Kingsland, St Michael & All Angels Church
Kingsland, St Michael & All Angels Church
A sizeable Norman church with particularly fine medieval stained glass. Kingsland church boasts a lovely 14th century chantry chapel, and a Victorian painted ceiling in the chancel.
The church was built between 1290-1310 by the powerful Mortimer family, who were responsible for so many churches in this area of north Herefordshire. Within the 13th century building are a pair of lancet windows salvaged from an earlier Norman church on the site. The church consists of a chancel, nave and side aisles, with a pair of side chapels. There is a west tower, which was heightened in the 15th century.

The Volka Chapel
The church is entered by way of a north porch. Off the porch is a small chapel, known as the Volka chapel. The origin of the name 'Volka' is the subject of spirited debate amongst historians. This very un-English sounding name might refer to a founder named Vaukel, or to Walter de Mortimer, a former rector who may have been buried here in 1315 ('Walter' becoming corrupted over time to become 'Volka').

Volka Chapel interior
Volka Chapel interior
Whatever the meaning of the unusual name, the chapel may have been built as a chantry, where masses would have been said for the soul of the founder, or as a special chapel for those killed at the nearby Battle of Mortimer's Cross (1461). Within the chapel is an empty stone coffin of medieval origin. When the coffin was opened in 1826 it was found to contain the bones of a woman and child.

The 14th century nave roof is timber-framed in king post style, with rounded clerestory windows giving light to the interior. The chancel boasts 14th century stained glass in the large east window, with the arms of Dame Matilda Mortimer, who presented the first recorded rector of St Michael's in 1285. The central panel of the window shows a figure of Christ and the Coronation of Mary, beneath which are the figures of four archangels. The north and south east windows of the chancel have further fragments of fine medieval glass. The striking chancel roof was painted by GF Bodley around 1866, and Bodley was also responsible for the lectern, stalls, and pulpit. At the west end of the nave stands a late 14th century octagonal font.

The chancel, and in particular the stained glass, is reckoned the historic highlight of St Michael's, but for my money its the simple little Volka Chapel that deserves special mention. Why was it built? By whom? The mystery just adds to its appeal.

Empty stone coffin, Volka Chapel
Empty stone coffin, Volka Chapel
Decorated tomb niche, Volka Chapel
Decorated tomb niche, Volka Chapel
South porch and Volka Chapel (left)
South porch and Volka Chapel (left)
Chancel ceiling by GF Bodley
Chancel ceiling by GF Bodley
Looking west down the nave
Looking west down the nave
Medieval stained glass detail
Medieval stained glass, east window
Chancel ceiling by GF Bodley
The east window
Early 18th century bell clappers display
Early 18th century
bell clappers display