Sunday, 1 March 2015

Deerhurst

The weather has done a complete somersault, there are shafts of pale gold light playing on the windows, forget-me-not blue skies, and long shadows dancing across the meadows. It even feels warm out in the sunshine, a moment to savour, pack a picnic, and be outdoors.
Having received some interesting comments on my last post regarding the Saxon cross, it rekindled my interest in two local Saxon buildings.
Deerhurst is a small hamlet consisting of a farm and a handful of houses lying in a vale close to the mighty River Severn. It has the very rare distinction of having both a Saxon Priory, now the parish church, and a Saxon Chapel. 
Odda's Chapel is one of the most complete Saxon churches in England, and dates to the period shortly before the Norman Conquest. It was completed in 1056 by Earl Odda who was one of the most powerful of Edward the Confessor's nobles. It is just a simple two cell church composed of a nave and chancel and appears to have fallen out of use during the C13th  
During the C16th a large Tudor farmhouse was built called Abbots Court, and the Saxon chapel was incorporated into it. The chapel nave was used as a kitchen and the chancel as a bedchamber; all memory of the chapel was thus forgotten. It was undiscovered for centuries, its walls hidden amidst the rambling rooms of the farmhouse. 
In 1856 the Rev. George Butterworth, a scholar, was intrigued by an entry he found in the chronicles of Tewkesbury Abbey which described a church opposite the entrance to Deerhurst Priory.
Tewkesbury Abbey with its very tall unique Norman arch which
dwells just 3 miles north of Odda's Chapel
The Rev. Butterworth's second clue as to the whereabouts of the Saxon Chapel was even more compelling; it was the famous Saxon carved Odda's stone discovered in 1675 in a local orchard near to the Priory.
Latin translation
Earl Odda ordered this royal chapel to be built and dedicated in honour of the Holy Trinity for the good of the soul of his brother Aelfric who died in this place. Bishop Ealdred dedicated it on April 12th in the 14th year of the reign of Edward, King of the English
i.e. in 1056 in the reign of Edward the Confessor 
The above stone is an exact replica of Odda's stone which is now preserved in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
The North door and double splayed arched window showing Anglo-Saxon stonework. Other typical Anglo-Saxon features are the long and short stone quoins at the corner and the chapels tall proportions
The south side would have had a doorway opposite the north door but it has been blocked up
The south window still has some original oak framing, and at the bottom you can just see the arch from the north window showing
A sturdy Saxon arch divides the square ended chancel from the nave
Looking back down the nave which shows the beams that were installed to make an upper storey when incorporated into the farmhouse
A Little Sanctuary
by Admiral R A Hopwood
In the quiet Severn Valley, where it seemed as if at last 
Very peace had spread her wings on ev'ry hand,
Stood an old and battered farmhouse, where for generations past
Dwelt the yeomen and the tillers of the land.
Till in time the hand of progress came to try what could be done,
Both to modernise and renovate with care,
So they chipped away the plaster of the ages dead and gone
And they found - a little Saxon Chapel there.
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The Saxon Priory, now the Parish Church of St. Mary's, is a two minute stroll away from the Chapel. I will show it in the next post, it is home to some of the oldest and rarest Saxon stone work.

56 comments:

  1. Anglo-saxon surviving buildings are a precious capital for your country because of their limited number I think. Through them we discover a notable chapter of history, with rare details and signification especially when all those tales come from you.Your photos are unbelievably bright and perfectly clear, a joy to look at.
    Happy Sunday!
    Olympia

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    1. Dear Olympia - it is right that Anglo Saxon architecture and sculptured stonework is quite rare to find because many of the Anglo-Saxon buildings were constructed using timber with thatch for roofing. However, many of our great churches still retain little bits of their Anglo-Saxon origins. Thank you for your very kind comment re the photos.

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  2. Odda's chapel are indeed an oddity, Rosemary. It is so intriguing how the lovely chapel was incorporated into a dwelling place like that, and amazing that someone eventually worked it all out. The history of England never fails to fascinate, and the preservation of this wonderful heritage is so worthwhile and commendable. It is so well preserved for a building so old. Thank you for sharing it with us all!

