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English Church Architecture.


HOVINGHAM, All Saints  (SE 667 758),


(Bedrock:  Upper Jurassic, Ampthill Clay Formation.)

A largely rebuilt church that retains its late Saxon tower and contains within a large, eighth century, carved stone panel.

This is a building that dates chiefly from 1860, when the aisled nave, chancel and S. chapel were all reconstructed by Rhode Hawkins in a competent but unremarkable geometric style that Pevsner did not even deign to mention (The Buildings of England: North Yorkshire, Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1966, pp. 193-194).  It is certainly the case that the significant work lies entirely in the late Saxon tower, however, and in the earlier Saxon fragments that have been preserved in various places.


The tower (shown below left, from the southeast) is built in three unbuttressed stages, rising to two-light bell-openings with central, recessed baluster mullions, like those at Appleton-le-Street and St. Beneítís church in Cambridge. The massive W. doorway is formed by an arch of two orders, the outer bearing a great roll that continues down the jambs.  The tower arch to the nave (below right) is deep and unmoulded, and punctuated only by small projecting abaci with chamfered under-edges.  The masonry consists of massive stone blocks with no real evidence of long-and-short work.  The date could be around the time of the Conquest or even slightly later for some work was certainly done by Saxon builders under Norman oversight in the late eleventh century.


Yet be that as it may, still more important than the tower at Hovingham is the Saxon sculpture the church preserves, most notably the panel of c. 800 (shown below) which now forms the reredos in the S. aisle.  It was found in the tower masonry in 1924 and moved to this position, so it is very worn, but it is significant because of its early date, deduced in part by its general similarity to the Hedda Stone in Peterborough Cathedral.  Eight figures are depicted beneath round arches and above a panel of entwined vine leaves.  The outermost figures are both angels, facing towards the centre, while the second from the left would appear to be St. Mary, receiving Gabrielís message.  Unfortunately, the other figures are damaged beyond recognition.


Also removed from the walls of the tower in 1924, was the fragment of a Viking cross, now given a prominent place in the chancel. This displays intertwined ribbon beasts and strapwork, the work, perhaps, of c. 1000.  Still in the tower walls, however, are two crosses, one above the S. bell-openings, which is perhaps tenth century work, and one in the W. wall above the doorway, which it has been suggested could date from as early as c. 680 judging from its similarity with the pectoral cross of St. Cuthbert (d. 687).


Finally, also to be seen in the church are some later mediaeval features, re-used by Rhode Hawkins in his reconstruction.  The most notable of these is the Norman-Transitional S. doorway, with two flat-chamfered orders to the arch and one order of shafts, of which that on the left has a waterleaf capital. The chancel retains two restored Norman windows and one partially renewed lancet in the N. wall.