St Nicholas Church in 1839
David has at great long last uploaded the St Nicholas Church Guide, edited by Martin Coppen [but mangled by David, pending review].
St Nicholas, to whom this Church is dedicated, was every lost man’s friend and every orphan’s father, the champion of the weak and distressed, the patron of merchants, travellers and scholars, and the Santa Claus of children. He has more churches dedicated to him than any other Saint not mentioned in the Bible.
We welcome you very warmly to St Nicholas’ Parish Church, where God has been worshipped for at least the last 800 years. Please do have a good look around.
With the nearby St Nicholas Church of England School, we witness to a living faith in Jesus Christ, engaging with village life in its richness and variety.
The ministry of the Parish Church meets people in joy and in grief, at major moments of family and village life, and continues to offer worship to God every Sunday in the name of all who live in the parish and others who think of this place as home.
The Village Website provides much invaluable information about the parish: www.longparish.org.uk. The site has useful Church pages, with full details of the programme of Services: www.longparish.org.uk/st-nicholas-church.html.
Longparish Parish Council with Hampshire County Council have published a leaflet Exploring Longparish, which is available free online, in the Church and local pubs and shows walks and interesting features of this beautiful area.
The 44 mile Hampshire walking route, The Test Way, runs through the parish and through the churchyard on its path from Totton to Inkpen Beacon.
St Nicholas is now in a benefice (group) with nearby Hurstbourne Priors, St Mary Bourne and Woodcott. (It was with Barton Stacey, Bullington and Hurstbourne Priors from 1980-2000.) All these Churches are worth visiting for architecture and pilgrimage, and are open for visitors during daylight working hours (St Andrew, Hurstbourne Priors is closed from October until Easter, except for Services).
The Church building as we see it has evolved over eight centuries into the beautiful building it now is. This Church was built in its original form a few years after the murder of Thomas à Becket in Canterbury Cathedral, 1170. When the Magna Carta was signed in 1215 the first stones had weathered, and the nave arcades have stood their ground ever since.
The core of the present building dates back to the end of the twelfth century, but what has survived of its details have mainly been recut in the nineteenth century. In the Middle Ages, the church was altered on various occasions, as with the addition of windows in the decorated style from about the first half of the fourteenth century. Finally came the addition of the church tower which probably owed much to the availability of cheap stone as a result of the dissolution of nearby Wherwell Abbey in 1539.
Then in the nineteenth century, like so many medieval churches in this area as elsewhere, it was transformed. These changes were the product of a number of influences: the need to make up for previous neglect of the buildings, the interests and enthusiasms of particular people of influence, and the need to cope with the growing population (in rural Hampshire this was particularly so in the early nineteenth century).
Many generations and architectural styles have left their mark, as this brief summary shows, but there is one man who did more than any other in its known history to shape the Church as it is ...
Style What you can now see from each period Late Norman (1190-1200)
- the priest’s door in the south chancel wall and, possibly, the nave arcades (rows of pillars)
Early English (1170-1300)
- the chancel arch and south porch doorway
- the south and north aisles and east window
- the west tower, bells date from 1791
High Church movement (1839)
- major restorations raising the roof of the nave and chancel, building of north organ chamber and vestry, south porch, wooden Font cover
late 19th and early 20th century
- most of the stained glass
mid 20th century
- 1956-8 restoration of the font, removal of the painted decorations and texts and Victorian Font and cover; replacement of exterior stonework, and interior plaster; removal of side aisle pews: Aviator window.
late 20th century and early 21st
- complete replacement of roof tiles, repair of north wall buttresses, installation of French drain to improve ground drainage; glass porch doors and improvement of south door entry.
The 19th century restoration owed much to the long (and sometimes controversial) incumbency of Henry Burnaby Greene, 1821-1884. Under his guidance, there was a series of restorations of the medieval church, of which it is now difficult to disentangle the details. The dates, however, are known 1833; 1851-2 by the architect Henry Woodyer; 1866 by William White; 1883. A contemporary comment by Henry Moody writing in 1846, compliments Burnaby Greene and gives some idea of the scale of his early achievements: “Within the last few years the worthy vicar, the value of whose benefice does not exceed £226, has expended on the church and school near £3,000, and is still employed in the good work.”
Burnaby Greene was both wealthy and a committed High Churchman, and not afraid to court controversy. Apart from developing the Church into a building suited to his vision of how worship should be offered, he also had the village road rerouted to create a front garden to his newly built Vicarage (1823), which involved the demolition of a house and its outbuildings. The cross which now stands at the corner of the entrance to the church and school was erected by him to the memory of his wife, Amelia (née Woodcock) †1867.
