Hampnett, St George's Church
History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: Amazing Victorian stencil decoration
The Norman church of St George is set in a pretty Cotswold hamlet, about a mile from Northleach. The church dates to about 1125, with a 15th-century tower and south porch. Prior to the 18th century, the church was dedicated to St Matthew, but this changed to St George around 1743.
The chancel is almost entirely original 12th-century work, with a small round-headed window below the east gable. The blocked north doorway is 19th century, but it reuses an original Norman tympanum with diaper pattern carving.
While many of the architectural features of the church are original, the decoration of the chancel certainly isn't.
In 1871 the vicar of Hampnett, Rev. William Wiggin, painted the chancel, sanctuary, and nave windows in an astonishing ornate pattern of mock-medieval stencilling. Though Wiggin later claimed to have done all the painting himself, he may have been trying to claim credit for work done by the famous glass-making firm of Clayton & Bell, from Bristol.
To say that Wiggins' parishioners were unimpressed by his efforts to 'improve' their church is an understatement. They tried to raise money to have the paintings removed or covered with whitewash. Unfortunately for them, but fortunately for modern visitors, they could not raise enough money, and so the stencilling stayed.
The result is quite astounding; it seems that every surface is covered with intricate patterns of red and ochre, the designs becoming richer and more colourful as you near the sanctuary. The vaulted roof of the sanctuary (itself a wonderful example of Norman work) is covered in fantastically ornate designs that are reminiscent of Byzantine art in their complexity.
Much of the nave and chancel walls are stencilled in purple rectangles to look like stonework, with foliage decorations around door and window openings. Window openings in the choir are stencilled with star and flower patterns, and the sanctuary arch with a Norman zigzag motif.
Within the sanctuary, the walls are stencilled with flowers in blue, set in mock-masonry outlines in purple. The 12th-century roof of the sanctuary is divided into four parts by vaulting ribs, and each section has a seated figure, probably representing the Four Evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John).
At the west end of the nave is a lovely 15th-century font with quatrefoil carvings on each face. Under the tower is a 19th-century organ, its pipes decorated in a similar fashion to the masonry stencils. The pulpit is 20th century, but it incorporates original 17th-century panels. Opposite the pulpit is a rood stair, with a Tudor arch over the doorway.
On the north nave wall is a painting that formed part of the reredos during a remodelling in 1868. In the chancel are fragments of two grave slabs to members of the Hughes family, dated to around 1640. These features add to the overall warmth of this small country church, but it is really the extraordinary Victorian stencilling that will remain in your memory after visiting.
One other feature is worth mentioning; at the entrance to the churchyard is the stump of a medieval cross shaft, raised on a plinth. The church guide doesn't mention the cross, nor does the official English Heritage listing, but if I had to hazard a guess I'd say it is at least 15th century.
I've visited Hampnett church on at least 3 occasions, and each time I gain a greater appreciation of the church. The 19th-century decorative stencilling won't appeal to everyone; but it certainly does give an insight into the mentality of the time, and the fact that the vicar could install the stencilling without the approval of his parishioners says a lot about the Victorian age, too!VICTORIAN STENCILLING IMAGES
Address: Hampnett, Cotswolds, Gloucestershire, England, GL54 3NW
Attraction Type: Historic Church
Location: In the centre of Hampnett village, off either the A427 or A40. Parking along the verge.
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
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12th century (Time Period) - 13th century (Time Period) - 15th century (Time Period) - 17th century (Time Period) - 18th century (Time Period) - 19th century (Time Period) - Decorated (Architecture) - GE Street (Person) - Medieval (Time Period) - Norman (Architecture) - Tudor (Time Period) - Victorian (Time Period) -
NEARBY HISTORIC ATTRACTIONS
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low to exceptional) on historic interest
Northleach, St Peter and St Paul - 1 miles (Historic Church)
Turkdean, All Saints Church - 1.3 miles (Historic Church)
Yanworth, St Michael's Church - 1.7 miles (Historic Church)
Stowell, St Leonard's Church - 1.8 miles (Historic Church)
Hazleton, St Andrew's Church - 2 miles (Historic Church)
Compton Abdale, St Oswald - 2.6 miles (Historic Church)
Notgrove, St Bartholomew's Church - 2.7 miles (Historic Church)
Salperton, All Saints - 3 miles (Historic Church)
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