Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Neglected Comper work in Buckinghamshire

Great Kimble, Buckinghamshire

Great Kimble church sits on the busy A4010 that links Aylesbury and Princes Risborough in Buckinghamshire and hundreds of people pass by the church each day. How many are aware that this church contains a great treasure? A beautiful side chapel with fittings by Sir Ninian Comper, dating from the first years of the twentieth century. In truth it seems that the church people of Great Kimble are blissfully unaware of it too. The church guide book makes no mention of Comper and when I visited the church earlier in the year the chapel was being used as a dumping ground for all the rubbish it didn't want to store elsewhere. The altar was obscured by a couple of Victorian altar rails and stacks of chairs. Anyway once all this detritus is cleared away a beautiful Comper ensemble appears, which is the glory of this otherwise fairly ordinary building. Comper screened off this tiny side chapel from the chancel with Gothic parclose screens and placed in it a diminutive 'English' altar with iron riddel posts. Over it he has placed a tester, decorated with heraldic double-headed eagles. On the stone altar he has placed a lovely low painted reredos, decorated with a 'Vernicle' - Veronica's handkerchief imprinted with Christ's face is held between two lovely angels dressed in apparalled albs and amices. The altar is still adorned with its original embroidered frontal, the blue 'cathedral' damask now rather badly faded. The stonework of the east window is decorated with rich polychromy and the glass in the window is a Virgin and Child by Comper. The window in the south wall, an Annunciation (not pictured), is also by him. Both have a strong fifteenth century flavour, with a rich palette of yellow stain, and vivid blue, red and murrey. All in all this chapel is a glorious jewel-box and deserves to be better treated and certainly not obscured with rubbish.

Great Kimble, Buckinghamshire

A glimpse of the chapel through the parcloses that divide it from the chancel.

Great Kimble, Buckinghamshire

The interior of the chapel.


Great Kimble, Buckinghamshire

Detail of the altar

Great Kimble, Buckinghamshire

The painted altarpiece

Lilies for Our Lady - frontlet at Great Kimble, Buckinghamshire

The glorious embroidered frontal has sadly seen better days. It is worthy of conservation.

Great Kimble, Buckinghamshire

A detail of the frontal once again.

Great Kimble, Buckinghamshire

The east window.

8 comments:

davis d'ambly said...

Shame on them for not appreciating this. This chapel must be really lovely.

It would be interesting to see the underside of the frontal edge to have a good idea of the proper shade of blue.

BillyD said...

Beautiful. Do you think that the cross in the window usually stands on the retable of the altar?

Anonymous said...

I'm very happy to have discovered your blog. I especially enjoyed the older posting on the Hanging Pyx, in use in my chapel.

Two Sarum Use sites:

http://pagesperso-orange.fr/civitas.dei/sarum_index.htm
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/use-of-sarum/

Fr. Anthony

Allan Barton said...

Davis, you can get a hint of the original colour at the bottom of the frontal, where part of the fringe has come away.

Billyd, it is lovely, I'm sorry to say that the cross does sit on the altar in front of the Vernicle!! I had to do a significant amount of rearranging to get the photos. I even had to move the altarpiece to the back of the altar. Of course I put it all back afterwards.

Fr Anthony, Many thanks for your interest, very good to hear from you again. I very much like your website and thanks for including links to my youtube videos of the York Use mass.

Evan McWilliams said...

It really is a lovely chapel. I just don't understand why such works go unappreciated.

Allan Barton said...

Ah Evan, if I answered your question I might say something seriously unkind.

Anonymous said...

As a resident of this said village and a visitor to regular Sunday services. I also know what the community do to help preserve this church and it seems without much help from any organisation. It is only a handful of local residents who basically keep this church up and running. They do the best they can with the limited funds they have. They are all volunteers. Sadly it is also only a handful of regulars who do indeed turn up for Sunday worship. Lead stolen from the roof serveral times has drained the funds and they are always fighting leaks and just doing the best they can to keep the church in one piece.
Maybe if the lottery fund helped out or something or if there was a paid person to help with the upkeep of the church then maybe it might be a different story. Indeed a truly lovely church just seriously under funded.

Allan Barton said...

Dear anonymous, thanks for your comment. I don't doubt for a minute that the parishioners at Great Kimble love their church. Also I know all too well (as an Anglican cleric) the pressures involved with fundraising and the dreadful problems lead theft has caused recently. The first time I went to visit this church it was locked due to the loss of lead on the aisle roof. However, that wasn't really my point. My point was that this church has a rather lovely Comper chapel, the significance of which is evidently quite scantly regarded, as is evidenced by the chapel functioning not as a prayerful space, but as a dumping ground for excess Victorian furniture. You virtually have to excavate your way to get anywhere near the glorious Comper altar. What I suggest you do is go back to your fellow parishioners, tell them what you have read on here and celebrate the fact that you have something very special an untouched example of the exceptional work of the highly acclaimed Sir Ninian Comper. I was amazed to see that Comper's name is not even mentioned in the church guide book!