Saturday, 22 December 2018

St Michael, Stragglethorpe

St Michael sits in a delightfully rustic setting, next to a farmyard, on the edge of the small hamlet of Stragglethorpe. The simple, unmodernised interior is essentially unchanged since the early 19th Century.

The church dates from the late Saxon period, to which a north aisle was added in the late 12th Century, and a small Gothic porch, later in the mediaeval period. The church is entered through an ancient and rather weathered wooden door, the doorway arch surmounted by simple billet decoration.

The interior is simplicity itself. The nave and chancel form a single undivided space, plastered and whitewashed. The ceiling is remarkably low and flat - and clearly a late addition as it has a cut-away recess to accommodate the fine late 17th Century wall monument to Richard Earle (d.1697). The two bay north aisle arcade has broad, rounded arches and a single octagonal column. A triangular Saxon doorway (now blocked) survives in the west wall, with two simple Norman lancets in the east.

The furnishings are a delight. At the rear is a very solid Norman tub font, with simple blind arcading decoration, and the remains of a Romanesque pillar piscina. The nave and aisle are filled with fine, panelled box pews, still retaining their single candle-holders. Nail holes testify to long-forgotten upholstery - 18th century worship was not quite as spartan as it may first appear!

These face a well-preserved double-decker pulpit, overlooked by a hatchment with the Royal Coat of Arms of George I, with a startlingly well-endowed lion and unicorn rampant. Greater piety is demonstrated by the boards displaying the ten commandments either side of the altar, and the Lord's prayer at the rear.

Perhaps most poignant is the poem on Richard Earle's monument, for his grieving mother, on his  death aged 24:

Stay, Reader, and observe Deaths partial doom,
A spreading Virtue in a narrow Tomb,
A generous Mind mingled with common Dust,
Like Burnish'd Steel cover'd and left to Rust,
Darke in the Earth he lies in whom did Shine
All the Divided Merits of his Line,
The Lustre of his Name seems faded here,
No fairer Star in all that fruitfull Sphere,
in Piety and Parts extremely Bright,
Clear was his Youth, and fill'd with Growing light,
A morn that promis'd much yet saw no Noon,
None ever Rose so fast and set so soon,
All lines of Worth were Center'd here in One,
Yet see, he lies in Shades, whose Life had none,
Yet while the Mother this sad Structure Rears,
A double Dissolution there Appears,
He into Dust dissolves, She into Tears.

The church forms part of a benefice with Beckingham and Brant Broughton.

St Michael, Stragglethorpe LN5 0QZ

St Mary, Marston

St Swithin, Leadenham

All Saints, Hougham

All Saints, Hough-on-the-Hill

St Nicholas, Fulbeck

St Vincent, Caythorpe

St Nicholas, Carlton Scroop

St Helen, Brant Broughton

St Wulfram, Grantham

Sunday, 5 August 2018

St Michael, Stoke Charity

St Andrew, South Warnborough

St Mary, Old Basing

St Mary the Virgin, Micheldever

Micheldever is probably known best for its railway station, a few miles distant from the small village after which it is named (it was originally named Andover Road, which gives a clue as to why there is station in such a remote spot at all).

But I digress: back in the village, its parish church yields a surprise as well. The outside gives a clue: a late 15th or 16th century square tower, and a Victorian neo-Gothic chancel are separated by a large and very plain brick octagon. Inside, however, the effect is astonishing: the passage under the tower leads through a surviving mediaeval bay and then - and then - a huge octagonal space, with large and heavily moulded gothic-style niches, lead up to a plaster star-vault, painted blue with the ribs picked out in white. All this was by George Dance and built in 1808. This leads to the gloomiest of Victorian chancels, built in 1880, the east window with flowing Decorated tracery, but filled with heavy glass.

The chancel contains three monuments to the Baring family, by Flaxman from the early decades of the 19th Century. Entitled "Thy Will be Done" and "Thy Kingdom Come", the first two are sentimentally reassuring, but the one nearest the nave, entitled "Deliver us from Evil", depicts a man struggling upwards, helped by two angels while two intimidating devils try to pull him downwards.

Back safely in the tower, a small modern plaque records the burial place recalls Henri de Massue de Ruvigny, latter Earl of Galway (1648-1720), erected by the Huguenot Society. Deputy General of the Reformed Churches in France, in exile in Britain he became the Commander-in-Chief and Lord Justice in Ireland, and fought as a commander in the Peninsular Wars.

Church Street, Micheldever, Winchester, SO21 3DA

Holy Rood, Holybourne

St Swithun, Headbourne Worthy

St Nicholas, West Worldham

St Nicholas is the archetype of a small and quiet parish church, located in the hamlet of West Worldham.
The approach is via a small gate up the slope of a small but well-kept churchyard to a pretty 15th Century wooden porch. Small square lanterns on the gate post and porch lend a quaint feel - compounded by the musty smell of damp inside.

Entry is through a 13th Century Early Gothic south doorway, with a suitably heavy and ancient door. Inside the nave and chancel are one, without sub-division. There are Early English lancet windows in the north wall, although those in the east (their jambs still visible) have been replaced by a larger Perpendicular Gothic window: the west window is 16th Century. All blends happily together.
The church has few furnishings: an octagonal font, a piscina in the sanctuary and two in the nave, and some plain wall monuments.

One plaque records that the electric lighting was a thanksgiving gift for the hamlet being spared damage in an air raid in 1944. On our visit, the church was filled with exquisite flower arrangements: apparently in preparation for a funeral.
St Nicholas, Blanket St, West Worldham, GU34 3BD

St Leonard, Hartley Mauditt

St Mary, East Worldham

St Mary, Brading

Holy Cross, Binstead

St Mary, Bentley

St Michael, Basingstoke

St Mary, Avington

Assumpton of the Virgin Mary, Froyle