English Church Architecture -
KINLET, St. John the Baptist (SO 711 810) (August 2010)
(Bedrock: Carboniferous Westphalian Series, Halesowen Formation)
This is a large church for its location (shown above from the southeast), built of buff stone and situated alone in pleasant open countryside. Its most striking feature on approach is its timber-framed clerestory, restored in 1892 (church guide) but probably late fifteenth or early sixteenth century in origin, lit by four pairs of two-light trefoil-cusped windows. However, this excepted, two principal periods of construction are evident in the building: the Norman-Transition c. 1190 - 1210 and the pre-ogee Decorated period c. 1300-15. The first one is dominant inside for this is the date of the excellent aisle arcades (viewed below, from the west), each composed of three round arches with unmoulded outer orders and flat-chamfered inner orders, supported on circular piers with circular capitals. The capitals to the S. arcade are slightly more prominent, while the piers below are noticeably slenderer, suggesting they are a decade or two later. The sudden break above the arcades, where the slender clerestory rests on the thick Norman walls, is less satisfactory in appearance, but the clerestory must surely have brought some much needed light into a formerly very dark building.
The inner doorway of the S. porch is pointed and thirteenth century in date, but it reuses part of an earlier tympanum and a lintel below with a line of carved saltires. (See the photograph below left.) Another Norman remnant to be seen in the building is the round head of a small window, blocked up in the chancel N. wall. Both these may predate construction of the N. arcade, while the S. arcade may be contemporary with the lower parts of the tower, lit by narrow lancets. The tower rises in three stages, which are characterized by the curiously narrow central stage pierced by two lancets to the north and west. The bell-stage is probably an early Perpendicular addition to judge by the straightened reticulation units in the heads of the two-light bell-openings. (See Appendix 2 for some close-dated examples of this tracery shape, albeit in eastern counties of England.) The tower is surmounted by battlements and corner pinnacles. Inside, the very wide tower arch rests on responds of three orders, the innermost of which has attached semicircular shafts with capitals decorated with stiff leaf and faces. The relatively long S. porch looks renewed from the sides but the outer doorway is mediaeval (see the photograph below right): the arch carries two rolls with fillets above three orders of worn shafts, each topped by a pair of stiff leaf capitals. The hood-mould and label stops are modern additions.
The pre-ogee Decorated years at Kinlet are represented by the chancel and transeptal chapels leading off to north and south. Since the aisles are pierced only by small rectangular slits, responsibility for lighting the church falls entirely on the clerestory and chancel and chapel windows. The N. and S. windows to the chapels are three-light with intersecting cusped tracery, pointed trefoils in the heads of the lights, and daggers in the reticulation units above. The five-light E. window to the chancel (illustrated below left) takes similar design elements further: the lights here are very sharply pointed and provided with elongated cinquefoil-cusping while the tracery intersections above, stop short of the head of the window to make room for a sexfoil in a circle. This non-standard pattern is almost an exact copy of the E. window at neighbouring Stottesdon, suggesting they are the work of one and the same man. Going inside the church again, the restored chancel arch is composed of three orders bearing rolls with fillets, supported on three orders of shafts with a fillet on the innermost. The arches from the aisles to the transepts look more like late fourteenth century work with their sunk quadrant and two flat chamfers, all three of which mouldings die into the jambs. The arches from the chancel to the transepts carry a complex series of mouldings above semi-quatrefoil responds.
The S. chapel has a piscina to the right of the altar and a double aumbry to the left. A recumbent effigy of a woman in the southeast corner of the chapel, with a child by her side, is believed to represent Isobel Cornwall, who seems to have died in childbirth in the early fifteenth century. The N. transept contains a huge standing monument (shown above right) dated 1581, backed up against the N. wall. It commemorates Sir George Blount of Kinlet, who died in that year, together with his wife Constantia, and features carved figures of the couple, standing apart, between fluted Ionic columns, supporting pairs of Gothic arches above - a curious combination. Finally, other monuments in the church include a number of significant wall monuments in the chancel, and, in particular, two elaborate tomb-chests, one each to the north and south. Upon the latter lie two straight-legged recumbent effigies, considered to represent Sir Humphrey Blount (d. 1477) and his wife Elizabeth. Cusped arches around the tomb-chest are occupied by a series of skilfully-carved figures, unfortunately now largely defaced. (See the photograph below.) The effigies lying on the tomb-chest to the north, are those Sir John Blount (d. 1531) and his wife Catherine, who is depicted here wearing a wimple. The figures around the tomb-chest are believed to depict the couple’s five sons and six daughters while two pairs of dragons between them hold shields.