( back to home page)

 

English Church Architecture.

 

KIRBY HILL, St. Peter & St. Felix  (NZ 140 066),

NORTH YORKSHIRE. 

(Bedrock:  Carboniferous Dinantian Subsystem, Alston Formation.)

 

An interesting church in 'a perfect village' (Pevsner).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the Kirby Hill four miles north-northwest of Richmond, where this important and relatively large church stands in a tiny Pennine village on a prominent ridge, looking out over the dales to the north and south.  The church consists of a chancel with a mediaeval N. vestry, an aisled nave, and a large Perpendicular W. tower with a prominent southeast stair turret.  The N. aisle is formed of three bays but the S. aisle, of only two, since it connects westwards to a cross-gabled porch.

 

The chancel is now essentially late thirteenth century in style, but its Norman-Transitional origins are evident from the remnants of a blocked round-headed doorway in the S. wall, and a blocked round-headed window with a chamfered surround, a little above and to the right (as shown in the photograph, above right).  A second round-headed window is visible inside, where it looks through to the later vestry.  The chancel was extended at  the time of its remodelling, for the S. wall's diminished thickness towards the west is revealed internally in the window splays.  The westernmost S. window with pre-ogee Decorated tracery of c. 1310 (illustrated above), to the left of the priest's doorway, may be contemporary with this remodelling or else a little later, for it almost certainly postdates the Y-traceried window to the right, as well as the chancel E. window, composed of three lancets set in an encompassing arch.   However, its design is replicated more or less faithfully in the E. window of the independently-gabled N. vestry, so either the vestry and the westernmost S. window were added when the chancel was reconstructed around the turn of the thirteenth century, or - which is more likely - the Y-traceried S. window and three-light E. window date from the reconstruction of c. 1280,  and the westernmost S. window and N. vestry represent further modifications, two or three decades later.  Inside the church, the severely damaged chancel arch is formed of a flat-chamfered outer order and an unmoulded inner order, rising from two orders of narrow semicircular shafts, both to the west and east, with astragals about halfway up and round the capitals.  (See the N. respond, illustrated below left.)  The E. respond to the N. arcade is similar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The remainder of the N. arcade is Decorated and formed of arches bearing one wide and one narrow chamfer carried on stout octagonal piers with (for this period - the early fourteenth century) characteristically prominent capitals, the usual astragals below, and little broaches immediately above, connecting the capitals with the narrow outer chamfer.   (See the photograph above right, taken from the southwest.)  The west end dies into the wall.  The two-bay S. arcade is similar to its counterpart, yet just sufficiently different both in the form of the capitals and, more especially, in having a semi-octagonal respond at either end, to show it is somewhat later.  It appears also to be integral with the porch, which adjoins it to the west.  The porch has a tunnel vault, an outer doorway bearing a wide hollow and an inner doorway carrying two sunk quadrants.  Sunk quadrant mouldings, although by no means confined to the period, do appear to have been particularly favoured in the late fourteenth century, and that could be the date here. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is certainly the date of the impressive W. tower, at least according to Nikolaus Pevsner (in the North Riding of Yorkshire volume of The Buildings of England, Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1966,  who recorded 'a worn inscription' on the southwest buttress, dating it to 1397.   (The present writer was unable to decipher it.)  Accepting this as the case therefore, the tower provides some valuable evidence of the early Perpendicular style in this area.  It rises in three stages to battlements, supported by diagonal buttresses and lit by a steeply pointed W. window with supermullioned tracery but still with trefoil-cusped lights, accompanied by a very prominent semi-octagonal stair turret projecting at the southeast angle.  Inside, it has an octopartite ribbed vault beneath the bell-chamber (shown above left), with the usual central circular hole to allow for the passage of the bell-ropes.  However, the steeply-pointed, almost triangular tower arch (above right), formed of two flat-chamfered orders dying into the wall, seems to belong, at least in spirit, to the thirteenth century building.  Immediately above it, the fossilized gable line of the pre-clerestory nave roof can still be seen.  The clerestory is a late Perpendicular addition formed of two-light windows beneath segmental arches.