In 1874 the present parish church was commenced by the third Earl, and was completed in 1880. It did not immediately replace the existing church, and for over forty years it was, in effect, the private chapel of the Eldon family. In April 1921 Lord Eldon conveyed the church and churchyard to the Church Commissioners, and on October 11th, 1921 they were consecrated by the Rt. Rev. Bishop Jocelyne. On January, 1922 the new church was substituted for the old one under an Instrument of the Church Commissioners.
The architect of this very notable building was George Edmund Street, about whom something should be said. As a young man, he was for five years assistant to Sir George Scott, and as such designed a number of churches, being Honorary Diocesan Architect to the Diocese of Oxford at the age of twenty-six.
For thirty years and more he was one of the leading church architects of his day, gaining the gold medal of the R.I.B.A., and becoming Professor of Architecture at the Royal Academy. He was an enthusiast for the Gothic style, as exemplified in his design for the Law Courts in the Strand. The Dictionary of National Biography says of him – “. . . one of Street’s favourite designs was that of Kingston church, Dorset: it is a cruciform building, with an apse, central tower and narthex, built throughout of Purbeck stone, with shafts of purbeck marble . . . the mouldings are rich, and owing to the character of the material, the building has a model-like perfection . . .”.
The stone and marble was all quarried and worked on the Encombe estate, and the Itimber was brought from Lord Eldon’s Gloucestershire property. The work of construction was carried out largely by men of the estate, without the aid of contractors.
The tower, which is somewhat disproportionate in size to the rest of the church, was made large enough to contain a full peal of eight bells, which were cast and installed by John Taylor & Co., of Loughborough, in 1880. The bells range in weight from the treble of 6¾ cwt. to the tenor of 26¾ cwt. The peal is in the key of D. The treble and tenor bells were recast when the peal was rehung in 1921. Kingston’s bells are well know for their quality, and teams of ringers have come from far and wide to ring them.
Two additional bells were hung in 2000. See Dove’s Guide for Church Bell Ringers for fuller information on all bells.
The fine three-manual organ was built by Maley, Young and Oldknow. The pipework is particularly good, some of it being the famous Cavaillé-Col.
The massive appearance of the church and the evidently fine materials used in its construction may well give the visitor the impression that it was built to last forever, with little or no attention. This, unfortunately, is far from being the case: after some eighty or ninety years, a considerable amount of maintenance and repair work has been found to be urgently necessary, and over the late0 has been raised by its small parish of under two hundred people, there being no endowment. The Vicar and Churchwardens, and members of the Church Council, and all those who use and love this beautiful House of God, are deeply grateful for all the help that has been given, and pray that it might continue to be given by those who are able and ready to do so.