A Brief History of Kemble Church
In the year 682 Cedwalla, King of Wessex, gave a grant of land in Kemble to Aldhelm, the Abbot of Malmesbury. It is certain that a church was built about that date. Present records show that a stone building was erected consisting of a nave, south aisle, chancel and western tower between 1100 and 1250. The south porch was built by William de Collerne, Abbot of Malmesbury, in 1280. The tower dates back to about 1250, thespire to about 1480 and the font to 1350. In 1823 the church and spire were severely damaged by lightning during a storm on the 29th December and was not in use for a long time. A large part of the church was rebuilt in 1872-73 and the spire restored in 1964.
The church is in the early English style except for the south chapel. The north aisle was a new addition; otherwise the original stone was used. On the south east buttresses are four 13th century coffin lids with crosses, used to patch the tower. The early English south porch with an image niche above the doorway of keeled roll moulding is worthy of notice.
The south chapel, which is reputed to have been built from the stone of a church at Ewen, has a fine moulded trefoil sedila and piscine, a tomb recess of 1320, and three perpendicular windows. The organ and ease, dated 1788, is almost unique. Only two of its kind were ever built. It was given in memory of the late SJ.Phillips, and is in this chapel, which has been furnished with an altar and chairs by Mr W.S.Boycott in memory of members of his family.
The pulpit was installed at the 1872 restoration, and the very handsome lectern about 1900.
The litany desk was given in memory of the late Mr Horton. Following the removal of the organ to the south aisle, the north
chapel, used as vestry, was restored by the efforts of the late Mr H.R.Roberts. There is an elaborate triple lancet window and a
rose window which some say came from Salisbury Cathedral. The very open chancel with lancet windows contains a Priest stall
given in memory of a past Vicar, the wall at the back of the alter is tiled with inscriptions of the Apostles' Creed, The Lord’s Prayer andthe Ten Commandments.
The plain octagonal font on a modern base is 14th century. Note the Hanoverian Coat-of-Arms over the doorway.
The monuments of an effigy of a knight,1290, in Purbeck marble, and of Elizabeth Coxe, 1783, Ann Coxe,1790, and Charles Coxe,1808, are fine examples of the period.
The Church yard was closed at the end of the last century and contains some old vaults. The great Yew tree is generally considered to date from Anglo Saxon times: a more recent legend says that Roundheads tied their horses to it in the Civil War. It contains a new tree growing in the trunk of the old one, and experts have given assurance that the tree will live for many years.
On leaving the church yard, note the two mass dials on the south east and south west corners of the tower, used before the days of the resident Priest to show when mass would next be celebrated.
There is a belfry and six bells with no connection to the church itself.
The Millenium Window
Photos © Elaine Kemp