Sherborne Abbey – The Abbey Church of St Mary the Virgin – is one of England’s great churches, founded in AD705. The mellow stone beauty of the exterior and the outstanding fan vaulting (let alone its other glories) secure its primacy as a place of worship, of religious and architectural study, and of inspiration for the community it serves.
It also has a clearly incised benchmark, the bathetic subject-matter of this post as foretold in the title. It’s a strangely humble feature to focus on, but the attempted revival of this blog will include such mundanities. More interesting will be the medieval scratch dials (crude early sundials carved on church walls or doorways) that I am currently working on.
All photographs © Keith Salvesen
This blog being very much a side-project with (mostly) particular themes of minor interest (‘sundials’; ‘trig points’; ‘mazes’) it’s the first thing to make way when other things in life are going on. Very nearly a year passed until I recently posted something here. In truth this blog never really got off the ground at all, as things further afield took up increasing time. Yet it gets a surprising number of hits that are totally unmerited for such an indolent effort. I’m trying to raise my game in a lull resulting from a hurricane-wrecked 5-year research project.
Not far south of Hartington, in upper Dovedale, I came across this benchmark when a day’s fishing on the River Dove was washed out by heavy overnight rain. I arrived on the riverbank and found that the previous day’s placid, clear waters had been replaced by an un-fishable brown torrent. My disappointed mood was marginally lifted when, at the base of the right-hand stone of an old stile set beside the river Dove, I spotted a benchmark.
Paul (Breweni or Brewinney in Cornish) is an attractive Cornish village set on the hill above Mousehole. It has plenty of historical and indeed religious significance, including being sacked by the Spanish in a raid in 1595. There is also an intriguing and unusual maze that I wrote about some time ago HERE.
The churchyard has a memorial to ‘Dolly Pentreath’, actually or supposedly the last Cornish speaker (an achievement claimed elsewhere). The fact that the memorial was put up by Lucien Bonaparte, Napoleon’s younger brother, might lend some credence until one sees that his career was blemished by some diplomatic dishonesty.
This benchmark at Paul is on the stone pillar of a field gate by the steep road that leads down to Mousehole. The rusty hinge remnants are still there. Also visible are embedded what look to be fossils. There were more on the other stone post (bottom photo). Having assumed them to be fossils, I later remembered that I had seen these before, on Dartmoor. They turned out to be of geological rather than animal origin (but I need to check back to see what they are called…).
ADDENDUM: these apparently calcified creatures are in fact megacrysts and so of geological origin.
CHISWICK HOUSE, LONDON
Time to move from Cornwall to Devonshire (the Duke of…) and Chiswick House, the Burlington family’s fine Palladian London house. On the way to walk round the grounds via the impressive back gate, I noticed a rather modern-looking benchmark on one side. There’s not much more I can add about it – so here it is.