Friday, 1 July 2011

St. Matthew's, Normanton, Rutland

According to some, St Matthew's Church, Normanton, or at least what remains of it, is Rutland's greatest landmark. It sits just off the southern shore of the man-made Rutland Water resevoir / leisure area / nature reserve. The bulding that we see today is apparently only the top of the old church, which was a private chapel on the Normanton Estate.
Rutland Water was created in the 1970s and is now the largest (by area) resevoir in England by damming the twin valleys of the river Gwash. But when it became clear from the plans that St. Matthew's was going to be demolished there was public outcry. In the end the lower half of the church was filled to just below window level with limestone and rubble and it was capped with concrete. Externally, a bank was to be built to give protection from the water, and a causeway was to be laid to provide access (source).
The church itself dates back to the 1820s and it was buit by Thomas Cundy (source). It's an unusual building in many ways: not at all typical for its time, indeed unlike the majority of churches in this country looking Greek on a superficial level. Knowing that it's base lies burried in the deep also makes it hard to grasp it architecturally. The most prominent feature is of course the tower supported by 4 stone pillars. But what did it look like below?
The most intricate work sits at the top, which is difficult to see without getting wet - although no harder than it must have been when you had to view it from the old ground level. The imagery is fairly neutral. It has no particularly recogniseable Christian symbols, not even a cross, with the detailed sculpting seemingly being plant inspired.
Sadly we arrived just to late to have a look at the inside (which is now a museum), but there was precious little there of interest church-wise.

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