St George of England Church in Toddington was consecrated on St George’s Day in 1222. This was the same day that St George became the Patron Saint of England. The present building was started by Paulinus Peyvre although there was probably a building on the same spot from Saxon times. The current building is mainly of Totterhoe limestone.
It is a beautiful church with many interesting features. The tower is 90 feet high and the cross on the top has been there since the time of Charles 1. The weather vane was added in Georgian times.
Along the north side of the church is a cornice of carved animals and mythical beasts which dates from the early 16th century. This has been worn by wind and weather but some of these were restored in the 1970s. They include the Sow and Pigs and it is not clear which came first, the frieze or the pub (now sadly closed) which stood opposite to the church. There is a booklet which describes the frieze in more detail.
On the north side of the chancel is a small building which you can enter from the chancel or from outside and which is called a parvise. This would have originally been a priest’s apartment.
Above the nave you can see a flight of eight carved angels which have looked down on the congregation for the last 500 years although they did get new wings in the 1970s.
The Clerestory was added and the arches and side aisles raised in about 1420. You can see evidence of these changes on the west wall of the tower where the old roofline is visible. When the tower was restored in 2000 a large oak beam had to be removed as it had begun to be unsafe and was proved to have been cut at around 1400. It is wonderful to think that the tree was growing when Chaucer was writing his Canterbury Tales.
The two largest stained glass windows date from the 1940s and were designed by Christopher Webb. The East window is based on the Benedict from the Morning Prayer and shows the times of day and seasons of the year and all the lovely things in life for which we thank God. The West window is on the theme of cross bearing and Christ bears his cross in the company of St George and St Alban. There is a small lancet window showing St John on the west wall which was purchased in 1880 in memory of Alice and Evelyn Waddinton by the Revd C E Haslam (who was the Rector of the day) and a Mrs Clarke who lived at the Wainholm at that time and, in the Cheney Chapel a window from the 19th Century showng Faith, Hope and Charity.
There are two side chapels – on the South side the Cheney Chapel with several interesting monuments from the 14th and 15th Century. The Wentworth Chapel on the norh side of the church has large monuments to Maria Wentworth and her niece Henrietta, Baroness Wentworth who was the mistress of the Duke of Monmouth.
There are a series of wall paintings, some now very faint, which for many years were covered by limewash and were uncovered in the 19th Century. What can be seen show fragments of what is believed to be the coronation of the Virgin, St Michael weighing souls and there is a gaily dressed figure on horseback. It would be wonderful to see what they looked like when they were painted.