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St James, Wilton
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We came here fairly early in the morning on a day of heavy rain, and not unreasonably we found the church still locked. But there was a welcoming notice telling us how much they'd like us to see inside, and when I rang up the number on the notice a very friendly man hurried round and opened up for us. We stepped into a large, rather austere interior, dust falling through the white light, and a patina of age on the survivals of 14th and 15th Century triumphs. Despite the friendly welcome there was a rather sad air to the place - it didn't lift the heart. The 19th century restoration adds a slightly urban feeling, but the space and silence of the nave are enough to maintain a sense of the numinous. The best feature of the nave is an excellent range of 15th Century benches, with traceried backs. There are a number of good bench ends, the best of which shows a Wilton shepherd with his flock. Another shows two women talking, one of them in a doorway. Does it represent the Act of Mercy of sheltering the homeless? Or could it possibly be Mary and Elizabeth meeting at the Visitation? Another shows a man on his hands and knees. It is hard to think that he is doing anything other than being sick, and thus may represent the Sin of Gluttony.
There are shallow image niches set into the eastern splays of some of the great windows, and there is a good piece of 20th century glass in the north side of the nave. It depicts the Crucifixion, somewhat in the style of Christopher Whall, and is signed UA 1947. I wonder who the artist was.
Simon Knott, July 2009
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