The oldest part of this church is the tower which is roughly circa 1200. Originally it was detached from the body of the church, and was used as a refuge for the parishioners during troubled times – the walls are a very solid and reassuring six feet thick. There is a simple Norman font, near to which is a baptismal “tank” which was frequently used for adults in the eighteenth century.
Under the terms of the will of Lady Margaret Hawkins, Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Elizabeth l and second wife of Sir John Hawkins, the Elizabethan sailor and adventurer, and also a Vaughan from Hergest Court, it was decreed that pupils of the nearby free school (Lady Hawkins School) should attend the church every Sunday, and then on the following day give an account of what they had learnt.
In 1469 Thomas Vaughan of Hergest Court died in the battle of Banbury – his body was taken back to Kington and a beautiful alabaster tomb inside the church houses both him and his wife – Ellen Gethin (Ethin the Terrible). Memorials include one for Cassandra Davies, a spinster of the parish who decreed that five pounds was to be distributed every year on 26th March to the “most antient, indigent, and necessitous parishioners”. Another inscription relates how Richard Meredith in 1777 left £24 per year to be given “in bread monthly and distributed amongst the poor housekeepers who were not suppoted by the Parish as paupers, on the first Sunday of every month”.
Lovely brass plaque in memory of Albert, 4th son of Francis and Jane Parker, born 18 March 1853, who with 78 others was lost in the ship “British Admiral” in Bass Straight on 23 May 1874
In 1055, the Welsh thronged over the border and attacked Hereford, and Harold Godwinson was appointed to sort things out. He managed to push the Welsh back as far as Radnor, and then promptly dispossessed many of the surrounding land owners, dividing the spoils between himself, the king and some of his officers in the army. The settlement became known as the king’s town and eventually Kington. By 1287, Kington had spread further down the hill, close to where the present centre is. Edward I granted six fairs, and the Whit Monday Fair was the biggest and jolliest, but the other five were more seriously for stock.
Close to the summit of Hergest Ridge, immediately to the west of the church, is a rock known as the Whetstone, which it was said went down to the Hindwell Brook at the bottom of the Ridge every time it heard a cock crow. It is thought that during the plague of 1366 a weekly market was held at the stone, where wheat (whet) was put onto the stone by farmers from the surrounding area, who would then back off to allow the townspeople to collect it and leave their money in exchange…..this was in an effort to avoid infection.
The market hall in the town had two floors, with the top room being used for sales of wool, and the ground floor for dairy goods and poultry.
Kington, along with Ledbury, was one of the few places in the county to suffer the Rebecca toll gate riots of the 1830s, which arose because locals were angry over being forced to pay for everyday journeys such as to and from the market. Frequently the protestors were men disguised as women, and they even blacked their faces so that nobody could recognise them as they burnt or dismantled the toll gates. (the name ~Rebecca~ might have come from Genesis “the descendant of Rebecca will possess the gates of them that hate them”. Drovers roads gradually came into existence, and these bypassed the hated toll houses which still are plentiful throughout Herefordshire although of course no longer used for the original purpose.
Kington had a thriving clothing industry at one time, but this declined after the late 18th century, and eventually the cloth mills were demolished. There was also a glove industry, but in the mid 1800s cheaper French gloves were being imported and this hit the Kington glove makers hard. By 1845 there were 4 corn mills, an iron foundry and a tanning industry.