All posts by Mike Stuart

Kilpeck Church Restoration Update 22 June 2022: Review of major works

The restoration work is due to last until the middle of July.

The scaffolding will then be removed and re-erected inside in order to strip off the plaster work on the internal walls where damp ingress has caused damage.
Once the walls have dried out, they can then be limewashed.
Plaster will not be reapplied in order to
allow the walls to breathe.

The church will remain open for visitors but will be closed in the new year once
work commences on the inside.

View the current repair work below, by the restoration company Oliver Architecture:

Restoration Work undertaken on Nave West Gable

 

Bellcote West Elevation

Key To Bellcote repairs:

  1. Plastic repair to bellcote cill
  2. Piece repair to impost block corner
  3. Coloured limewash/mortar to consolidate face of ashlar
  4. Grout fractures to stone
  5. Repoint open joint
Roof plan showing areas in need of repair
Roof plan showing areas in need of repair

With many thanks to  Oliver Architecture and Jones & Fraser

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Kilpeck Church Restoration Update 9th July 2022: All external work on the church is now completed

All external work is now completed, with the scaffolding fully removed.

Internal works will not be carried out until the New Year in order not to disrupt visitors, as we will have to close the church.

Read the recent site inspection report by the restoration company, Oliver Architecture:

GENERAL

  • External scaffold is being removed, and will be clear on the south and west sides,
    in time for tomorrow’s wedding. The remainder will be removed on Monday.

EXTERNAL REPAIRS

  • It was noted that close inspection of the stone tiling shows that the diminishing
    courses have not been properly executed when originally reroofed (1960s?). There
    are short courses at the base, with very large laps and very short laps. The roof
    needs to be monitored but reroofing will be required in due course, perhaps sooner
    than might have been anticipated.
  • The west window capitals have new slate caps to protect them from the weather.
  • The old slate cap was retained to avoid the potential of damaging the carving.
  • There are concrete ridge tiles which are quite brittle. It was agreed to omit the replacement of some of the broken small tiles below the ridge as this will cause more damage to the ridges. A mortar fillet is to be applied to weather this detail.

INTERNAL REPAIRS

  • A programme for the internal repairs needs to be prepared, and agreed with the
    PCC, as this will mean the interior is closed.
  • The Nave east gable was inspected. It was felt that replastering was not necessary, particularly as the other side is unplastered. FF raised a concern as to the type of paint on the stones, which will need to be explored close to.
  • The new rafter and boarding in the Nave south-east corner needs to be stained down.

 

Please may we ask you to consider donating as generously as you feel you can, so that we may preserve this very special church for generations to come.

You can donate either in the church, or online using the link below.

THANK YOU!

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Kilpeck Church Restoration Update 23 June 2022

The corbels before repair work

The scaffolding went up and work commenced on time in mid-May.  Much of the repointing has now been done, and now there only remains the west end gable wall to be repaired.

Replacement of the roof soakers and flashings is progressing well.  Rotting timber has been found under the tiles close to the flashings.  This will have to be replaced, which will extend the time spent on the outside by a week or two.

The scaffolding will then be taken down and work will commence on the damp damage to the internal walls.

A huge thank you to everyone who has donated through the website.  It’s all helping to reduce the final cost.  Do please continue donating.

 

Please may we ask you to consider donating as generously as you feel you can, so that we may preserve this very special church for generations to come.

You can donate either in the church, or online using the link below.

THANK YOU!

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Kilpeck Church would like to thank the following organisations for their generous support of our restoration appeal:


 

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Kilpeck Restoration appeal update: Restoration work underway

Scaffolding is now up and work has started on repointing of parts of the external walls.  Work should start shortly on the roof where all the lead flashing needs replacing.  Once complete the scaffolding will be removed before work  commences inside the church on stripping the damaged walls of plaster.

Visitors should be aware that the church is still open but, as you will see in the photographs, the corbels along the underside of the roof cannot be seen as the screening on the scaffolding is hiding them.  However the main door is very much visible.

We will keep you up to date as work progresses:

 

Scaffolding erected around the external walls
Restoration work: repointing of parts of the external walls

 

Please may we ask you to consider donating as generously as you feel you can, so that we may preserve this very special church for generations to come.

You can donate either in the church, or online using the link below.

THANK YOU!

