Paxtonvic’s Blog

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Visitors and family trees and tympana

It was good to welcome both to Great Paxton and Little Paxton churches today the Colmworth Local History Group.  They split into two groups and each took their turn in visiting LP and GP – with myself doing a little talk at LP and Ray Geeves doing the honours at GP.

I had got myself captivated by the pre-history of LP from David Broad’s History  of Little Paxton ( 1989) and find it fascinating to think of old stone age peoples inhabiting these parts  by the Ouse. Thanks to the gravel pit extractions so many finds from that  period onwards have been found and many are lodged at the Norris Museum in St Ives.  I think for both groups who came to LP – the tympanum  above the south door was the most admired and talked about. Pevsner in 1968 called it ” barbaric and entertaining” and there are many theories as to who the figures represent:

LP tynpanum

Lest we think we are the only ones to have an enigmatic tympanum, here is the tympanum at Stow Longa Church. Same mason ?

.big S L tynpanum

The tympanum at Stow is more obviously related to the Little Paxton tympanum and possibly to the worn relief at nearby Tilbrook. The composition, with three simple beasts carved in low relief, is not readily interpreted by the modern viewer. The temptation is to read it as a series of pictograms rather than any kind of narrative. Adopting this approach, the central siren, who lures sailors onto the rocks with her sweet singing, is generally identified (following the Physiologus and subsequent Bestiary texts) as a warning against deception by the allurements of the world. This caution against temptation must be the chief message of the tympanum, but further analysis is hampered by the problem of identifying the flanking beasts. One possibility is that the creature on the left, with its rough skin and gaping mouth, is a crocodile, representative (in the hydrus story) of hell, and that on the right is a lion, often equated with Christ. The ensemble would then depict man’s choice between salvation and damnation when faced with earthly temptation. Keyser (1904) suggests that the animal on the L has its foot on an altar, and that the creature on the R may be the Agnus Dei, probably because of the characteristic folding of one foreleg.

The afternoon brought me and son Michael again delving the depths of Wandsworth family history and the curious link we found a few weeks ago between a branch of my lot called Whanslaw and a branch of his girl friends family called Langley. We made a lot of progress but as usual one answer throws up a lot more questions.

The few facts( the hatches, matches and dispatches)  we find give a pale reflection of what our ancestors lives were really like –  although with a lot of research no doubt it’s possible to put flesh  on what life was like for  our ancestors say in London in Victorian times.  One we found ran the pub the  “Royal Standard” in Wandsworth in 1871 – and its still there on the corner of two roads in Ballantine Street. pub picture

Imagine all the conversations that have taken place around the bars in there over the years!

Songs of Praise tomorrow as it is Benefice Sunday – love a good sing and some thoughtful words to look forward to from Nick.

August 29, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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