(« back to home page)

English Church Architecture -



HILTON, St. Mary Magdalene (TL 291 661)     (July 2003)

(Bedrock:  Upper Jurassic, Oxford Clay)


The church (seen left from the southeast) is situated between the old, picturesque village around the green to the northeast and some sprawling modern development to the southwest.  It is a fairly small building, consisting in plan of a W. tower, a four-bay aisled nave with N. and S. porches, and a two-bay chancel.  It is built of brown cobbles with limestone quoins and is almost entirely Perpendicular in style, with just the chancel arch surviving from earlier times.


The tower is supported by angle buttresses and rises to stepped battlements.  The W. window has two lights and straightened reticulated tracery, a form consistent with c. 1380 in this area (see Appendix 2). The W. doorway has a hollow chamfer and a sunk quadrant around the arch, separated by a deeper hollow, and the bell-openings have cinquefoil-cusped Y-tracery.  The nave aisle windows have been renewed, but the similar four-centred, subarcuated chancel windows are old (see the example, right) and perhaps fifteenth century in date. There is a very worn priest’s doorway in the S. wall and the E. window has three lights and supermullioned tracery.


Internally the four-bay aisle arcades are composed of arches bearing a wave moulding and an outer hollow, supported on compound piers formed of semicircular shafts with capitals towards the openings, attached to narrow wall pieces down which the hollows continue uninterrupted. (The photograph, left, shows the N. arcade from the west.) The tower arch is a taller but similar, which raises the question of whether these arches fit the suggested date for the tower and, notwithstanding the British Listed Buildings web-site which ascribes them to the fifteenth century, it is evident that they do, as shown by a comparison with the almost identical nave arcades at St. Gregory’s, Sudbury (in Suffolk), where the work can be dated to c. 1375.  In contrast, the chancel arch is commensurate with c.1300:  it bears two hollow chamfers above heavy semi-octagonal responds.


Pevsner's entry for this church (in the Bedfordshire and Huntingdonshire volume of The Buildings of England) is an example of his work at its most cursory.  The four lines he devotes to the fabric of the building include the statement "C14 tower, the rest Perp.", which is true but hardly suggests they are probably contemporary, and "the arcades... have typical Perp. piers", which could mean almost anything.