Saturday, 20 October 2012

St George, Beckington

The attractive village of Beckington is, according to Pevsner’s Buildings of England, ‘uncommonly rich in worth-while stone houses’. It also has an impressive church, tucked away along a short lane from the village crossroads.

The village has a substantial entry in the Domesday Book, although there is no mention of a church. But during the Norman period a substantial church was built, with the impressive tower that we see today. The chancel was rebuilt in the 13th century and the nave rebuilt, and much of the fabric renewed, in the 15th century.

On entering the churchyard, the tower impresses by both its size and the quality of decoration on its bell openings, with paired round-headed arches within a wider arch with zig-zag decoration and blank arcading either side. Inside the tower there is a Perpendicular fan vault. The rest of the interior is rather scraped, although whitewash has been applied to the bare stonework in the chancel. Apart from a Decorated window in the chancel, most of the internal detail, including the elegant but low arcades and the clerestory, are Perpendicular Gothic.

At the east end of the north aisle is some stone panelling and a niche, doubtless once flanking a side chapel altar. The church abounds in interesting corbels, mostly in the form of human heads, but the north aisle has two in the form of seated beasts (one clearly a sheep). The nave roof has an interesting Queen post roof, with cusped struts.

The church has some excellent fixtures and fittings. The chancel has two tombs dating from around 1370: the larger has a knight and lady in a recess, decorated on the outside with vigorous blank arcading. Adjacent is a similar effigy, this time of a lady, under a simpler arched recess. On the chancel floor, a pair of remarkably well preserved brasses depict John St Maur (d. 1485) and his wife. An early 16th Century brass in the south chapel to the Compton family was inaccessible on my visit.

A further brass on the south aisle wall commemorates Thomas Webb (d. 1585), a local cloth merchant. Above is a separate brass with his merchant’s mark. Above the south door that is a real rarity - the Royal Arms of Elizabeth I, dated 1574, carved in stone and brightly painted. The font beneath is octagonal, with a plain circular stem ringed by eight further shafts. The adjacent south chapel has an attractive Jacobean screen. Back to the north aisle, the wall monument to Samuel Daniel (1562-1619), the poet laureate who was a contemporary of Shakespeare, is an accomplished early example of the then new Classical style.

The church has a very active parish, hosting both traditional and modern family worship, and on my visit the walls were screened with lovely examples of the children’s art work.

St George, Church Street, Beckington, Frome, Somerset BA11 6TG

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