All Saint’s Church

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This is on the tourist map as Vaughn Williams was the son of the vicar and born in the old vicarage in 1872. There is an exhibition about him under the tower. Many people just call in to see this and ignore the rest of the church. This is a shame as it is quite an interesting church, meriting a visit in its own right.

The church was built by the Knights Templars in 1265 and is a fine example of Early English architecture.

It is a cruciform church with a solid square battlemented tower at the west end, topped by a tall spire. Entry is through the south porch which has a square doorway with blank shields above. Empty niches would have contained statues. There is a small step into the church.

Inside the side aisles are very narrow, The north arcade has round Norman pillars with pointed arches above. Look carefully at the carved capitals for the horseshoes. The arches have small red flowers painted under them, a reminder of the symptoms of the Black Death. The south arcade has a mixture of pillar styles. One has a red painted cross.

Walls are whitewashed and the wooden beam ceiling is supported on stone corbels with painted shields. Across the chancel is a beautiful 19thC rood screen with panelled base with delicate tracery above. A fan vaulted ceiling supports the rood loft with crucifix with the figures of the Virgin and St John on either side.

The pulpit is also 19thC and has similar carving to the panels of the rood screen. Above is a sounding board with an open fretwork fringe.

The Hungerford Chapel in the north transept is enclosed by a beautifully carved parclose screen with a painted coat of arms on the base. There is Jacobean panelling round the base of the walls with carved arches. On the east wall is the splendid memorial to Sir James Hungerford and his son Anthony. They are facing each other across prayer desk. Dark arches support a half portico with carved figures and a coat of arms.

The Lady Chapel at the end of the south aisle is enclosed by a parclose screen and contains the tombs of Nicholas de Valers, a Knights Templar who assisted in the building of the church and his wife Margaret Bassett. She looked after the villagers while he was away on crusade. His is dark stone. He is lying in full armour with a shield and crossed legs. Hers is a paler stone and set under an ogee arch.

Above the altar is a painting of the Virgin and Child and there is a squint to the high altar.

I must confess we missed the Arnhem Memorial window with an image of a Dakota. Many of the troops dropped on Arnhem in 1944 flew from Down Ampney airfield and a remembrance service is held every year.

This is a very attractive church. The quality of the carving on the rood and parclose screen is excellent. The church is set well away from the present village, which moved north of the church after the Black Death. Next to the church is the splendid Down Ampney House.

The church is open daily and there is plenty of parking by the lych gate.

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