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Old Church, Becconsall. Under the care of the Churches Conservation Trust.

Having recently been commissioned to photograph over a dozen of the churches under the stewardship of the Churches Conservation Trust (CCT), I was given access to some of the most wonderfully evocative church interiors in the country. This was a fantastic experience – one which I felt highly privileged to take part in and felt much like I was following in the footsteps of renowned ecclesiastical photographer Edwin Smith.

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 Holy Trinity, Blackburn

The CCT does a sterling job in looking after ‘at risk’ churches nationwide. Without their support most of the buildings would remain closed and would gradually deteriorate. Not only do they help them stay open and keep them free to the public, they also maintain the buildings using the latest conservation principles.

It was highly rewarding that I was able to visit and photograph 17 churches which spanned a period of almost 500 years. From the diaphonous medieval interior of Saint Werburgh’s, Warburton, (one of only a few timber framed churches in the country), to the epic structure of the Victorian All Soul’s in Bolton.

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 Saint Werburgh’s, Warburton 

Most of the interiors have been remarkably unchanged since their conception, especially those of Saint John the Baptist, Pilling, and Saint Mary, Tarleton.

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 Saint John the Baptist, Pilling

 

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Saint Mary, Tarleton

 During my visits I came across many remarkable church fixtures, fittings and stained glass. Most of the churches I visited also had a few features that were rare, unusual and downright quirky. At Saint Werburgh’s (Warburton) a coffin cart and carrier:

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And, at Saint Thomas (Friarmere) the minute signature of the stained glass artist within the ear of a cow:

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I also found the ‘human touch’ over at All Saint’s Macclesfield where high up at the top of the gallery window etched into the glass are the words “YOUNG RALLISSON PLUMBER 1899”.

Not only are these places full of coloured glass filtered vistas, they are also perfectly formed jewel boxes with the embryonic blueprint of 20th century design.

It must have been the over-arching visits to several churches that brought this wonderful fact home to me.

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 Pattern & decoration from many periods in Saint Werburgh’s

In each church I noted different styles that had developed over hundreds of years, including the evolution of furniture design; the development of pattern, colour and decoration; and most fascinating of all, a very appealing procession and progression of typography.

 

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 A font of the stone type over at Saint John the Baptist, Pilling

Yes I am talking font design here, not of the stone vessel type but of

the text type. Visiting a large number of churches over a short period

made the juxtaposition of the typography used in the churches very

striking. So striking in fact that it turned the head of my coolly

indifferent 19 year old son (student of Graphic Design).  

 

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“The most appealing procession of typography I have ever seen…”

What is encouraging, is that with this in mind, our churches may no longer be the sole bastion of ecclesiastical junkies sketching details of the Romanesque font, but also sources of design inspiration for those more interested in fonts of the Sans Serif type. Church anoraks need to tread lightly. The secret is out….

Slumbering behind the daubed wall’s of every church in the country, we have the most educative and inspirational mix of spatial beauty and decorative design. Such a unique combination has a real cultural gravity, and has the ability of engaging far more people than we dare think.

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The magnificent Georgian staircase at All Saints Macclesfield

The Churches Conservation Trust is a registered charity and relies on public support to keep their churches open.

Andy Marshall is a member of ProjectBook, and is an architectural photographer with a background in the historic environment.