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Tilsworth Church Architecture

Tilsworth Church about 1920
Tilsworth Church about 1920 [Z1130/124]

Common sense suggests that there was an Anglo-Saxon church in Tilsworth but none of it survives. The earliest known vicar, Roger Reinfrey, was in office in 1237. The medieval church consisted of a tower, a nave and chancel and a south aisle and, perhaps a south chapel.

 The church from the south March 2008
The church from the south March 2008

The earliest part of the fabric of the present church, the south arcade in the nave, dates to about 1300 or just after and the north wall was rebuilt at some time in the 14th century. Otherwise most of the rest of the church, including the tower, is a 15th century building rebuilt in the Perpendicular style (see W.D.Caröe's description below).

Church interior with font about 1910 
Church interior with font about 1910 [P130/28/5/6]

The font is 13th century and must be a survival from the earlier church, unless it was bought from somewhere else at a later date (though there is no documentary evidence to suggest this). The windows contain some fragments of medieval glass.

 Figure of a knight found walled up in the church
Figure of a knight found walled up in the church [P130/28/4]

During restoration work in 1905 some carved figures and other architectural fragments from the previous church were discovered on the north wall and sent for discussion by the Society of Antiquaries [P130/28/4]. The height of the figures was a little over two feet and church architect William Douglas Caröe described them thus: "These rude figures appear to be the work of the village mason, not that of the expert sculptor of the period, which I presume will be considered to be the latter half of the thirteenth century. Proportions and anatomy are pretty bad, but the details of the accoutrements are sufficiently well worked out….As to their significance, Mr.Hope has made the ingenious suggestion that they belong to a representation of the Martyrdom of Saint Thomas of Canterbury".

 Figures of knights found walled up in the church
Figures of knights found walled up in the church [P130/28/4]

Caröe noted that the figures were earlier than any part of the church fabric, which he described as: "Nave and south arcade, first half of the fourteenth century; chancel arch, first half of the fourteenth century; south aisle, first half of the fourteenth century, but with inserted fifteenth century windows. The south aisle is continued along the south side of the tower, which has a southern as well as an eastern arch…One or more western bays of the nave have been pulled down to make way for the tower. The date of the tower is about 1400. The present chancel is of the same date. It clearly takes the place of an earlier one. There was a chantry south of the chancel opening into it by an archway, but this chantry must have been removed when the present east window was inserted in the south aisle".

 Tilsworth church by night October 2007
Tilsworth church by night October 2007

Caröe went on: "I mention special points of interest indicating an earlier fabric than the present. A thirteenth century foliated capital was found used up in a fifteenth century buttress. Thirteenth century mouldings, being part of the meetings of the labels of an arcade, were found built up into the spandrils of the fourteenth century have arcade. A ledger with Norman French inscription is sued as a lintel to the fifteenth century north window of the chancel. There is part of a thirteenth century coffin lid in the floor. The font is a strange structure of uncertain date, probably thirteenth century or earlier".

 Tilsworth church from the north-west December 2008
Tilsworth church from the north-west December 2007

He finished his presentation by describing some other interesting features of the church: "There is a moulded stone slab forming a reredos which is of the date of the chancel, and no doubt formed the ground of a framed picture. There is a small added reredos on the south aisle of the chancel arch, and fourteenth century supports to a rood beam. There are some interesting incised crosses and shields of arms cut into the jambs of the south-west door. There is a canopied recess of the fourteenth century in the north wall".

 The church from the north about 1880
The church from the north about 1880 [P130/28/5/1]