Friday, 5 December 2008

Clayton and Bell at Freeland

Freeland from the east
Photo by Lawrence OP

The church of St Mary in Freeland, Oxfordshire was designed by J L Pearson in the Early English style. It was constructed between 1869 and 1871 at the expense of the Taunton family. The church has an exquisite and remarkably well-preserved Tractarian interior, with lavish contemporary decoration. The apsidal chancel has a decorative scheme by Clayton and Bell, including stained glass and a rich series of wallpaintings.

Freeland, Oxfordshire

Polychromy covers every inch of the chancel walls. Below the dado the walls are painted in a vibrant red ochre, which is powdered with stencilled devices. Above that are a series of narrative panels depicting the passion of Christ, painted in an ochre grisaille. In some of the panels this ochre grisaille is relieved with muted yellow ochre and pastel green and blue. The two central panels of the north and south wall, Christ's entry into Jerusalem and his burial, get a more vibrant treatment, with Clayton and Bell adding richer blues and greens.

Freeland, Oxfordshire
Christ crowned with thorns


Freeland, Oxfordshire
The scourging of Christ

Freeland, Oxfordshire
The Last Supper

Freeland, Oxfordshire
The entry into Jerusalem

Freeland, Oxfordshire
The entry into Jerusalem

Freeland, Oxfordshire
The burial of Christ

The stained glass in the chancel follows the theme of the life of Christ, with windows depicting the Nativity. I don't have any pictures of them, but Lawrence Lew has an excellent selection on his Flickr page, taken when we visited the church together last year.

6 comments:

davis d'ambly said...

I'm a great proponent of Clayton and Bell despite their "commercial" output. Bell, of course, was a superb draughtsman and their artistic standards for such a large firm were exceptionally high.

Many complain about them, but consider how impoverished the churches would be without their work.

Allan Barton said...

So am I, I think there work is actually exceptionally good. I find their glass, particularly their later output, a bit hit and miss though. There early work is very good, thinking notably of the glass they produced in connection with G E Street in Oxfordshire and the Yorkshire Wolds.

At some point soon I will be going over to Garton on the Wolds to photograph the wallpaintings there. Watch this space.

davis d'ambly said...

That's a place I most want to see, so I'll be watching this place very closely!

Roger Mortimer said...

You've been so busy this past few days that there's too much to catch up on, but can't let this one pass. Beautiful, high-quality Victorian church, and apparently quite unspoiled. Fine decorative scheme in the chancel. Is the reredos part of Pearson's decorative scheme (it has much in common with the reredos at St Agnes, Toxteth, that Fr Kenyon illustrated at Anglican Wanderings a few days back) or does it conceal additional wall paintings? Toxteth is about ten years later than Freeland and stylistically the reredos seems closer, to my eye, to Pearson's later church.

ps Will attempt to remember to post under my own name, but occasionally, when I am logged in to it and absent-minded, my rabbit persona intrudes, but we are one and the same.

Roger Mortimer said...

Have now checked out the Freeland and Toxteth Park reredoses on a better monitor and the resemblance is more superficial than it seemed on a poor monitor.

Allan Barton said...

Roger, the alabaster reredos is part of the original Pearson scheme and if I remember correctly the wallpaintings continue behind it.

There was quite a lot of outrage when this church was constructed, most of it directed against the image of Our Lady and the Blessed Infant above the south porch.