Bell Tower at Boveney Church

Nominated by: Philip Sheppard

My favourite object in Buckinghamshire can be found within Boveney Church – a little chapel close to Dorney Lake located on the best footpath in Buckinghamshire (in my opinion). This ‘Chapel-of-Ease’ was built in the 12th Century for the Thames boatmen who were ferrying timber from Windsor Forest into London – at that time a town of only around 20,000 people. Boveney isn’t technically a church at all, as it’s not built for services, weddings or funerals. It was designed as a place of reflection and respite, a precursor to the modern service station, though I sense we have rather different needs these days…

There’s no road that reaches it, as it’s designed to be accessible by barge. It sits back from the towpath, in sight of an extravagant Jacobean cottage, its vertiginous twisted brick chimneys and leaded windows in stark contrast to the simplicity of the chapel.

At the West end of the chancel is a substantial naïve-looking wooden structure that supports the bell tower. Huge beams intersect in chevrons pointing towards the sloping tiled floor, its mortice and tenon joints held together by wooden dowelling, faith and gravity. And maybe the odd woodworm. It’s striking because at first glance it’s utterly out of proportion, as domineering as a piece of contemporary sculpture, but it’s purely functional, and I love it.

It’s sobering to think that its materials are up to 800 years old and will probably outlast almost anything produced during our lifetimes. That in itself is spiritually challenging and thought-provoking, appropriate for a church that isn’t a church, and somehow, very very comforting.

The Bell Tower at Boveney Church was nominated by Philip Sheppard, award-winning film, television and video game composer, producer, virtuoso cellist, inventor.