The current Church of the St Nicholas, at Sydling St Nicholas, dates largely to the fifteenth century, with the tall tower being the oldest part of the building. However, it stands on the site of at least two earlier churches that go back to the earliest days of Christianity in the country.
We had been unable to get inside the church when we had come down to reconnoitre for the workshop weekend as it was in use, so this would be an adventure for all of us… we had no idea what we might find.
There are a good many unusual features. For a start, the church is covered in gargoyles, all of whom are up for adoption in an effort to raise funds to preserve the building. Gargoyles were working sculptures, designed to carry water away from the foundations of the building when it rained, while grotesques served either as decorations only or as a symbolic spiritual message… although there are many that seem to be a covert commentary by the mason, making a point about local notables.
Above the porch, an ascetic saint holds his finger skywards in blessing or warning. Most of these niches are now empty, but most parish churches would have had a similar statue before the Reformation. There is an old fireplace in the porch, where, one assumes, the parishioners could warm themselves in winter. I doubt if Cromwell’s Puritans would have approved of that either.
They certainly did not approve of the stained-glass, and little of the early glass survived their stones and muskets… just a few intriguing fragments placed in a frame and hung above the font at the base of the tower.
The font is a really curious affair, most unusual. It appears to have been made from a Roman column and set upon a later pedestal. Beside it, leaning forlornly against the wall, is another old basin, large enough to be a font.
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