Thursday, 7 July 2016

St Nicholas, Chawton

Situated next to Chawton House, both church and house will now forever be associated with Jane Austen, who worshipped here and whose mother and sister are buried in the churchyard.

There has been a church here since 1270, but the foundation may be earlier. Jane's brother Edward inherited the estate at Chawton in 1794, and offered Jane and her mother and sister the use of a house in Chawton, and she lived here until a few months before her death in 1817. The church she knew was largely the mediaeval original, but a fire in 1871 destroyed most of the building except the chancel.

The present church is therefore largely a late Victorian work of Sir Arthur Blomfield, who provided a large church with flint walls, a nave, north aisle and three cross gables on the north, and a tower with distinctive pinnacles. The whole is very enclosed by mature trees, which are picturesque from a distance but also make the approach through the churchyard rather gloomy. The gloom continues inside the church, not helped by the profusion of heavy Victorian stained glass (some by Kempe).

However, the chancel survived the fire, along with a number of monuments and fittings. Most impressive of these is the large monument to St Richard Knight (d. 1679) in the chancel, which shows him grandlysemi-recumbent in armour, with a huge periwig. Behind the altar is a reredos, donated by the Kinght family in 1898. It is attributed to Agostino Caracci (1557-1602), although Pevsner simply says "Netherlander, probably c. 1600". For most tourists, though, the pretty 18th century altar rails have a special place, since it was at these that Jane Austen would have knelt to take communion.

St Nicholas, off Winchester Road, Chawton GU34 1SJ

No comments:

Post a Comment