Saturday, 7 May 2016

Corhampton Church

Corhampton is a well preserved Saxon church with rare wall paintings of St Swithun, and still used for regular services.
Corhampton village is situated in the lovely Meon Valley, and was one of the last places in England to be converted to Christianity, thanks to the efforts of St Wilfrid in the late 7th Century. The foundation probably dates from that time, the first church being almost certainly of timber, wattle and daub. Why this outpost should have been graced by a stone-built church is something of a mystery, but graced it was, early in the 11th century. Aside from a porch and vestry, added in the 1600s, and a renewed east wall, it stands much as it did when it was built. It has no dedication.
The church
The building has been dated to around 1020, and is constructed as a simple two-cell church of nave and chancel. On the outside, the chief features that betray its Saxon heritage are the ‘long and short work’ quoins on the corners, and a series of thin pilasters, known as lesenes. These are purely decorative and do not attempt to mimic a structural function. This eccentricity is best demonstrated on the north wall, where one runs vertically - and rather awkwardly - from the apex of an arch.
Inside, the original simple chancel arch remains, with lancet windows to north and south. Among the fittings of interest, pride of place goes to the wall paintings showing the miracles of St Swithun; in one, he restores the broken eggs knocked accidentally from the basket of an old woman; in another, a drowned man is taken on a stretcher, subsequently restored to life having been placed next to the tomb of the saint.
Other features include a Norman font with rope decoration; pretty 18th altar rails, rather resembling Welsh love spoons; a Jacobean pulpit;  and a Victorian west gallery. In the graveyard is a Roman sarcophagus, of unknown origin, as well as a yew of great age and girth.
Corhampton, Hampshire, SO32 3ND

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