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Kenton, Devon
 
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In a hollow by the river Kenn, KENTON has on its green an ancient cross from Cornwall, and in its 15th century church a wonderful array of medieval carving. The village's great inheritance is this church, aglow with splendour indoors and out. The great tower is buttressed nearly to the top, and crowned with four corner turrets above the battlements, with small figures at each corner. The great windows are an impressive sight, and the parapets all round are richly pinnacled, with gargoyles everywhere. They keep watch on the porch, which has two Tudor doorways, the outer one adorned with a delicately carved and double-tiered canopy with a head at the foot, a border of foliage all round, and a window at each side with stone heads of Henry the Fourth and his queen. Henry looks down on us again from a pillar of the imposing white arcades of seven bays which contrast so pleasantly with the red walls. Their capitals are carved with leaves and small figures with linked arms as if for auld lang syne.

Across the church stretches the great screen given to Kenton in the 15th century by Bishop Courtenay, who put his badge on it. It is one of the loftiest we have seen, and though most of the top is modern the new is as fine as the old. There must be an eighth of a mile of lovely carving running along the screen and 150 bosses in its vaulting. No craftsman gave more lavishly of his art than the maker of this masterpiece, with its elaborate vine frieze and its handsome canopies. Round the doorway he put the Twelve Disciples, tiny figures three inches high, and on the gate are four Apostles, while among quaint devices at the back a fox is preaching. The 40 painted saints and prophets on the panels are still clearly seen. Where the carving has had to be renewed a place has been found for St George, his dragon, and angels playing harp and trumpet. There are two side screens with delicate tracery, and fragments of old bench-ends in a chapel to which we come by a lovely oak door from the chancel. The door is deeply carved, with three figures carrying shields under canopies and with linenfold below.

Second only to the magnificent chancel screen is the pulpit believed to have been made at the same time. We can hardly believe that it was thrown away last century, to make room for some machine-made pulpit and to be nearly lost for ever. Most of its carvings lay intact among the chalk and dusters of a cupboard in the village schoolroom, and happily someone recognised their value. Now it is back in its old place almost as beautiful as ever, with its painted saints looking out from rich canopies, Boniface and his niece Wal-burga, Aldhelm, Sidwell, and Petrock, who is said to have founded a church here on his journey round Devon in 560. Ripe vines twine round it and where they fall between the saints they are coloured in red, green, and gold. Round the bottom is cresting as delicate as lace.

The 20th century lectern has carved saints (Ambrose and Augustine, Jerome and Gregory), and there is yet one more bit of fine woodwork, for Kenton has something from Oberammergau. It is an altarpiece showing the Crucifixion, with angels flying round the cross. Below is the burial, and then the appearance to Mary in the garden and to the Disciples at Emmaus. In the sanctuary is a plaster plaque of Our Lord raising the dead, by Edward Stephens, ARA. There is a tablet to Arthur Longworth Dames, who finished 51 years as vicar herein 1887.

On the wall sits Dulcibella Hodges, who died and had to leave the child in a red dress kneeling at her feet in 1628. Her sister married the lord of the manor, but the home she knew has gone, and on its site at the foot of Great Haldon Hill is an 18th century house.

The King's England, Devon (1938) by Arthur Mee. Original transcription by CuriousFox, edited for watermarking purposes.



 
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