wood or on canvas have survived from the pre-Reformation period in museums, those in their original churches are rare, so the carved crucifixion scene at Hammoon is especially noteworthy and beautiful.
Rood screens have also largely left only the marks of the stairs once leading to them, while church yard crosses and Easter Sepulchres survive only in fragmentary condition, for the most part.
Dr Connor explained that evidence in surviving wills, in which people made gifts to their churches – for instance to provide lights to burn in front of shrines – offers us a view of the way whole communities in a place contributed to the life of the church in the Middle Ages. All this was swept away to be replaced with a simpler style of church decoration and, in due course, the imposing tombs of local gentry who liked to be buried near the altars of their church.
Enthusiastic applause was offered by over 70 members, who then sat to a delicious lunch laid on by the team at the Langton Arms. The Chairman of the Trust, Mr Simon Pomeroy, offered a vote of thanks both to Dr Connor and to Ms Smith before explaining to all present that Dorset Historic Churches Trust has had an excellent year with many very well supported events and a hugely successful Ride+Stride last September which raised over £86,000 to help with the care and conservation of the beautiful churches of this county.
Lecture Lunches in 2017
The Dorset Historic Churches Trust has recently embarked upon a new venture, designed to keep alive interest in the wonderful church buildings of the county through the long winter months.
The Friends organisation’s popular church crawls have run through many recent summers and members felt the lack of them in the cold, wet days of the new year. To keep the flame of interest burning, over 50 enthusiasts assembled at the Langton Arms, Tarrant Monkton, last week to hear a lecture by a trustee of the organisation Dr Tim Connor, the noted art historian, on the Church Monuments of Dorset.
Dr Connor’s talk ranged widely though the churches of Dorset from Silton in the north to Chideock in the west, considering aspects of the architecture, sculpture, heraldry and inscriptions of monuments, as well as the different purposes of the memorials and the feelings they were constructed to express.
Speaking with characteristic humour as well as authority, Dr Connor used many photographs of Dorset churches to help make a wide range of challenging and thought-provoking observations which were founded in his deep knowledge of the county’s churches. His manner also contributed to the friendly good fellowship of the meeting, which was encouraged by an excellent lunch presented by the staff at the Langton Arms, whose function room provided an ideal and central venue for this inaugural event.
Dr Connor had been introduced by the Chairman of the Dorset Historic Churches Trust, Simon Pomeroy, who gave a brief review of the major fund-raising effort, the annual Ride +Stride sponsored event, which last year gathered a remarkable £80,000. This great achievement means that the Trust will be able to make grants for church restoration projects to a total of £100,000 during 2017.
Following the success of this lecture and lunch, the next event is planned for 23rd March, again in Tarrant Monkton, when the church crawl organiser, Sue Smith, will give a talk entitled Illuminating the Art of Stained Glass. For further details and contact information, go to the DHCT website (www.dhct.org.uk ) and follow links to the Friends’pages.
Friends of Dorset Historic Churches Trust Second Winter Lecture
Illuminating the Art of Stained Glass by Sue Smith
A gathering of the Friends of Dorset Churches, including a number of new members, met at the Langton Arms, Tarrant Monkton, on 23rd March to hear an insightful lecture on stained glass by Sue Smith, the noted lecturer on this subject.
This was the second lecture, accompanied by an excellent lunch, in a short winter series which is designed to maintain the activities of the Friends of Dorset Churches through the colder months. The aim is, of course, also to provide the opportunity for a social gathering for members, though the beautifully illustrated talk contained plenty to develop the members’ interest in architectural history.
Sue Smith spoke of the history of stained glass in Europe, starting from the earliest surviving examples at St Paul’s church, Jarrow, right through to some of the most modern examples in Dorset – especially the work of Tom Denny. She explained that the Reformation and the English Civil War had seen the destruction of much early glass, but that there had been a major resurgence of these skills in the 18th and 19th centuries, which continues to the present day.
It was also particularly interesting to learn about the creative process of making stained glass windows, from the initial idea known as a videmus, via a life-sized cartoon to the finished item. Members also learned about the chemicals needed to create different colours, the techniques of painting detail onto the glass and how it is all held together with lead “came”.
Sue Smith also spoke of the imagery employed in window design, illustrating her explanations with photos of windows all over the county, such as those in Bradford Peverell, Christchurch and Melbury Bubb.
Members were most appreciative of Sue Smith’s expertise. Chairman of the Dorset Historic Churches Trust, Simon Pomeroy, thanked her for holding the audience in close attention for over an hour and welcomed the arrival of a splendid lunch catered by the team at the Langton Arms.
To find out more about the DHCT summer programme of ‘Church Crawls’, see www.dhct.org.uk