English Church Architecture -
HEMINGSTONE, St. Gregory (TM 144 537) (September 2008)
(Bedrock: Upper Cretaceous, Upper Chalk)
This is a pleasant little church (shown left, from the northeast), situated on a rise, in open rolling countryside. Push the door hard if it appears to be locked, for it opens reluctantly.
The building consists of a modest unbuttressed W. tower, a nave and chancel divided by a castellated tie beam and a change in floor level only (with the chancel raised two steps), and a small N. porch constructed in what appears to be Tudor brick, with diapering in dark headers and two-light windows formed of uncusped lights set in larger arches. Windows elsewhere in the church present a hotchpotch of thirteenth through to fifteenth century forms, which include to the south, three two-light windows, respectively from west to east, with Y-tracery, reticulated tracery and supermullioned tracery, and to the north, a three-light window with stepped castellated supertransoms beneath a segmental–pointed arch, to the west of the cross-gabled shed, and a two-light square-headed window with supermullioned tracery, to the west of the porch. The restored four-light chancel E. window has supermullioned tracery and castellated stepped supertransoms, and the three-light tower W. window has strong mullions and a supermullion above the central light. The tower rises in two stages to two-light reticulated bell-openings and battlements decorated with flint flushwork.
The interior of the building is light and airy, and notable chiefly for the large number of minor monuments it contains. The oldest (shown below left), against the N. wall of the nave, is sixteenth century in date and commemorates one, William Cantrell. It features an inscription between columns and beneath three shields, and an entablature supporting a semicircular tympanum carved to represent the sun or a shell, between short obelisks at the sides.
The chancel monuments include two high up on the N. wall, dedicated to John Brand (d. 1792) and his wife Elizabeth, and to Miss Emma Brand, each featuring a sarcophagus in a blank arch, while a third monument on the S. wall (shown above right), commemorating Robert Colville (d. 1799) of Hemingstone Hall, and his wife Amelia, by Humphrey Hopper (b. 1767), depicts a stage with curtains draped from columns. Hopper, in Gunnis’s memorable description (Dictionary of British Sculptors: 1660 - 1851, The Abbey Library, 1951) was “a competent, indeed occasionally a very good, sculptor, but he was at his very worst when given a commission for a large national monument.... as the lamentable mass of marble commissioned by the House of Commons to commemorate General Hay (1814) in St. Paul’s Cathedral only too clearly shows”. Here he has not excelled himself, with a design that verges on the crass.
Finally, the elaborate font deserves a mention, which displays on each of its eight faces, a cinquefoil-cusped arch-head and a quatrefoil above, beneath a crocketed gable.