Wednesday 18 May 2011

Hampton Lucy, Warwickshire

St Peter ad Vincula

This is quite simply an astonishing church for so small a village. It was built with money bequeathed in 1778 by The Lucy family of the nearby Charlecote Park. The money remined unused but gathering interest until the first quarter of the nineteenth century when he Rector Rev’d John Lucy rebuilt the whole church. Birmingham based architect Thomas Rickman was chosen to design the church with his young partner, Henry Hutchinson (later famous for the Bridge of Sighs at St John’s College, Cambridge).

Work started in 1822. The church was based on Rickman’s church in Chipping Camden, with a short chancel and west gallery for village musicians. Rickman is often best remembered for first using the terms Norman, Early English, Decorated and Perpendicular to describe the classes of church architecture before the Reformation. He was also responsible for the church in Ombersley and Holy Trinity Bristol.
One of the outstanding features of the church is the soaring nave which may have been the responsibility of Hutchinson. He was to die in 1831 and is buried in the graveyard.

By the mid 19thcentury the chancel and box pews in the church were beginning to seem out of date and Sir George Gilbert Scott was invited to make changes. He was responsible for the new chancel and apse which the guide book quite rightly describes as ‘arguably the grandest piece of 19th century church architecture in Warwickshire'. It is similar to his work at Exeter College, Oxford. Externally the skyline is an array of gothic pinnacles. He also added the two storey north porch (now closed and used as the choir vestry). The church was re-opened on Christmas Day 1863.

Internally the aspe windows are most impressive and depicts the life of St Peter. The original stained glass was described as ‘magnificent’ but an explosion, caused by an American Flying Fortress crashing in 1944, blew out the east window glass. It was reassembled (as far as was possible) in 1950.

The view back down the church to the west tower again shows the amazing proportions of the nave.

One of Scott’s changes was to remove the musicians gallery as village musicians had been replaced by the more fashionable organ. The gallery and arch above was filled in and replaced by a circular rose window filled with stained glass (unusual as this is not an outside wall).

The alabaster font dates from the time of Scott’s alterations.

The church is justifiably included as one of Simon Jenkins 1000 best churches and does not disappoint.

Worth a quick look (especially to any engineers) is the cast iron bridge over the River Avon, built in 1829 at the Horsley Ironworks in Shropshire.

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