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English Church Architecture -



KINGSTON, St. James the Less (SX 635 478)  (April 2015)

(Bedrock: Lower Devonian, Dartmouth Group)


This little church (shown above, from the south), consisting of a W. tower, nave and chancel, together with a N. aisle and chapel, S. transept, and S. porch, was described by Pevsner (in The Buildings of England) as "a pre-Perp church with a Perp N. aisle", but the truth is probably that most of the early work is early Perpendicular as compared to late Perpendicular in the case of the aisle.  The two-light S. windows to the nave, with straightened reticulation units in their heads, are surely in accord with this, for this is a form often associated with the third, or occasionally fourth, quarter of the fourteenth century, an ascription given additional weight here by the fact that the church is known to have been consecrated in July 1402 (church guide by H. M. Petter, 2009).  The three-light transept S. window and the tower W. window have alternate tracery, which is a common Perpendicular West Country design, though rather less so, perhaps, in Devonshire.  The tower is the most striking part of the early building for it is heavily built, embattled, and distinguished by a prominent, square, embattled stair turret at the northeast angle, rising higher than the tower itself.  Perhaps this part of the building could be pre-Perpendicular, for the tower arch to the nave (illustrated below left) is very primitive in form, consisting of a single unmoulded order supported on thin abaci with rounded under-edges.  However, the bell-openings consist of single trefoil-cusped lights and the battlements are surely part of the original work, with their slight forward projection supported by a corbel table below.  The tower floor is raised up four steps from the nave, from whence the church's six bells may be rung.  The porch is a humble addition, situated on the side of the church away from the road, and entrance to the church today is gained through the N. door into the aisle.


The aisle represents a late fifteenth or early sixteenth extension of the accommodation, constructed in the style so familiar to visitors to Devon's churches, such that although the arcade is unusually well cut here (from the county's intractable granite), it is difficult to generate interest in it.  Of its total of four bays, the three western arches lead into the nave and the easternmost from the chapel to the chancel, where the nave and the chancel are defined by their furnishings, since there is no chancel arch.  The piers take the usual form of four shafts separated by hollows, with capitals to the shafts only, but the arches carry two hollow chamfers instead of the expected waves.


Finally, significant furnishings in the church are really limited to the font (above right) since there is no old woodwork of note.  (The roofs appear to have been entirely renewed save only for the chancel wall plates.)  The font stands on a tall stem decorated with blank arches and looped crosses on the faces of the bowl (albeit not to the west, where, presumably, the sculptor didn't consider it worth the trouble to add even this very basic decoration).   The church was very thoroughly restored by the Plymouth architect, Edmund Stedding, in 1892 (church guide), so much of the foregoing assumes he did so faithfully.