The most radical of these restorations was the first, in 1833. This involved the raising of the pitch of the roofs, which had been in very poor condition. The medieval clerestory was covered in this project, as shown in the drawing by Owen Browne Carter (above). J H Parker, in his Architectural Notes of 1845, describes St Nicholas’ as being “ ... A very interesting church, and in an unusually good state, having been carefully restored ... the windows are filled with modern painted glass, and the fittings are very rich and the reredos recently illuminated. The roof is entirely new and very successful in effect. The church on the whole reflects great credit on the Vicar.”
That of 1851-2 under the direction of Henry Woodyer involved the building of the north organ chamber, the south wooden porch, as well as much detailed work around the interior of the church and especially the chancel. Woodyer was strongly influenced by the High Church Cambridge Camden Society (renamed the Ecclesiological Society in 1846 – Burnaby Greene was a member), an architectural revival movement which aimed to provide buildings in a medieval style suitable for worship in the Catholic tradition which emphasised ritual and mystery. He worked for many High Church clients, including Henry Burnaby Greene. The characteristic Woodyer drain heads on the south and north sides of the church have the dates 1851 and 1852.
In 1866, William White, another noted Gothic revival architect, built lych gates to both the school and path to Forton, and erected a metal cross over the chancel screen. White accepted a number of local church commissions in the area, including St Mary’s Andover, Hurstbourne Tarrant, Deane, Tangley and Longstock. It is suggested that the present north vestry was built in the final major restoration of 1883, architect unknown. The stencilling and texts, which covered the interior of the Church, were Burnaby Greene’s last act of restoration, being completed just three weeks before he died in 1884. The Victoria County History of 1911 gives a description of the overall effect, “The whole interior of the church is decorated with modern painted ornament and texts in red, blue, green and gold, and all the windows are filled with stained glass. This and the absence of a clerestory make the building very dark.”
Burnaby Greene funded and oversaw a series of projects through his long incumbency of 63 years to create a Church suited for Anglo-Catholic worship out of the original medieval village church which he inherited. This is the church we now see, though ‘purified’ and brightened by the 1956-8 and later restorations.
The work of the Chancel arch is 12th or 13th century but has been entirely retooled. A fine screen, which once separated the chancel from the nave is believed to have been damaged beyond repair by Cromwell’s soldiers. The parliamentary army may have used the Church as a stable around the time of the Battle of Andover in 1644 and imprisoned the Vicar as they did at Longstock. This rood screen was restored in 1850 and finally removed, along with the reredos in 1956-8. A small piece of the moulding has been preserved on the cover of the lovely Renaissance Font which was found neglected in the churchyard, but reinstalled at that time.
The chancel roof is arched braced, and is coved above the sanctuary with gold ribs on a blue background which also includes tiny stars. This was done, along with the south wall piscina (washing place for holy vessels) in the Henry Woodyer restoration of 1851-2: opposite this on the north wall is a flamboyant credence table of the same date, where bread and wine are placed ready for their consecration on the altar at the Eucharist.
The most prominent and interesting monument in the Church is also the most mysterious. On the south wall of the chancel is what looks like a monument which the Victoria County History calls "a modern reminiscence of an Easter Sepulchre". In the Middle Ages on Good Friday the bread consecrated at Communion on the previous day was taken in a special box (pyx) together with a cross wrapped up in cloth and placed in the Easter Sepulchre where they remained covered, surrounded by lit candles and watched until the ceremonial removal and uncovering of cross and pyx on Easter Day. But it is on the wrong side of the Church for this (they are usually on the north side). Perhaps it was originally on the north side, but moved to make space for the adding of the chancel vestry. It has no date, but is 16th century in style with a moulded top, columns, and panels which have both renaissance and gothic elements. There are three cusped panels above and below, each holding a shield containing a symbol of the passion, with two panels in the centre with a religious text in 19th century lettering.
The Nave and Aisles
The nave arcades, each of four bays with circular columns, are the chief features remaining of the original Church, although they were heavily recut in medieval style in the nineteenth century restorations. The capitals are trumpet scalloped, and consist of several varying designs, including one with stiff leaf which is a clear reference to the Early English style. The organ chamber has an arch similar to the arcades, but is apparently entirely modern apart from the capitals which look contemporary with the arcade capitals.
The whole church is very much as it was after its restorations in the 1830s and 1850s when it was given a new roof and new windows. Originally the Church was much brighter because of natural light coming through the clerestory windows above the nave arches. The structure of the old roofs, which were flatter and covered with lead, had been ravaged by death watch beetle, and the roofs which replaced them needed a steeper pitch. This steepening of the pitch of the chancel roof partly closed the original window above the chancel arch, so that all that now remains is the apex trefoil. Perhaps the most interesting window is now only an outline above the South wall. Uncovered during the 1984-9 roof repair work and restoration, it is one of the old clerestory windows.
