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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Saints, Angels, Martyrs and Shepherds

Originally published on Photoblog by Gethin Thomas DECEMBER. 28, 2020

The Grade 1 Listed, Church of St. Michael, Buckland, Gloucestershire, June 2011. This was part of a day out organised by a member of the Camera Club I was in at the time. Churches, particularly ancient ones, are great subjects for photography. Full of interesting objects and with challenging lighting.

We visited three churches that day and of course it is a legal requirement if you spend the day in the country that you have to have a pub lunch so we broke for lunch after this church and went to a pub in nearby Broadway. After lunch we visited another home of St. Michael and the home of St. Eadburgha. I don't think I have as many photos taken in those two so they will probably combine into one post.

Just a practical point of interest, I find when you are going out a lot, like you tend to do in summer, and if you are as snap happy and enjoy experimenting like I do, you tend to end up with hundreds of photos. At the time you took them you do a quick sieve of those that stand out and then you may not return to the others. This is what happened to these, so I have found that I have newly edited quite a few more than I had at the time and it was interesting seeing them nearly ten years later, and what I was photographing and how. It's also interesting when on following the photos through in order how the day comes back to you.

The main thing I have found looking back, is how I am always closing in on small details and avoiding the bigger picture so I'm not sure what that says about me. This is why after visiting three churches I don't have a single photo of any of them in full so you will have to use Google to see them whole. I had called this a portrait until I realised that, so I have now called it a dissection instead. For you this may be the photographic equivalent of the old fable of the blind man feeling an elephant and trying to describe it, many parts to touch but no whole picture. The first few photos were taken in the village outside and I just liked them so added them as a bit of context.

The opening photo is inside the church and I believe it to be The Green Man. It's interesting because it is actually not a Christian character but a pagan one. A man peering out from the greenery, hidden by it and also part of it. He is a Pagan symbol who heralds Spring after a long winter and the renewal of lush vegetation. The Green Man is also known as The “Jack in the Green” and is connected with the “Green Knight” of Arthurian Fable and the “Robin Hood” myth. Wikipedia would have you believe there is also a Green Woman counterpart, less common. This was a big surprise to me never having ever in all my years heard of The Green Woman. Of course being Wikipedia, they just made it up, Google it yourself, there is no such thing. Presumably there are wikiwokists going through all entries that only feature men so that they can rewrite history and remove "gender imbalance". These are the same people who want everything fact checked. There are plenty of archetypal women deities, probably more than there are male deities, so why would you need to bother, there's Mother Earth for a start, of course there is also Father Earth her counterpart who is less common. No of course there isn't.

The Green Man motif has many variations. Branches or vines may sprout from the mouth, nostrils, or other parts of the face, and these shoots may bear flowers or fruit. Found in many cultures from many ages around the world, the Green Man is often related to natural vegetation deities. Often used as decorative architectural ornaments, Green Men are frequently found in carvings on both secular and ecclesiastical buildings. (wikipedia)

The next three photos just place the church in context in a small Cotswold village, very old and impossibly pretty.

The name 'Buckland' originates from Anglo-Saxon 'Boc-land', meaning land assigned under a charter, as distinct from the 'Folc-land' which bases its ownership on folk-testimony. The Charter in this case dates to 709AD, when Coenred of Mercia gave the land to St Peter's Abbey, Gloucester.

The building is mostly 13th and 14th century, with a north porch, north and south aisles, west tower and chancel. The interior features a wide nave with some lovely old Jacobean pews. Inside the north door a medieval Holy Water stoup has been cut right into the door frame to allow easy access. To the right is a panelled 15th century font set before a row of 17th century benches and a commemoration board with an inscription of 1615.

14th century foliated tomb.

The interior features a wide nave with some lovely old Jacobean pews. At the back of the west end is a wooden gallery supported on wood pillars. This was erected in the C17th for the use of the Laverton Free School, but now has the organ.

The nave roof is also worth mentioning; it is magnificently painted in vivid colours reminiscent of a gypsy caravan. Aisles are separated by arcades with pointed arches.

Jacobean pews carved in oak, each with a different pattern. 17th Century.

A panelled 15th century font.

The floor of the south aisle is paved with lovely encaustic tiles, dating to the 15th century. Some of these bear the insignia of the Earls of Warwick.

PAINTED STONE PANELS At the west end of the north aisle, three painted stone panels hang upon the wall. Unlike most medieval painted stone fragments, these shine with colour despite the passage of years.

They are thought to have come from a canopy for a seat or perhaps been part of a reredos. It is possible that they came here from Hailes Abbey when the abbey was dissolved in 1538. The panels each show a pair of angels, one on each side of a central moulding.

Shepherds pews in the south aisle. These high backed seats feature hat pegs and were located here because shepherds and their dogs would enter the church via a separate door on this side of the church.

FOXE'S BOOK OF MARTYRS John Foxe (1517 - 1587) was a Protestant theologian and writer. His master work was 'Acts and Monuments of the English Martyrs', otherwise known as 'Actes and Monuments of these Latter and Perillous Days, touching Matters of the Church'. The book is usually referred to as the 'Book of Martyrs'. This work was first published in 1563 and was a history of persecutions inflicted upon Protestants and those groups Foxe regarded as forerunners of the Protestant movement.

You may be amazed that this book lies in an empty church unlocked, so was I. In researching this blog I came across this sentence, describing the contents.

The original 400 year old copy was stolen from the church and has been replaced by a modern copy.

Shocked, I went on to find the following.

January 2012 Thieves have stolen a historically important 16th Century book from a Gloucestershire church. The Foxe's Book of Martyrs was taken between 20 and 27 January from a glass cabinet in St Michael's Church, Buckland, police said.

So that answers that question. I took these photos in June 2011, seven months later the book was taken. Very sad.

14th century cross in the graveyard. The greenish glass in the windows is thought to be mainly 17th century.

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John Durham
John Durham
Feb 04, 2022

I appreciate the detail photos - I am the same way, often forgetting the "establishing" shot, but these give me more of a sense of place. I always told my biology and environmental science students to look far and wide, then focus near and close. Amazing about the Book of Martyrs - your having those pictures must truly be a treasure.


Unknown member
Feb 04, 2022

I have abosolutely no recollection of seeing this post, which mind you, is an excellent post ( photos/perspectives are really eye catching). Knowing you would know the answer...did I see these before? 😉

Unknown member
Feb 04, 2022
Replying to

Then it's time to either put me out to pasture or pay you tons of money to be my memory 😊

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