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English Church Architecture.


RIPLEY, All Saints  (SE 283 605),


(Bedrock:  Carboniferous Namurian Series, Millstone Grit Group.)


A moderately large church of rather incompetent external appearance

but also considerable interest.

The history of this church is complex but its origins are reasonably well established for it was rebuilt on a new site following the collapse of an earlier building (tellingly known as 'the sinking chapel') in the mid to late fourteenth century, as a result of damage caused by subsidence or a landslide.  The new church (seen above from the southwest, and at the foot of the page, from the southeast) seems initially to have been formed of a chancel with a two-storeyed appendage approximately halfway along the south wall, a nave with a N. aisle, and a short W. tower.  The chancel appendage may have consisted of a small chantry chapel below and a single-cell dwelling for the chantry priest above (cf. similar extensions at Gipping, Hessett and Hitcham in Suffolk, and at Toddington in Central Bedfordshire), but if so, it must have been altered only a few decades afterwards when a S. aisle and a N. chapel were added, instigating the enlargement of its counterpart opposite for reasons of balance, thereby creating a new chantry chapel between the original two-storeyed structure and the new S.  aisle, and allowing the redesignation of the erstwhile chantry chapel (if that is what it had been) as a vestry.   The church may then have remained in this form for about a century and a half  until, in 1567, the tower was heightened and given its prominent southeast stair turret, as witnessed by the date in the tower staircase buttress, and perhaps contemporaneously, the nave clerestory was added (E.R. Bishop, A Short History of All Saints' Church, Ripley, 1999, p. 5.).  The N. and S. porches are nineteenth century work.  The south porch is dated by an inscription on the east wall, inside:  'In memory of Quintin Acomb, this porch was erected by his friends, 1863.'


Considering these parts of the building in more detail therefore, Pevsner ascribed the initial rebuilding to c. 1395 (Nikolaus Pevsner & Enid Radcliffe, The Buildings of England: Yorkshire West Riding, Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1967, pp. 401-402), albeit with the employment of some 're-used thirteenth century materials', but does the reconstruction have to be this late?  Nearly all the windows now derive from the restoration of 1862 (A Short History of All Saints' Church, p. 7), but the porch inner doorways are old, as is the S. door itself, with vertical boarding and its original iron strap hinges, and the two and three-light windows in the N. chapel, with Decorated reticulated tracery beneath segmental arches, may also be largely mediaeval, in which case, could they have been re-set from former positions in the N. chancel N. wall, which might push its date back, nearer to the mid century?  (See the photograph below right.)  Inside the church, the five-bay N. arcade has circular piers with shallow, irregularly-octagonal capitals, which justify Pevsner's opinion of them as re-used thirteenth century work, but the arches above are ambiguous:  the flat-chamfered outer order is perfectly in keeping with the columns below but it is difficult to know exactly what to make of the excrescent keeled roll round the inner order.  (The photograph, left, shows the second N. pier from the west.)  The chancel arch is constructed in the style of the S. arcade, but a piscina and credence shelf in the chancel S. wall (illustrated below left), with trefoil-cusped ogee arches, suggests a date not much later than c. 1360, though it could, of course, be re-used.  The tower lower stage is diagonally-buttressed and has a three-light restored(?) W. window with supermullioned tracery, split 'Y's, and a quatrefoil in the oculus.  The tower arch is very tall and formed of two flat-chamfered orders, the outer one dying into the wall and the inner, continuing down the jambs.


















The S. arcade is composed of octagonal piers with deeper, regularly-octagonal capitals, with double-flat-chamfered arches above.  (See the second pier from the west, illustrated above right.)  Both the N. and the S. arcades end short of the chancel arch, leaving space for wall pieces pierced by a low, double-flat-chamfered segmental arches dying into the wall on either side, and the southern one of these is occupied by a tomb chest commemorating Sir Thomas Ingilby (1290-1369), who, according to legend, was knighted by Edward III for saving him from a wild boar (hence giving name to the inn opposite the church).  Sir Thomas wears a basinet and camail and rests his feet on a lion, while his wife, Lady Edeline, wears a wimple and rests her feet on a dog. The couple's six children and two saints support the sides of the chest, most of them now headless! 


The tower upper stage and the attached stair turret are curious additions to the building as the former is manifestly too narrow to sit properly on the tower below, the stair turret is crude and poorly integrated with the tower itself, and the two tiers of two-light bell-openings would hardly even constitute a single tier of aesthetically satisfactory size.  The most convincing explanation for this incompetent work is that it was made necessary by the failure of the upper parts of the original construction, and that the mason called in to make good the damage was sufficiently aware of his own limitations to proceed with caution - for example, by limiting the size of his wall openings. 


Other features to notice in the church include the fourteenth century parclose screen between the S. aisle and chapel, believed to have been the rood screen from the 'sinking chapel', suitably cut down to fit its new position.  It is a rather cumbrous affair with  an ogee central opening carved from a single thick piece of oak. The sides now consist of two, one-light divisions and the top rail is castellated.    


The tomb chest against the S. wall of the sanctuary (illustrated below left) commemorates Sir William Ingilby (1546-1617), who is seen in full armour as one would expect by this date, albeit that his helmet stands by his feet.  Shields decorate the chest, and above, a long inscription proclaims Sir William's merits in great detail, on a cartouche surmounted by a typical seventeenth century "emblem of mortality" - in this case, a curious winged skull with an hour glass balanced on top.


















Finally, the panelled chancel roof (shown above right) is presumably Victorian but no less attractive for being so.  The ribs and bosses are painted and gilded and the panels, decorated with floral and leaf patterns in red, yellow and sage on a pale pink-brown background.