Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Rev. Waldegrave Brewster's Carvings

Built in 1842 - its architect unknown to me as yet - this country church, probably no different from countless others, has little to distinguish it. Grey stone, green glass and an open door.

The open door, in these suspicious and thieving times is unusual - but most welcome. I knew, having studied the Commonplace Book, that a visit to Holy Trinity Church, Middleton would not be far behind. Today we stepped out of a storm-tossed blustery landscape into an equally chill interior. White peeling paint, two lines of pews, an altar stripped of all but a simple cloth. Cold to the heart of stone. One would have to love one's God, one's Church, one's fellow man, to worship here. But maybe faith should be above such worldly comforts as warmth.

I digress. This church does though have some unique features - some carvings - which do make it stand out amongst other similar buildings. It is these I have come to see - the work of the man who was vicar of this parish between 1876 and 1901. My hunch that he's somewhat eccentric is about to be confirmed.

Our man - the Reverend W. Brewster - carved pew, pillar and corbel with the stuff of magic and legend. The story of the Fairy Cow, who provided milk in time of local famine until milked dry by a malicious witch, is carved in soft red sandstone on one side of the church.













On the other side, signs of the zodiac run around the top of a pillar.















The Reverend Brewster's chisels were never still.
He set to and carved pew ends:
What was his source of inspiration? His congregation maybe? The farmers and mining folk he saw on parochial visits perhaps? The keen eyed will spot, amongst various grotesques, a Negro slave, a native American and a bow-tied hound. The saints and religious scenes a Victorian vicar might have been expected to portray are nowhere to be found.

Finally, we make a furtive visit to the old rectory garden where brambles and lethally thorned old roses snatch at our clothes. (OK, we were trespassing but curiosity can be a rewarding thing.)
Here we find the remains of the Reverend Brewster's Orchard, now home to nettle and rabbit and pheasant. How sad is this wilderness? Hand me my machete. I may be some time.

27 comments:

Cowgirl said...

What a beautifully written blog, Mountainear! You showed your church to me long before I worked out how to start the slide show off! Wonderfully celtic carvings, very evocative. My favourite of course is the Fairy Cow!

Sally's Chateau said...

Truly my sort of day out, what a terrific slide show.

Elizabethd said...

Thank you, that was so interesting. I would want to bring the orchard to life. I wonder if there are any old fruit varieties there.

Faith said...

I love old churches, even the cold and damp. Prayers seem heard in these old places. Like the tale of the fairy cow.

Inthemud said...

How absolutely fascinating, those carvings are amazing and so unusual.

Wonderful blog!

LittleBrownDog said...

Beautiful, thoughtful blog, Mountainear - it really captured the essence of a much-loved and special buidling. Those carvings look wonderful.

ChrisH said...

Wow! What a professional looking blog - brilliant slideshows. I'm interested in the Green Man - it always intrigues me to see their ancient, mythological faces peering out of church woodcarvings (they crop up in St Davids Cathedral too, as I'm sure you know.) Lovely. Thank you.

toady said...

That was fascinating. I love old churches.

kissa said...

A fascinating post. Churches hold the clues to the very fabric of the social history of people who have lived in the parish over the centuries. Your Reverend W.Brewster was quite a guy.Your little tour was very interesting including the trespassing into the old rectory garden with that delightful sense of childish naughtiness. What a great way to spend some hours. I am always intrigued by small churches of which there are so very many in Cornwall in places where today there is only a skeleton community but once there was more.

Pondside said...

What an interesting blog! You are so fortunate to have so much history evident all around you. The carvings are amazing - especially considering that this is a country church. Imagine Rev Brewster, in the half light, carving .....for years and years he must have carved.

Milla said...

I adore old churches, and particularly like the Zodiac carving.

bodran... said...

Can i trespass with you there one day?? it sounds and looks fascinating..x

Preseli Mags said...

Fascinating! What wonderfully unusual carvings. I loved the zodiac carvings too (and the slideshow).

snailbeachshepherdess said...

You can just hear him cant you? ...'Wont be long dear just popping round to the Church to finish another pew end ....' Its an amazing place but .....odd? Is odd the right word I wonder but I'm sure you know what I mean!

elizabethm said...

Fascinating, can we go? Whoops, see bodran has already asked. The carvings are extraordinary and I too love the green man. would love to trespass in the garden too.

mutterings and meanderings said...

I echo all those comments of fascinating.

I once heard that the gargoyles faces on churches were self portraits of the stone masons - and apparently there is always one gargoyle, er, showing some parts of his anatomy that are usually well covered. Don't know if that is myth or fact though!

Frances said...

Many here before me have said what I would have said. I am just delighted that you did, and will continue to, digress.

That is where it always gets interesting!

Wish that I could see such places with my own eyes, but through yours is very, very good.
xo

Pipany said...

Lovely blog Mountaineer. I would love to have an orchard to renovate and bring back to life. So beautiful xx

WesterWitch/Headmistress said...

There is something about old carvings isn't there - they seem to speak to you and draw you in. I don't go to church now that the kids are no longer at home, but I am drawn to old churches. Very impressed with the slide show.

Yes how sad though that the garden has been allowed to go to ruin like that.

Ragged Roses said...

What wonderful carvings, I love the look of that old garden, it looks like it's known much happier times
Kimx

Isabelle said...

Thank you so much for commenting on my blog. I didn't know you existed but now that I do, I'll be back - you write so well and I love those pictures of carvings.

Mopsa said...

I love gargoyles and the like; I've always longed to have some of my own dotted casually about the place, to catch out the unsuspecting visitor.

Cowgirl said...

Have tagged you for the 7 things thing - come to my blog for details - sorry if you have done it all before.....

Anil P said...

This is a remarkable set of carvings that you've written about.

I cannot remember seeing anything like this in churches back in Goa.

Barbara HIggins Cowley said...

This man is my Great Great GrandFather..My Great GrandFather is Bernard Brewster....My GrandMother is Edith E.A.Brewster....I am just now learning of this interesting Fellow..........Barbara Higgins Cowley

Emma said...

Just to let you know, Middleton Church will be holding a flower festival from the 19th to the 21st June, celebrating these wonderfull carvings and how they make this little chuch so special. Please search middleton church on facebook for more information, and hope to see you there!

Emma said...

Details of the flower festival celebrating the wonderful carvings can be found on face book - if you serach for Middleton church, you should be able to find it!