Tuesday, 2 February 2016

St Luke, Linch

When the Domesday book was compiled, the parish and church of Linch was located south of Midhurst, between Didling and Bepton, but it possessed an 'outlier' 15 miles to the north near Milland, probably for keeping pigs. But the community declined and by 1428 there were just six parishioners. The church fell into ruin.
Meanwhile, the outlier had prospered. A chapel was built in Tudor times and about 1700 a larger building was erected by a churchwarden, Peter Bettesworth, in an unsophisticated Gothic style.
By this time the old parish of Linch had ceased to exist, remembered only by the names of Linch Farm and Linch Hill. In the leisurely way of the Church of England, however, it was not until the 1880s that the old parish was formally abolished and the new one established.
The parish decided to splash out by practically rebuilding St Luke's at a cost of £850, equivalent to over a million today. The Surveyor of Chichester Cathedral, Lacy Ridge, was brought in to design it.
Lacy reused a few elements of the old church including a stone lintel over the south door inscribed with Bettesworth's name, a couple of roof beams with their crown posts and a pair of lovely panels of stained glass, probably 15th century German.
Lacy's work is very Victorian Early English, with lancet windows and Jacobean details on the gable of the south porch. A little later, an organ chamber was added, separated from the chancel by an arcade with two polished granite columns, a surprisingly rich effect.
This sort of romantic revival of past styles went down very badly with later architectural critics, especially when international modernism was the orthodoxy of the moment. Sure enough, when in 1965 Ian Nairn described the work in his entry in Pevsner's Buildings of England, he called it 'very unpleasant'.
Times have changed and today Lacy Ridge's church gives pleasure even though it will probably never be regarded as a masterpiece.