Kilkhampton church

Kilkhampton 01This large church, dedicated to St James the Great, stands in the middle of the village with the busy A39 going past its front door.

It is awarded a single star by Simon Jenkins for its C18 carvings and superb late C16 bench ends.

He could have added, ‘and its Norman door’ for the inner door is a joy. The porch itself is dated 1567 and an inscription over the outer door says Porta Celi: the door of heaven.

Kilkhampton 16Our first impression was that it smelled of damp. This was a shame as it has high arcades to the nave and side aisles – all full length – and is spacious and light. Above is a fine unceiled wagon roof.

The rood screen was inserted by G Fellows Prynne in 1903. Spanning the full width of the church, it divides what would otherwise be a large open space.

The east end of the south aisle is given over to the Grenville memorials, notably Sir Bevill Grenville, the successful Royalist cavalry commander who was killed in 1643.

Kilkhampton 11The high spot of the church is the bench ends. There are said to be 157 of them carrying a variety of symbols: the symbols of the Passion, heraldic devices and the usual selection of jesters, faces and animals. Many of the benches also have their original backs of wonderfully gnarled wood.

The bench ends deserve further detailed study but are difficult to photograph effectively, making this difficult.

The other feature which excited Simon Jenkins is the carving work of Michael Chuke, a student of Grinling Gibbons. He was a local boy made good who returned to the his home area. Most of his work is in the Grenville chapel. We certainly admired his carved griffins.

There is also a very large C17 royal coat of arms in plaster very similar to the one in the gildhouse at Poundstock.

 

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