Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Church of St. Thomas à Becket

The Church of St. Thomas à Becket is a most picturesque structure, and, placed as it is in a square of old tiled houses, makes a delightful picture. It consists of a nave with two aisles, a chancel with aisles, and a vestry room. It was built in 1240 by Bishop Bingham. The embattlemented tower has in its south front two niches containing much mutilated figures of the Virgin and Child and St. Thomas à Becket.

In the porch is a very curious panel with a biblical subject rudely carved by Humphrey Beckham, who died, aged eighty-eight, in 1671, and left this as his memorial. The most striking feature of the interior is the large painting above the chancel arch, representing the Day of Judgment, in the naïve manner of its time. Most works on ecclesiastical mural decoration mention it as one of the most important examples that have come down to us. Other paintings in the south aisle were brought to light by Mr. G.E. Street during the restoration in 1867. Without and within it is a building hardly less worth study than the cathedral itself.

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