Thursday, 6 October 2016

Grate Expectations

A normal day - well as normal as any other day would be! We set of to Shropshire on a church hunt. Destination Battlefield church, named after the bloody conflict of the Battle of Shrewsbury in 1403, when thousands were thought to have perished on this site - a location spotted on a previous trip, and to which we had intended to return at some point. Today was that day.

I took many pictures of this landmark, with beautiful hills behind and dramatic sky scape flanked by the advancing development of Shrewsbury. Despite the nearby development, it was still a place of peace and quiet.  Any traffic noise I do not recall it, as I was struck by the calm and stillness of the place now, compared to the violent bloodshed and chaos of the conflict over 600 years ago. that gave the place its name.  Close by is a visitors centre, where people come to enjoy lunch, oblivious to the bodies that had fallen just a field or so away, for no smell of bloody flesh or agonising cries of pain remained to put them off their dinner. I confess that I too dined there, without giving the location a second thought...

Inside the church was atmospheric, sun streamed through the beautiful stained glass, including one which fulfilled the scripture of Mark 15:24 "And then they crucified him—and threw dice for his clothes." I do not recall seeing dice on a church window before.

Afterwards the photo that I keep returning to, was not of glass, or stone or hills.  Instead it was one of the gratings in the floor.  I love the neatness of the repeating pattern, worn by the many feet that have walked down that aisle, in times of joy and sorrow, to take part in acts of worship, to look at the historical records, or just to explore. I confess that I had happily trodden on many of these gratings in the past, oblivious to any architectural merit or design.  Now I find my eyes, and lens drawn to them, I cannot unseen them, I seek them out in each and every church I visit.

Stanton Lacy, Shropshire

Bromfield, Shropshire


Deerhurst, Glos had 3 different patterns, this pleasing circle design. The added splash of green looked like a stray piece of oasis, dropped by the flower arrangers...

There was a plain diamond pattern and this, which is the most complex that I have observed so far...

I wonder what determined the patterns used in a church - was it a whim from the foundry that shaped the metal, or were the patterns designed by architects?  Were there standard patterns and widths, or was each one uniquely designed and created for the space it had to fill?

Floor gratings can be unnerving. We rely on them to stay in place. Beneath them we glimpse pipework, and occasionally wiring.  We avert our eyes, not wanting to see too much. Heels can get trapped in them, coins dropped noisily on to them, maybe to roll harmlessly away, or disappear down into their darkened depths. What dust and spiders lurk beneath these decorative shields?

Now I have seen these metal gratings, I can no longer ignore them.  My eyes are drawn to glass - be it plain or coloured,  carved wood, banners, altar clothes and other linen, but also down to the floor.  Is it tiled,wood, concrete, tiles, flagstones or carpet?  Does it have any metal gratings, and what tessellations lie beneath my feet?

When I walk into a new and unfamiliar church I have expectations, grate expectations!