Saturday, 3 September 2011

Kingston, Cambridgeshire

A rather odd exterior contains one of Cambridgeshire's most exciting interiors. Having been, momentarily, distracted by the rather good collection of graffiti your attention is quickly drawn to the wallpaintings dating, in the north aisle and on the chancel arch, to the late 15th century and in the chancel to the 13th.

Starting at the west end of the north aisle there is a wheel representing the seven acts of mercy with faded figures between the spokes. The seven acts of mercy are Feeding the Hungry,Giving Drink to the Thirsty, Clothing the Naked, Receiving the Stranger, Tending the Sick, Visiting those in Prison and Burying the Dead. I assume the wheel starts at twelve o'clock and proceeds clockwise.

Beneath the wheel is the remainder of the seven deadly sins, a red devil who is in remarkably good condition.

The north aisle also contains less well preserved paintings of St Christopher and St George.

In the nave are late 16th early 17th century scriptural panels and floral motifs and above the chancel arch are the silhouettes of the remains of the rood loft statuary. Three angels flank each side of the cross with Mary and St John dividing them - it must have been an extraordinary sight when intact.

The best is kept for last and that is the remnants of a highly decorated chancel with two foot soldiers with lances on the north wall charging into battle.

ALL SAINTS AND ST ANDREW. Along the village street. Built of pebble rubble. The chancel probably c. 1300, see its blocked windows and the specially interesting two-light cusped lancet on the S side near the W end which goes down lower than the other windows and has a transom. Other chancel windows Late Perp. Inside the chancel a system of heavy blank arcading. The arches are single-chamfered, but much alteration has taken place. At the W end of the N aisle another blocked lancet with a blocked circular opening above. The tower comes next, unbuttressed, with a C14 arch towards the nave, and an E window blocked, when the C15 clerestory was added. The nave arcades of four bays also C15. Semi-polygonal shafts with big diagonal wave-mouldings, capitals only towards the arch openings. - FONT. Could not the octagonal stern with its shafts and crocketed cusped gables be the bowl of an early C14 font? - ROOD SCREEN. With four-light divisions, under one super-ordinate arch, the middle mullion reaching right into the apex of that arch. Thin panel tracery. Jacobean bits above the entrance. - WALL PAINTINGS. Kingston is unusually rich in medieval wall paintings. The earliest is on the N wall of the chancel, contemporary with the building: two Knights on horses attacking, probably a scene from the Battle of the Virtues and the Vices. Over the chancel arch: Angels and the Cross, as a background to the rood. In the N aisle on the W wall the Wheel of Fortune, on the N wall St Christopher etc. On the nave walls C16 inscription with arabesques.

Wall painting 7 Acts of Mercy(4)

Wall painting 7 Deadly Sins(2)

Wall painting Rood(8)

Wall painting (23)

Wall painting (26)

KINGSTON. It was a fine old market town with a fair when its church was built on the banks of Bourn Brook. Now its market, its fair, and its importance have gone, but the treasure laid up in the church remains with the old mass dial on its walls. An ancient door brings us to it, opening into an interior with white walls and a flood of light, its stately array of lovely arches crowned by an ancient black and white roof. The arcades are 15th century like the tower, the chancel is 13th and 14th and is odd for being lower than the nave, and for its patchwork of walls with filled up arches of rosy stone. On the north side is a charming arcaded niche of three bays, perhaps a reliquary for saints; on the south side a window has a piscina in its splay, and a sill forming the sedilia. There are two charming niches also by the west window, one of them new with the names of three men who gave their lives for peace.

On the chancel walls are the oldest of the ancient paintings which are one of this church’s fine possessions. On the north wall is what is thought to be part of a 700-year-old picture of the Conquest of Evil, showing two knights in chain armour fighting an enemy with spears. Over the chancel arch is a striking 15th century painting of six white angels on a red background, their wings outlined in black, and in the most fascinating of all the pictures we see the Seven Works of Mercy. They are in a great wheel above the west window, with figures of seven people between the spokes, and below are remains of the Seven Deadly Sins, suggested by a fine horned demon, and the head of a dragon. There is a tiny Jacobean pulpit, an old chest, a 15th century chancel screen, and a 600 year old font like a solid block, its base shaped into arcading with richly carved arches; and the east window has a little old glass with flowers, and a roundel of a stag lying in the shelter of trees.

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