Monday, 23 February 2009

Great Coxwell's sow and litter

For the first time this month, Caroline and I drove off together across the Gloucestershire county boundary. Not many miles, though we could have touched on three other counties in the process.

First stop was over the Thames to Inglesham, Wiltshire. Notwithstanding Hans Hotter was singing Der Leiermann for Michael Berkeley's Private Passions guest (Dominic West) on the car radio, there was a touch of Spring in the air.

After a pub lunch in Coleshill (Oxfordshire, we were assured), we drove a short distance to Great Coxwell (Berkshire, according to Pevsner) to look at its stupendous 13th Century barn. More than 50 yards long, it is "as noble as a cathedral," in William Morris's words.

But I'm glad Caroline suggested we should explore a bit further before turning the car round: the village church of St Giles (even older in origin than the barn) has some interesting glass: engraved 18th Century in the East window, and a combined Good Shepherd and Good Samaritan window in the South wall of the nave, possibly Kempe or Clayton and Bell.

The church's most intriguing feature though is this sow with her litter, a rustic mediaeval relief carved high up on the West face of the tower. Its simplicity and humour contrasted so markedly with the ponderous sensationalism of Jeremy Paxman in BBC's The Victorians which we watched on television later.

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