or Multum in Parvo, is the motto of England’s smallest historic county*: Rutland. The historic counties are those administrative areas created by the Normans (though they may represent earlier shires or kingdoms) and which remained in place for nine centuries. It has the smallest population, and in terms of area only the City of London is smaller. To my eyes it’s an anachronism whose survival seems evidence of the influence and snobbery of its residents, largely Conservative, who have resisted attempts to absorb it into the larger county of Leicestershire.
I’ve never had any formal reason to visit the area; it’s largely agricultural, but it did achieve a sort of celebrity when former Python, Eric Idle, produced a comedy series called Rutland Weekend Television, leading to the spin-off Beatles spoof called The Rutles.
As I was working in Leicester I opted to correct this omission, though it meant a pre-dawn start to my day to enable my trip. My objective was the reservoir at its heart; Rutland Water. On a summer’s day I might have gone in hope of photographing osprey fishing from the man-made lake, but on a cold November morning at first light there was no chance of this so I concentrated on another attraction.
Normanton Church is a Rutland icon, and is apparently becoming one of the most photographed buildings in England. On one hand this is off-putting (why follow the masses?), but on the other is a challenge to try and find a new angle on the subject (quite a challenge when you have only half an hour, diffuse grey skies, and no local knowledge!).
Normanton Village was flooded to construct the reservoir in the 1970’s but the locals wished to preserve the unusual church (which reminded me a of a miniature Birmingham Cathedral) as a museum to village history and the building of the reservoir. They did this in quite an unusual way.
Moving the 150 year old building would have been prohibitively expensive, but the position of the church, near to the proposed edge of the water, meant that it would not be completely submerged by the flooding, although the planned water levels would have been above floor level. Ingeniously they filled the church with rubble up to the level of the windows, thereby raising the floor and then with more stone built a small peninsula in which the structure now sits. Note that I say “in which” rather than “on which”.
Some refer to the church as appearing to float on the water, though clearly the proportions bely this; it is a church that has sunk into the water, but in a way that preserves the building, and though it was deconsecrated before work began on the reservoir it has now become a very popular wedding venue with quirky low ceilings.
I didn’t have a colourful sunrise to give interest to my pictures, or the calm waters that would provide an interesting reflection of the church, so I had to work hard to get and then process a shot that I was happy with. Without taking to the water you’re limited for angles, and most shots are taken along the peninsula or just along the shoreline.
Eventually I found my originality by going much closer for one shot…
and much further away for another. Much effort in Little Rutland.