St James, Kilkhampton, Cornwall

Download as PDF

Feature Sets (2)


Nothing remains of the Romanesque church except the fine S doorway, one of the best in Cornwall.


The place name is entirely English and Henderson asserts that the parish probably did not exist before the Norman Conquest; from about which time the manor of Kilkhampton is supposed to have belonged to the Grenville family, who also held the manor of Bideford in Devon. Richard de Grenville is known to have endowed the monastery of Neath in Glamorganshire, where the family had been granted land, and it seems likely that one of the de Grenvilles was also the patron of a fine church at Kilkhampton, presumably built from new in the second quarter of the 12thc, of which the doorway remains. In 1237 the church became a holding of Tewkesbury Abbey.


Exterior Features


S doorway

The doorway is of four orders, all carved each about 0.30 m in width and recessed by 0.15 m. The doorway is probably not in its original position, as the Norman aisle would have been narrower than the present one built in the 19thc. It may even have been at the W end of the church.

Door opening
Height 2.40 m
Width 1.24 m
1st order

The inner order has nook shafts with bulbous bases having carved leaf motifs to their inner corners and a bold torus circle at the bottom of each colonnette; the capitals have similar necks and are carved with, L, with what appears to be a sheaf of wheat with seven fircone-like ears of corn, those at the sides hanging downwards, and, R, upright acanthus leaves with two ears of corn carved on the tops of the inner corner leaves. The arch has lateral chevron mouldings to the soffit, an angle roll and 13 and one half beak heads each on a separate voussoir, and most holding rings or straight objects in their beaks. The half beakhead is bottom L. The imposts, as on all the orders, are plain with cavetto beneath.

2nd order

The second order has point to point chevron ornaments to the jambs and arch.

3rd order

The third order has colonnettes with bulbous bases like the inner order, but more damaged; the L capital is similar to the inner order R, but has more wheat ears interspersed with the upright leaves, and is defaced in its upper part; the R capital is carved with five schematic trees with pinecone like tops very like the inner L capital (where the arrangement indicates corn); the arch has point to point chevron with "nail heads" in between on the angle. In this order, each of the colonnettes is flanked by two thin shafts.

4th order

The fourth order has bases and colonnettes as before; the L capital is carved with three upright spatulate leaves separated by wheat ears; above these are ribbed double swags in the same position as the shields on a scalloped capital; the R capital bears two human masks one facing S and one W; the arch has lateral face chevron, an angle roll, and a shallow convex moulding to the soffit.


The closest comparison is with the south doorway at Morwenstowe, only six miles distant, where point to point chevron and beakheads appear in the arch, and the capitals are markedly similar, including the curious plant forms. Date as above.


  • C. Henderson, The Cornish Church Guide (London 1925), 95-96.

  • A Complete Parochial History of Cornwall, Vol. 2 (Truro and London 1868), 369-70

  • N. Pevsner and E. Radcliffe, The Buildings of England: Cornwall, 2nd ed (Harmondsworth 1970), 85.

  • E H Sedding, Norman Architecture in Cornwall, (London, 1909), 172-76, pls. 77 and 78.


Site Location
National Grid Reference
SS 252 113 
now: Cornwall
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Cornwall
now: Truro
medieval: Exeter
medieval: St James
now: St James
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Richard Jewell 
Visit Date
16 May 1992