The pulpit survived the various restorations, and an hour-glass stands in a niche at its side. A craving for sermons in the eighteenth century is illustrated by an agreement made at Longparish between the Vicar and the Vestry in 1726 and recorded in one of the registers. The latter undertook to give the Vicar an extra new seat, with him “covenanting to give 14 sermons in the afternoon on full satisfaction.” The appetite for sermons has waned somewhat since then.
The wooden eagle lectern quite probably comes from the first restoration of 1833.
The 1911 Victoria County History writes of the font, “The font near the west end of the nave has a tall modern canopy which swings on a pivoted iron bracket.” The Victorian Font and its wooden cover – a Gothic fantasy of gables and pinnacles in three tiers, apparently designed by Woodyer – were removed in the 1956-8 simplification of the interior, which also erased the painted texts and coloured decoration. The 18th century stone Font was returned in this restoration. The ornate Font cover, which lodged for many years in an outhouse of Upper Mill, was returned in the early 2000s to be admired near the south entrance.
Monuments in Church
The western end of the south aisle has two stone tablets with elegant lettering, †1757 and †1799. Further east, eight tablets †1751-57 to †1969. The north aisle has nine tablets, †1790 to †1983, and the chancel has three tablets, †1906, †1910 and †1933.
There are some interesting tablets concerning the Widmore family, of Middleton House, landowners in Longparish from 1698, whose charity established in 1828 provided blankets for the poor.
In the South West corner of the Church there is an inscription: “Under this stone lies John Widmore, Esqr ... who died 12 March, 1757. Aged 59 years.” His remains were found in 1957 when the floor of the South aisle was being relaid, whereupon he was given a second burial service by the Rector, two centuries after his first.
Behind the altar Sophia, an 8-year-old girl of the Widmore family, is buried, and her memorial stone can just be seen.
On the North wall are memorials to the Hawker family. The sporting diaries of Colonel Peter Hawker, who died in 1853, have made the names of Longparish and Longparish House known to every sportsman with a love for rod and gun.
The Stained Glass
All but two of the windows within the church contains stained glass. There is a good mix of styles from a number of well known firms, Morris & Co, Clayton and Bell, Wailes and Hardman. The most interesting are the chancel east window, and the north east aisle Aviator’s design.
The East Window
1912 by J H Dearle of Morris & Co. It depicts the Nativity, with much use of deep blues, reds and greens. Mary and Child, with angels around them. The stable is depicted as part of a rich outdoor scene amongst trees and fields. It is well drawn, especially the crisp draperies, but rather sober and lacking in animation. According to the Hampshire Papers publication, The Stained Glass Windows of William Morris and his Circle in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, this window is based on two earlier Sir Edward Burne-Jones designs from the 1880s for tapestry and glass:
The window is handled like a painter's canvas, with a single picture seemingly stretched across a multi-light window, disregarding the stone mullions which divide it into lights. This is evident in the thatched canopy and wattle fence housing the Virgin and Child which overlap from the centre light into the two side-lights.
The Aviator’s Window
1968 Designed by Francis Skeat, the window is more contemporary in style (in memory of Major Lanoe George Hawker, VC DSO RFC †1916, shot down and killed in aerial combat with ‘The Red Baron’), and the quality is good. It is an animated and dramatic scene with a vigorous Archangel Michael across all three lights on a clear glass background. Bertangles airfield, from which Major Hawker flew, and contemporary airmen are depicted below, relaxed and calm, one just ready to go, the other having just returned. The picture of the airfield is detailed, showing the Bessonier hangars, aircraft and motor vehicles.
The beautiful perpendicular tower at the West end, was possibly constructed from stone from Wherwell Abbey when it was dissolved in 1539. Notice the mixture of flint and large blocks of cut stone. Can you identify any of these blocks that show evidence of having been carved and then reused? The tower is divided into three stages with an embattled parapet. It is one of a group of late gothic towers of a local type, similar to those at Barton Stacey and Micheldever, and was built inside the walls of the old Church. The original plaster was found recently continuing on the arcade wall beyond the face of the tower wall. Traces were also found of a balcony across the West end of the Church, a west gallery intended to accommodate bands or ‘choirs’ of village musicians playing traditional instruments, such as viols, hautboys, flutes and serpents. This accounts for the unusually tall arch in the tower. The ringing floor would have been behind this balcony.
The tower also has renewed features from the 1851-2 restoration, which do not appear to have reproduced the original design. The belfry window in the west wall was made circular and into a clock, with scenes from Christ’s life in deep colours, and has a cusped sound hole within it.
