Blog of Avington Church visit

It was a beautiful warm sunny evening when 12 members of SASHA met up in the Stockcross Village Hall car park on Monday 25th June. We fitted ourselves into four cars for the short journey along the Hungerford to the Avington turn off and then along the tree lined avenue. We all had a copy of the Avington Church booklet courtesy of David Peacock which he had researched and written in 1991. The church is privately owned and special permission was needed to be arranged to gain access. A local lady met us with the key and gave us a guided tour of the church.

It is a small Norman church erected in the 12th century which luckily largely escaped the attention of Victorian "improvements". It has the typical 12th century Norman chevron style decoration around the main doorway. The chancel arch features a row of grotesque heads with pointed protruding tongues the stonework sags in the middle where the church walls had pushed out, centuries ago. To the knowledgeable eye the traces of ribs stones shows that the original intention was to vault the roof of the chancel. It is not known if the stonemasons were warned by the sagging chancel arch that the stone work would not take the weight of vaulting or if they went ahead and the vault collapsed.

There are several interesting carving in the church but the most intriguing item is the font. There are 13 figures carved into the sides under 11 round-headed arches. Some of the characters are badly worn but have been carved with individual attention to detail. Various commentators have made suggestions of who the people might be, mostly churchmen like bishops or monks plus the devil and perhaps the beheaded Saint Alban. We wished we had more knowledge and so be able to advance our own theories but alas we didn't but if was a fascinating object.

Outside of the church is HUGE cedar tree of unknown age but it must be several hundred years old looking at its girth behind that is a slightly smaller specimen. It certainly makes a picturesque scene and featured in our photographic attempts. The cemetery has some grave stones standing most of which are difficult if not impossible to read and is not kept up neatly but perhaps allowed to run wild on purpose.

After this most enjoyable visit some of us retired to the Red House at Marsh Benham to enjoy the last of the warm sunshine with a chilled beverage. A big thank you to Viv for organising the visit and the Vicar of Kintbury in whose benefice the church stands. The Hungerford Virtual Museum has more images and information for anyone with further interest. www.hungerfordvirtualmuseum.co.uk