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Kilpeck Restoration appeal update: Work commencing in May 2022

Damage to plaster on the upper walls of the church, caused by damp entering the roof and interior walls
Damage to plaster on the upper walls of the church, caused by damp entering the roof and interior walls

We are very fortunate to have received grant funding from Herefordshire Historic Churches Trust, The Benefact Trust, National Churches Trust, The Wolfson Foundation and Laslett’s charities.  We await the outcome of applications to several other foundations.  Grant funding alone will fall well short of the final cost so we are relying heavily on the generosity of donations.

“We are incredibly lucky to have such a gem of a church in our parish for the benefit of both the local community and visitors.  I feel hugely responsible for ensuring we maintain the condition of the building” said Hesketh Millais, the church warden.

Work starts on the church in the middle of May and is scheduled to last 10 weeks, from 16 May – 22 July 2022.  We will keep the church open for as long as possible during repair work but we may have to close temporarily when work on the inside starts.  All progress will be posted here where you can also make a donation which would be much appreciated.

 

Please may we ask you to consider donating as generously as you feel you can, so that we may preserve this very special church for generations to come.

You can donate either in the church, or online using the link below.

THANK YOU!

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Kilpeck Church would like to thank the following organisations for their generous support of our restoration appeal:


 

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Kilpeck Church Restoration Appeal

Damage to plaster on the upper walls of the church, caused by damp entering the roof and interior walls As you may know, Kilpeck Church is internationally renowned for its unique Romanesque sculpture. We are about to embark on a very expensive roof and internal wall restoration project.

Fortunately this is the first major repair that we have had to undertake in nearly 50 years. Sadly, the popular impression is that we are a very rich church due to the many visitors we get. However, our annual income is insufficient to help pay for our minister and annual maintenance (£300 per week), so we have to call on our reserves.

We are looking to raIse £30,000,  which will hopefully be matched by grants and reserves, which will be seriously depleted.

Please may we ask you to consider donating as generously as you feel you can, so that we may preserve this very special church for generations to come.

You can donate either in the church, or online using the link below.

THANK YOU!

Damage to plaster on the upper walls of the church, caused by damp entering the roof and interior walls
Damage to plaster on the upper walls of the church, caused by damp entering the roof and interior walls

Details of roof and internal wall damage:

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The Intriguing Tale of Shocking Sheela Na Gig and Its Art References: By Candy Bedworth

Sheela Na Gig, Church of St Mary and St David, Kilpeck, England, UK. kilpeckchurch.org.uk.

Everyone remembers their first sighting of a Sheela Na Gig. Wandering around an old church, breathing in the architecture, the history, the silence. And then – that looks like, oh, yes, it is – a naked woman, exposing her genitals to your gaze. What is a Sheela Na Gig and how has it influenced modern art?

Hidden in plain sight, these wooden or stone sculptural figures can be found in churches across the UK and in central Europe. Let’s take a closer look at these fantastic creatures.

Sheela Na Gig, Radnorshire Museum, Llandrindod Wells, Wales, UK

No-one can definitively explain the exact purpose of the stone carvings. Sheela Na Gig is generally believed to be a pre-Christian deity or fertility symbol. She almost always has exaggerated genitalia. She is depicted with a fruitful womb, but with an older, crone head. Is this the Earth goddess who both births us, and then takes us in death?

The figures are often depicted in a birthing position. There are suggestions that they are a folklore talisman used for promoting a successful birth – a mascot of the midwife if you will. As remember, in the past many women would have died during childbirth.

Sheela Na Gig, St Clements, Hebrides, Scotland, UK, Wikimedia Commons

Still others suggest they are simply part of the Romanesque sculptural style of art. In which, gargoyles and other fantastical creatures were used in the decoration of both churches and secular buildings. They may have been comical in-jokes by stone-masons, or a magical protection used to scare away evil.

Sheela Na Gig, Rock, Worcester, England, UK, sheelanagig.org.

Of course, for many in the Church these are shameful and obscene images. Clerics claim they are a warning against the sin of female lust. Personally, I don’t buy this theory. I think that many people are disturbed and affronted by imagery of a joyful, powerful, explicitly sexual female, and their responses are driven by fear and misogyny. Angry congregations have campaigned to get rid of some carvings, as in Easthorpe, Essex, UK. Where a statue deemed ‘pornographic’ was hacked down and given to the local museum. Others have been similarly defaced. Literally thousands of wooden Sheela Na Gigs have been burnt. However, many communities celebrate and share their Sheelas.

