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18 September 2014
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Clues from the Past in Kirtling Parish Church

By Carol Davidson Cragoe
Final thoughts

Image of an exterior wall showing blocked window
The exterior walls reveal centuries of rebuilding ©
Kirtling has developed and changed greatly over the years. Aisles were added to its cruciform Anglo-Saxon core. Then the central tower was taken down and replaced by a west tower.

A clerestory was added and the aisles were rebuilt. A porch and a chantry chapel were added. Repairs and restorations were made. Fittings were added - and removed. In short, it is a typical Anglican parish church. It is unique in the specifics of its development as it responded to local needs, but it is also universal in representing the ebbs and flows of English religion over 1,000 years.

'Chancels were enlarged, and chapels were added'

Whilst no two parish churches are alike, their development generally followed a consistent pattern. Most parish churches with medieval fabric have their origins in the Anglo-Saxon or early Norman period. When first built, they were either two-celled structures with only a nave and chancel, or cruciform, as at Kirtling.

They soon began to be enlarged. Common additions were aisles and towers, the latter usually at the west end. Chancels were enlarged, and chapels were added. Throughout this process of change and development, the central core of nave and chancel often remained largely intact. Finding it, however, is often a case of working backwards, mentally removing each layer of additions.

Published: 2005-02-01

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