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Kirk Hammerton

Dedication : St John the Baptist   Simon Jenkins: Excluded                                   Principal Features : Incorporates original Anglo-Saxon church.

Kirk Hammerton is another of those unheralded churches that doesnít appear in the popular church books but which certainly repays a visit. We found it only because of seeing a wall chart of the local churhes in Ripon Cathedral.

Kirk Hammerton dates from around 950AD. Its Anglo-Saxon tower is complete, unchanged and a delight to behold. Its south aisle is also Saxon although it has suffered from some depredations, especially with the replacement of the original windows and doors but it has changed little since the Norman alterations in around 1150. The tower and south aisle were undoubtedly the original Anglo-Saxon church, largely intact to this day. The tower arch and the south side chapel arch are also untouched Saxon.

The Normans left us a lancet window in the south aisle wall and a curious arrangement of sedilia and piscina. The latter is believed to incorporate the Norman bowl of a pillar piscina, but nobody seems to advance any evidence for this. Indisputably it is ancient, but I canít work out who would have carried out this work and why. If it was the Normans why would they have used the top of a pillar piscina? Maybe they re-used a Saxon artefact. is anyone able to shed any light on this?

The rest of the church has suffered from two waves of rebuilding in 1834 and 1891. The North aisle has been badly treated.

There is a lot of wall painting that presumably dates from the Victorian ďre-furbishmentĒ. Itís all a bit messy architecturally, but there is plenty of interest here and the tower alone is worth a short detour from the madness of the A1M!

The Anglo-Saxon south door has been heavily restored on the right side, but what is left of the original is a fine example of Saxon stonework.

The date of the south arcade is not obvious but it looks Early English. The Saxon south aisle and the Saxon door to the side chapel can be seen in the background.

Looking toward the chancel. As can be seen, architecturally everything is a bit of a mess! The north aisle is whitewashed, the south (thankfully!) is not. The arcades are of different heights as well as styles. A saxon doorway to the south side chapel can be glimpsed to the right. Yet, on the whole, this is a pleasant church, well kept and light.

The south chapel. There is a deeply-splayed Early English lancet window (left) and the outline of the original saxon one can be clearly seen. To the right is a larger Norman window dating from 1150. Below the EE window can be seen a curiously crude sedilia and to its left the cobbled-together wall piscina.

The peculiar south chapel piscina.

Piscina bowl. This is assumed by all to Norman, but I canít see any particular reason why it should not be Saxon. The design is indistinct. Isnít it just as likely that the alterations of 1150 incorporated the re-use of something from the Saxon church?

Looking from the chancel arch - somewhat brutally restored on its right side - to the unspoilt Anglo- Saxon tower arch.

The lovely saxon west door. There are signs of crude ornamentation on the left capital.

The glory of this church: its tower, unchanged since around 950AD

The deep bifora that puncture each of the faces of the tower in its topmost story. The arches are typically crude. The pillar is quite fine by comparison but seems almost inadequate for the hefty masonry block it supports.

Evidence of a lost Saxon doorway in the wall of the south aisle.

Footnote

We found this unusual item on the war memorial opposite the church. Unusual because only about 26 men were killed from the Anglo-French force (I am unable to find out precisely how many were British) and one came from this tiny village. How many more men of Kirk Hammerton were killed down the centuries, forgotten and uncommemorated, in long-forgotten battles and wars?