Sunday, 5 August 2018

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

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