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    1. It must have been a very exciting time for the Rev. Butterworth when he actually tracked down and discovered the whereabouts of the chapel which was actually hidden beneath the Tudor wattle and daub.

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  3. What a fascinating and fabulous building.

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    1. One of the interesting things about this place is, should the monks from the past return today they would still recognise most of the area as hardly anything has changed.

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  4. Odd's Church is a gem and better it was incorporated into the design of a home than destroyed. It seems fashionable today for builders to include unused churches in new structures in Toronto. My friend lives in the Manse of such a church.

    Tewkesbury Abbey is a marvelous tribute to the architecture of the time. The lines and scale holds the eye.

    Rosemary, you live in a beautiful corner of England and thank you for sharing your excursions and rambles.

    Helen xx

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    1. It is possible that by absorbing the chapel into the farmhouse it did in fact save it. There are many redundant small chapels and churches that have been made into homes here too. Not ones of special architectural merit, mainly those from the Victoria era and non-conformist. Most old parish churches that become redundant these days come under the umbrella of the Church Conservation Trust or English Heritage.

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  5. Hello Rosemary, These are wonderful buildings with a simple strength that suits their antiquity. I liked the little poem, even if the word 'modernise' did cause a few apprehensive shudders. The hidden Saxon chapel reminded me of Ivor Noel-Hume's excavations in post-War London, finding Roman chapels and other survivals buried almost everywhere. Although exposed at the too-high price of the bombed city, these fascinating remains bring to life the many earlier incarnations of Britain.
    --Jim

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    1. Hello Jim - it is a very simple but aesthetically pleasing little building sitting in a particularly lovely spot with the river just across the meadows. The area must look almost exactly the same today as it did when it was built.
      The continual finds in London resulted in a new museum being open in 1976 called the Museum of London.

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  6. That is an amazing looking abbey, I must try and get to see it one day. Suzy x

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    1. Tewkesbury Abbey is well worth a visit, and if you get there you must also visit Odda's Chapel.

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  7. We're always fascinated by Anglo-Saxon buildings, there are so few. I think we've been to Odda's Chapel, but can't quite remember.

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    1. To my knowledge there are only 23 Anglo-Saxon churches in the country which includs Deerhurst Priory, and seven crosses including the one from Eyam.

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  8. Enjoying little trips around the country via your blog. Have just joined your site. The anglo-saxons are a people/era that I know so little about.

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    1. You are welcome Katherine - may be you will find out a little bit more about the Anglo -Saxons in the next post.

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  9. Very cool! I'm watching the Vikings TV series right now that takes place about 250 years before this church was built. The Vikings are dealing with the Saxons at the moment.

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    1. Oh dear! now I am left wondering whatever the Vikings doing to our Saxons

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    2. Well, at first the Vikings slaughtered them but now they're being given farm land to buy them off. Intermarriage cannot be far behind!

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    3. Yes, I think that we have quite a lot of Scandinavian blood in us

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  10. I can imagine how exciting it must have been to uncover the Saxon chapel, particularly for a churchman. As one interested in typography I have to express my appreciation for the sophistication and elegance of Odda's inscription. He unquestionably employed the best of the best, and the Odda typeface (Odda would make a great font name) is actually surprisingly modern.

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    1. I thought that Odda would make a good blog title too - Odda's Musings for example. Now of course I want to see the original Saxon stone in the Ashmolean Museum so a little trip to Oxford is on the cards.

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  11. That's a big chapel.

    Greetings,
    Filip

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    1. The Abbey has splendid architecture, and the little chapel is also a remarkable building

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  12. Hello Rosemary,

    How fashion and fancies change over the centuries and, with them, buildings come in or out of favour or disappear altogether. It is a curiosity indeed that this chapel was consumed by the farmhouse several hundred years after it was originally built. Remarkable that it was used at all instead of being pulled down. A lesson for the modern age where buildings are, perhaps, rather too frequently demolished rather than repurposed.

