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English Church Architecture.

 

KEDINGTON, St. Peter & St. Paul  (TL 705 470),

SUFFOLK. 

(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Upper Chalk.)

A large building containing an exceptional collection of church woodwork.

 

The visitor who finds this church locked must needs go in search of the key since most of its interest resides in its furnishings.  The building itself, although quite large, it is not of great significance.  Consisting of a W. tower with a southeast stair turret, an aisled nave with a S. porch, and a chancel now with an exceptionally low-pitched roof, it is constructed of flint, pebble rubble, Roman brick and septaria, with limestone dressings, and shows a half-hearted attempt at flint chequerwork beneath the tower W. window.  The chancel windows have cusped Y-tracery to the sides, of which three are old and suggestive of a date around 1300.  (See the N. window illustrated left.)  Other windows in the building are mostly untraceried and Perpendicular.  The tall tower is diagonally buttressed and the line of the earlier, much steeper nave roof, is preserved on its E. wall.  The porch inner doorway carries a complex series of rolls and wave mouldings. The five-bay nave arcades consist of double-flat-chamfered arches, rising from compound piers composed of wide semi-octagonal shafts (now painted to appear fluted) with capitals towards the openings, and semi-octagonal shafts to north and south that lead without capitals into the outer chamfer.  (See the N. arcade, illustrated right.)  This is difficult to ascribe closely but probably dates from the fifteenth century.  The chancel arch, which bears just a single flat chamfer, is Early English in its upper part, but the heavy rectangular imposts appear to be Norman. There is no nave clerestory, in consequence of which three skylights were cut through the sixteenth century, false hammerbeam nave roof in 1857.  Aesthetically this is most unsatisfactory (although the roof is not of especially high quality), but it probably made good practical sense.

 

There is, besides, enough fine and unusual woodwork in this church to satisfy the most assiduous student of mediaeval carpentry.  The entire interior seems filled with excellent pieces, the most important of which are most easily listed:

 

1.   First in order of size is the hall pew of the Barnardistons (illustrated left and below left), erstwhile Lords of the Manor, to the northwest of the chancel arch. It has been dated 1610 and is surrounded by a high screen some 10 feet high (over 3 m.), which Pevsner identified as originally forming a fifteenth century rood screen.  It now creates a space five bays by two and supports a panelled canopy. The dado is decorated with double-cusped blank arches (trefoil cusping within cinquefoils), which is repeated in the openwork arches above. These in turn are decorated above by crockets, behind and above which there is a frieze of four-light Perpendicular openings displaying the East Anglian cruciform lobing motif in some of their heads.  The pew is divided into two sections.

 

2.  Southeast of the chancel arch there is a magnificent three-decker pulpit which D.P. Mortlock (The Popular Guide to Suffolk Churches,  Cambridge, The Lutterworth Press, 2009, p. 281) considers to be the best in England.  (See the photographs, right and below right.)  The lower decks are for the readers and clerk, the last of which has his own wig pole.  Behind this is the octagonal pulpit itself, with a heavy, panelled tester above and where for the minister (or perhaps for the congregation!) there is another pole, this time to hold an hour glass, whereby the preacher could time his sermons.  This work is also Jacobean and especially well executed.

3.  The nave and aisles contain an amazing jumble of pews, ranging in date from late Perpendicular through to Victorian times.  They are a delight for the visitor but must present the churchwardens with many problems.  The box pews in the N. aisle, for example, are of differing sizes, but all face south and not one of them gives a view into the chancel.  Together with the box pews in the E. end of the S. aisle and those at the front of the N. side of the nave, they make up an attractive but motley group of largely Georgian date.  By contrast, the nice group of benches in the rest of the nave date back to the late fifteenth or early sixteenth century.

4.  The rood screen is simple and clumsy by comparison with some of these pieces, with one-light divisions and a door that folds back.  It is remarkable, however, for having the date carved in one of the panels, in clear openwork numbers – '1619'.

5.  The semicircular gallery at the W. end is also heavy and dated by a note in the church to c. 1750. 

6.   The children’s benches at the W. end of the nave are stylistically similar and probably contemporary.

 

 

Kedington church also contains some important monuments, nearly all to various Lord Barnardistons, most of whom seem to have been called Thomas.   The S. aisle contains the most important, namely, in chronological order:

1.  to Sir Thomas Barnardiston (d. 1503) who is recorded as having paid for the present nave roof, and his wife, Elizabeth (d. 1526), a tomb-chest bearing two effigies, he clad in armour;

2. to a much later Sir Thomas (d. 1610), the largest altar tomb, adjoining a wall monument in which his two wives, Mary (d.1594) and Katherine (d.1632), are shown, beneath arches decorated with carved and painted shields and leaves, and set between black marble Corinthian columns;

3. to his son(?), Sir Thomas (d. 1619) and his wife Elizabeth, who predeceased him by thirty-five years (in 1584), with what appear to be their four children and four grandchildren, depicted kneeling on the side;

4. to one of those children, Grissel (d. 1609), who also predeceased her father by a decade, a kneeling figure set between columns.  The inscription reads:

'Loe heere the Image of Lyfe, new inspyr'd
Too wise: too choice: too olde in youthful breath:
Too deare to Frendes, too much of men desier'd
Therefore bereft us by untymely death:
While shee trod earth, she rais'd her mynd farre Higher
Her Actions faire, unstayn'd of vice, or pride.
Truth was her loade starre, heav'ne was her desier
Christ was her hope & in his Fayth shee dyde.'