Saturday, 10 January 2015

St George, Donnington

Donnington church feels remote, standing in the middle of the fields accessible only down a long track. But the spire of Chichester cathedral stands proud and clear just a couple of miles to the north.
The building is a standard aisled nave with an arch leading to a chancel. From the outside, it is typically 13th century - look at the narrow, pointed lancet windows in the chancel. As usual, the nave windows have been repeatedly enlaged over the centuries to let in more light.
The tower is later, dating from the 16th century, a time when many parishes decided to invest in a tower to hold the bells that were becoming available as a result of the dissolution of the monasteries.
When you step inside, however, the character of the building changes. The interior is plain, almost stark. Almost modern.
And indeed, the interior and roof of the nave was almost entirely destroyed by fire in 1939. Valiant efforts were made to rebuild, but church restoration had taken a back seat to more pressing matters.
The architect, Frederick Etchells, had to scrounge materials and wait for workmen to become available for the work, but eventually managed to create a space that is plain but moving.
The fire left the tower unscathed, which means that we can see a rare survival, a 16th century wooden staircase. It is perhaps the most basic staircase you can imagine - couple of timbers leaning against the wall with triangular-section timbers secured to them to form the treads.