Sheela Na Gig, Kilnaboy Church, Kilfenora, County Clare, Ireland, cilfenoraclare.com.

This kind of fruitful goddess image is, of course, an ancient portrayal that has been seen across the globe since pre-historic art was first practiced. See this article on ancient sculpture.

Remember the famous Woman of Willendorf. A couple of years ago, artist Nina Paley made some fun gifs using some of the world’s most famous female statues.

Woman of Willendorf, c. 28,000-25,000 BCE, Naturhistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria.

What is interesting about the Sheela Na Gig, is that it was so popular in churches around the time that the last vestiges of pagan Goddess worship were being eradicated across Europe. Are these the last defiant images, left as a reminder of the power of women? Power stolen by the misogynist politics of the Christian Church?

Sheela Na Gig, Castello Sforzesco, Museum of Ancient Art, Milan, Italy, Wikimedia Commons.

And as for the name? Again, debate rages. There is no true etymological meaning for the name, and it is highly unlikely they were called Sheela Na Gig by the original carvers. Apparently, St Patrick was married, and his wife’s name was Sheelah – is there a connection?  Many suspect that each had her own name, and that Sheela Na Gig is the name of one particular carving that was then used to describe all of the carvings. In Ireland, a variation of the word can be an ancient name for a hag or old woman. In Northern England, ‘gig’ was slang for a woman’s genitals. There are as many theories about the name as there are carvings, and in truth we will never know.

Judy Chicago, The Dinner Party, 1974-79, Brooklyn Museum, New York, USA.

Today, these ancient and often damaged figures continue to inspire awe and debate. As feminist scholarship has reclaimed female sexuality and the power of the female figure, artists explore and re-imagine the female body. Take a look at Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party, shown above. Or listen to PJ Harvey who wrote a famous song about the Sheela Na Gig!




And last but not least, the Vagina Museum in London is well worth a visit.

Do you have a local Sheela Na Gig? Share your images! The Sheela Na Gig Project is keeping a photographic archive of all sightings.

Taken from an article by Candy Bedworth, published by Daily Art magazine:

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Dowsing Suggests… by Clive Essery

18th Century dowserDowsing is a method of finding many things, including water, which are not immediately visible above ground.
Having visited the site over five times, I have spent many days investigating the area, and given a talk to our local archaeology society about the Church, tempting them to visit the Church for themselves.

Dowsing suggests that there were two other Saxon period Christian altars north of the north wall. At that wall you can see a strange sloping buttress, unlike all of the others around the church and to its left is the markings of a door. Continue reading Dowsing Suggests… by Clive Essery

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Liber Landavensis: The Book of Llandaff

The Book of Llandaff was written between 1120 and 1140, under the supervision of Urban, who was appointed bishop of Llandaff by the king of England in 1107, and consecrated by the Archbishop of Canterbury. This book, Liber Landavensis, is one of Wales’s earliest ecclesiastical manuscripts.

Book of LlandaffIt is a manuscript of considerable bulk comprising 128 vellum pages. Inside its covers the early history of the diocese of Llandaff is chronicled and the contents also throw light on the state and position of the church in one area of Wales soon after the Norman Conquest.

Historians believe that it was written in the wake of a disagreement between Urban and the bishops of St David’s and Hereford regarding the boundaries of Llandaff diocese.
It was hoped that the contents of the book would strengthen the rights of that diocese to lands and properties in south east Wales. Continue reading Liber Landavensis: The Book of Llandaff

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A question often posed

A question often posed – how is that the church and its carvings on the church have survived so well?

kilpeck-castle2bBecause, for so many years, the area was almost unknown and therefore was probably poor, there were not the funds to alter it. The viability of the village depended to a large extent on the castle and its lords, and G R Lewis clearly found the church in a poor state in 1818. Four factors probably accounted for its demise: three years of terrible wet weather round Grosmont 1315,1316,1317 when 20% of the populace died, causing lack of seed corn and the slaughter of much livestock, and so here too, the passage of the ownership of the castle to absentee landlords, further Great Famine in 1335, and finally the Black Death in 1348/9. Had these events not taken place, it is more than likely that the church would have been radically changed, so we must be grateful, in a strange way, for these misfortunes. Continue reading A question often posed

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