History of the Church. Part of a royal manor in the 9th century, Kingston was a daughter Church of Ermington until the 20th century. Consecrated for baptisms, marriages and all sacramental rites, it was not until the beginning of the 15th century that burials were permitted. Approval for this was granted after the parishioners had complained to the Bishop of Exeter that they had to carry the bodies for internment to Ermington ‘’with great inconvenience’’. In 1934 Kingston became a daughter church of Ringmore. In 2005 the parish of Ringmore with Kingston was divided into two separate District Church Councils by means of a scheme under the Church Representation Rules. The new Parish of Kingston came into being on May 1st 2013 and St James the Less became a Parish Church after approximately 600 years.
The oldest part of the Grade II* listed building, ( Heritage Gateway no. MDV15231), may date from the late 13th century. Originally cruciform in plan, it was altered early in the 15th century to incorporate the arcaded north aisle. Some windows date from this period. The south porch is of architectural interest and has the original heavy oak door, possibly erected in the 14th century when the tracery on some of the windows was created. The granite font is also of special interest as there are not many of this type to be found in Devon. It is reported to be late 15th century, but some suggest it is from an earlier period. The south aisle (now the vestry) may have been a chantry chapel of the Ashford and Wise families of Wonwell, as they were responsible for its upkeep. In the 17th century it was divided from the nave by a wooden screen displaying the arms of both families.
The church originally had a peal of four bells, the oldest of which dates from 1430. In 1979 the bells were retuned and two new ones added. These were dedicated in 1980 by the Bishop of Totnes. The bells play an important role in the life of the village, rung on occasions for rejoicing and tolling for the dead. During the World War II they were silenced so they could be used for warning of invasion. Later they were used to summon the volunteers who manned the Kingston Branch of the Fire and Rescue Service.
During the 18th century services were very irregular and the Church itself was in a dangerously neglected state. Despite extensive repairs during the 19th century, it was decided in 1891 that a complete restoration was urgently needed. After major fund raising activities, work started the following year under the direction of the Plymouth architect Edmund H.Sedding. The builders were W. Triggs of Kingston and J. Lukecraft of Aveton Gifford. There was sufficient work completed for the Bishop of Exeter to re-open the Church amid great celebrations in 1893, although the restoration was not completed until 1914.
There is a Grade ll listed Cross, (Heritage Gateway no.MDV4857) in the Churchyard retaining some early medieval elements, but mainly restored in 1902, with an inscription linked to the coronation of Edward V11.
Kingston War Memorials. The free standing Memorial in the Churchyard is inscribed with the names of those who died in both World Wars and the Malayan Campaign. In addition there are three memorials inside the Church including a list of all 54 parishioners who served in WW1. Full details are attached HERE. The War memorial was cleaned and the lettering repainted in July 2014 with support from the The War Memorial Trust, the Bigbury, Ringmore & Kingston branch of the Royal British Legion ( now closed), and Richard & Alison Sanderson.
Kingston Parish Church is open every day of the year from approximately 9am until dusk. Services are held regularly, see below, and there is an active community programme held around the church calendar and linked to village activities. We have a wonderful peal of six bells and a thriving bell ringing team. Dedicated teams of volunteers keep our Church clean, well maintained and beautifully decorated with flowers.
All Welcome Project. The majority of respondents to the Parish Plan consultation in 2007 felt that access to the church was poor. The Church Council established the ‘All Welcome’ Project, which aims to make the Church a fully inclusive community resource. Minor access works were in place very quickly, including handrails on the chancel steps and a hearing loop and sound system in the Church. By July 2013 enough funds had been raised to start the major project an access ramp into the churchyard. The ramp was finally dedicated by the Archdeacon of Totnes, the Venerable John Rawlings on 31 May 2014. A description of the village celebration that day can be found under ‘Diary Articles’ for 3 June 2104. The skill and patience of Julian Kingdom, a local stonemason, have ensured the ramp blends well with the Church and its surroundings.
The Parochial Church Council wishes to thank the following for their help in funding the ramp: the former Methodist Chapel in Kingston; the Big Lottery, Awards for All; the All Churches Trust; Devon County Council; the Cooper Legacy to the Diocese of Exeter; the Garfield Weston Foundation; second home owners in Kingston and finally the amazing generosity of the residents of Kingston, past and present, who have made donations and contributed to a variety of funding raising events and made this major initiative possible.
Further Information. Information from the Church Registers and lists of other historical documents are available through the Kingston Local History Society, KLHS, as well as a detailed survey of the gravestones and memorials in the church by local resident, W. (Bill) Scarrett and documents relating to the church bells. Kingston Local History or see under ‘Clubs and Societies’ for other contact details for KLHS.