Until 1936 the tower contained five bells, by Richard Wells of Aldbourne in Wiltshire (1791). These were rehung in 1897 and recast in 1936 when a sixth bell was added. On the South wall of the belfry is the following inscription:
To call the folk to church on time, we chime.
When mirth and joy are on the wing, we ring.
When we lament a passing soul, we toll.
Priests, Prebendaries and Patrons of the Parish
Middleton, the official name of the parish before its ‘nickname’, Longparish, overtook it in common use, was a prebendary benefice of the powerful and wealthy Wherwell Abbey. A Prebend was an ecclesiastical sinecure, without cure of souls in the parish, with the power as patron of appointing the vicar to serve there. Up until 1897 the incumbent of Longparish was a vicar. Since 1897, when the Prebendary privileges were transferred to the Rectory and Patron, the incumbent has been a Rector, with the right to tithe income previously due to the Prebendary. The Woodcock family have provided Prebendaries, Vicars, Rectors and Patrons of the parish since 1765. The clergy list by the south door is somewhat provisional before the 19th century and fails to distinguish Prebendary from Vicar in the early years – a difficult task.
The two lych-gates were renewed in the 1866 restoration by William White. The churchyard was closed to new burials in 1883, when the present Longparish Cemetery was opened. There are some significant carved 18th and 19th century memorial stones worthy of interest.
The Parish of Longparish
The 5,331 acres of the Parish of Longparish, which the Church serves, includes the hamlets of Forton and East Aston: West Aston (which includes North Acre) joins with present day Middleton to make up the centre of population of Longparish which is around 700. The village of Longparish was originally known as Middletune, the name under which it had appeared in the Domesday Book (1086), and the Church, not mentioned in the Domesday Book, was in the gift of Wherwell Abbey, a Benedictine Nunnery founded in 986. Much of the ancient woodland, Harewood Forest, is included in the parish.
Sources from which this Guide has been edited
- Victoria County History, Citation: 'Parishes: Longparish', A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 4 (1911), pp. 406-409. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=56843
- Church Appeal Leaflet prepared in 1986 by John Woodcock, Patron of the Church and resident of Longparish. The line drawings in the text are from this publication. The watercolour of the Church in 1839 is used by his kind permission from John’s private collection.
- Barry Meehan, web page published on his internet site, dated 25 July 2004: http://www.baxian.org.uk/churches/hants/longparish/st_nicholas.htm. Warm tribute mu be paid to this most informative, comprehensively researched and illustrated article, which is particularly well-informed on the developing architecture of the Church, while making clear the questions yet to be resolved.
- Nikolaus Pevsner & David Lloyd, The Buildings of England: Hampshire and the Isle of Wight (1967)
- Letter from Dr Andrew Thomson dated 14th August 2008, regarding Vicars, Rectors and Prebendaries.
- J H Parker, Architectural Notes of the Churches and Other Ancient Buildings in the City and Neighbourhood of Winchester (Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Archaeological Instute, Winchester 1845).
- Robin Freeman, The Art and Architecture of Owen Browne Carter, 1806-1859 (Hampshire Papers publication 1991)
- David Bond and Glynis Dear, The Stained Glass Windows of William Morris and his Circle in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight (Hampshire Papers Publication 1998)
- ed. John Elliott & John Pritchard, Henry Woodyer Gentleman Architect (The University of Reading, 2002)
- Comments on the original drafts by John Hare, and local resident and historian, Mary Jo Darrah.
Guide edited by Martin Coppen, Rector of Longparish, August 2009
Pictures from this Guide, including a few that didn't make it into the text.
View the embedded image gallery online at:
- Chancel (current) Chancel (current)
- Stained glass window in the chancel Stained glass window in the chancel
- The East Window The East Window
- The Easter Sepulchre The Easter Sepulchre
- Font Cover Font Cover
- Font Font
- The Hawker Window The Hawker Window
- The Interior The Interior
- St Nicholas, 1830s St Nicholas, 1830s
- Memorial Cross Memorial Cross
- The Perry Memorial The Perry Memorial
- Interior, 1956 Interior, 1956
- Interior, 1956 Interior, 1956
- St Nicholas circa 1800 St Nicholas circa 1800
- St Nicholas 1853 St Nicholas 1853
- St Nicholas, 1839 St Nicholas, 1839
- South View, 1980s South View, 1980s
- St Nicholas, 2009 St Nicholas, 2009
- Widmore Memorial Widmore Memorial
- Drainhead, south wall Drainhead, south wall
- Font cover Font cover
- Font before 1956 Font before 1956