Deciphering Cornish Medieval Churches – The Architectural Framework

Ref: C3527559

Cornwall’s medieval churches are not simple, but complex and little understood structures; this course will look at how and why churches evolved from chancel-nave to three-hall plan and the Cornish context.

Additional information about this course

No session 30th May, half term. 9.30pm finish on first and last session.

Course aim

1. To introduce students to different architectural styles e.g. Romanesque and Gothic. 2. To show the wealth of visual and documentary sources for Cornwall. 3. To look at the wider social, economic and political context for church building.

Who is the course for?

What topics will this course cover

Architecture, visual and documentary sources e.g. building accounts and wills, medieval fund-raising, skilled craftsmen and their mobility, dendro-dating, the social, economic and political context of church building e.g. Wars of the Roses, impact of tin industry, Reformation etc and Georgian improvers and Victorian restorers on church fabric, and how to identify an unfinished church. We shall also look at different views of Cornish church architecture from John Blight to Nicholas Pevsner and Peter Beacham.

What will it be like?

WEA classes are friendly and supportive. You will be encouraged to work together with your fellow students and tutor. You will be asked to share your ideas and views in the class and work with the group to give and accept feedback in a supportive environment. The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you to be actively involved in your learning. You may be asked to undertake work to support your course outside of your class.

By the end of the course I should be able to:

1. Differentiate between different architectural styles. 2. Understand some architectural terminology e.g. ogee. 3. Discuss the process of church enlargement and how this was paid for. 4. Explain what changed after the Reformation and how this affected the medieval fabric. 5. Recognise an unfinished church.

How will I know I'm making progress?

Regular informal feedback from tutor.

What else do I need to know, do or bring?

Notebook and pen.

Reading and information sources

Joanna Mattingly, Looking at Cornish Churches (Tor Mark press, 2005). Nicholas Pevsner and Peter Beacham, Cornwall (Yale UP, 2014 2nd revised version preferably) Nicholas Orme, Cornwall and the Cross – Christianity 500-1560 (VCH Cornwall, Phillimore, 2007) (Prior reading for a basic knowledge of architectural terminology e.g. nave, chancel, transepts would be beneficial)

What could the course lead to?

Futher WEA courses of same level but broader subject area e.g. Prayer factories or Theatres: the Art of the Cornish Church follow on course. Non-WEA higher level courses e.g. OU, University.

Download full course outline

Deciphering Cornish Medieval Churches – The Architectural Framework Course Outline


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  • are paying the standard fee or are on any of the qualifying benefits
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  • have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2016
  • have read and accept the standard terms and conditions
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