    Tewkesbury Abbey is splendid but the simplicity and tranquility of the tiny chapel has much to commend it too.

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    1. Hello Jane and Lance - if it had not been for the Rev. Butterworth's detective work I suspect that this little chapel might have been hidden or lost forever.

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  13. So fascinating to see and hear more about! xx

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    1. It makes a great little detective story ending with an architectural treasure

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  14. Seems it was hiding in plain sight! Very interesting.

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    1. Excellent way of putting it Janey

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  15. I love a mystery. It must have been quite something when the chapel was found. Do you imagine you see/hear the ghosts of olden times when you are in such a place? I think I would!

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    1. My overriding feeling was that the little hamlet would still be very recognisable to those who laid the first stones of the Saxon priory 1400 years ago. It was as if time had stood still and it was detached from the modern world although only 3 miles up river from the medieval town of Tewkesbury. If monks had wandered across the water meadows I wouldn't have been surprised.

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  16. The outside of the church looks lovely and the chapel looks very old.

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    1. The Abbey is the finest example of Norman architecture in our country and the little chapel is one of the best examples remaining of Saxon architecture and is 1000 years old.

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  17. Interesting and fascinating , my imagination started to send me flashes when I saw the pictures !

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    1. Seeing the chapel excited us, and I am pleased it did for you too.

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  18. I love the simplicity of the Saxon buildings - I loved stepping back in time with your photos.

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    1. Thank you Elaine - it was so lovely to find this beautiful spot and enjoy it in some gorgeous weather - it really does feel as if the winter is passing.

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  19. Oh - I didn't know about this one! Looks amazing; I need to visit immediately.

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    1. I am sure that you will love it, and it is in such a quiet idyllic backwater

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  20. We are planning a visit to Gloucestershire sometime soon so will look for this Saxon treasure! We were envious last Wednesday when our youngest had a day trip to Tetbury and Bath. He worked very hard, delivering a dresser and a pantry cupboard, but made sure he did a detour to the Stroud area which holds sentimental memories for him.

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    1. Hope your son was in the area last Friday, such a brilliant day, it was when we visited Deerhurst. You will find the Saxon buildings down a long fairly narrow road off the A38, 3 miles from Tewkesbury.

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  21. I really enjoyed reading this post Rosemary.
    What a treasure was found. Such amazing history, of this Saxon house and hidden church.
    There is so much to see and visit in England. I feel like taking a long holiday to see it all.
    Imagine the tales those walls can tell.!
    val

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    1. Dear Val - you are right about there being so much to see - this little chapel was only half an hours drive away in the River Severn Vale and yet so different from where I live high in the hills.

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  22. Such history there! Beautiful. The stone walls and timber beams look so solid, substantial and soulful. I'll be in England next week....cannot wait to visit again. Happy March. Cheers

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    1. Although a 1000 years old the little chapel is still a very solid and honest construction - hope you have a good trip over Loi.

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  23. So fascinating to see those lovely Saxon buildings. Sarah x

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    1. It is charming in its simplicity Sarah

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  24. I've been away from blogger for a bit - have missed your wonderful posts! And this is a really good one. What a magical place this is. Beautifully illustrated by you too. x

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    1. How lovely to see you back again LeeAnn - I have missed you, thank you for your kind comment.

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  25. What a history, really fascinating! Love your pictures...
    Warm hug,
    Titti

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    1. Delighted that you enjoyed the little chapels history Titti - thank you♡

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  26. Dear Rosemary, thank you! Though I'm at the moment very occupied, I read your lovely posts - and then to discover a "Reverend Butterworth" - that makes my day, melting on the tip of the tongue...

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    1. It is a rather delicious name of a nineteenth century reverend Britta.

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  27. So wonderful. I start daydreaming about living there every time I see photos like these :)

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    1. We haven't had snow here this winter, but I don't think it is quite as warm as perhaps you would like.

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