Our town stands where the route between
Oxford and Southampton crosses that from London to Salisbury,.at
a ford over the river Test. It was an important meeting place
even before the Gough Map of 1360 showed it. To the north runs the Harrow (or Hoar, meaning ancient) Way, and
beyond it is the old Roman Road, the Portway, that linked
Silchester and Sarum (Salisbury). We believe that there was a
Christian Church in 4th-century Silchester, and some have
identified Whitchurch with the Roman town of Vindomis, so there
may have been a Christian community worshipping here in Roman
times. Eventually a little white church was built " perhaps
of limestone or even chalk.
The church you see today is the result of Victorian restoration
and enlargement. Between 1866 and 1868 the architect Benjamin
Ferry (1810-1880) considerably altered the building; amongst
other things, enlarging the north aisle, adding the chancel,
heightening the tower and adding the spire. However, many traces
of the earlier church remain.
The font is Tudor, as can be seen from the Tudor rose, which you
will find on one of the panels on the side. If you lift the lid
and look inside, you will see that it is lead-lined, and that the
lead is pierced by two holes. These holes once housed two bolts which kept the cover firmly in
position, to prevent people from taking baptismal water for
NORMAN PILLARS AND ARCHES
The pillars and arches to your left (south) were probably built
in the 13th century and are typically massive, measuring two and
a half feet across. The proportions are splendid with simple,
bold arches describing equilateral triangles.
Looking west, up the steps towards the tower, you will see the
arch above them, which is also Norman, and is contemporary with
the pillars. The tower is also Norman, but more about that in a
minute. Now look to your right (north), and notice the difference in the pillars on this
side. These pillars are perpendicular, which ill suit the Norman
bases on which they stand, nor do the arches meet the capitals
comfortably. Now look up into the roof. The wooden beams which
span the nave are of the 15th century and, like the bells, which
will be described later, indicate a new-found prosperity, as
England recovered from the ravages of the Black Death.
The lower part of this tower was also built in the 13th century
by the Norman lords of Whitchurch, who came from Fecamp, on the
Normandy coast. Originally it was not so high and showed the
Norman fondness for strength in building -- the Victorians added
the upper part and the spire. Behind the door leading to the bell
chamber is an unusual wooden spiral staircase built round a
central newel of single length of oak. These stairs are at least
500 years old. If you are lucky, there might be someone in the
church who can unlock this door and let you see them.
In the tower are two memorial plaques, one on the south side to
the Rev John Blair, vicar of Whitchurch for 37 years until 1783,
and one on the other side of the tower, to Fanny Blair, daughter
of the said John Blair, who died of consumption at the age of 17.
On this stone you will be able to read her epitaph, which she
wrote herself just before she died.
Also in the tower, but behind the locked door, are the remains of
a clock movement dating from before 1660. It never had a face,
but simply boomed out the hours, and the marks of the striker can
still be seen on the tenor bell.
Up the spiral staircase mentioned above there is a peal of eight
bells. The sixth was cast in 1448 at the Wokingham Medieval
Foundry by John Mitchell. It bears the inscription "SANCTA
MARGARETA ORA PRO NOBIS", which is translated as "Saint Margaret pray for
us". The fourth was also cast at Wokingham and dates from
about 1450. It has an inscription "VIRGO PARENS NATUM FAC
NOBIS PROPITATUM", which is difficult to translate but
amounts to "Virgin Mother make your Son be merciful to us".
This was probably the Angeius bell.
The seventh and fifth bells are by the Reading founder Henry
Knight and were cast in 1611 and 1612 respectively. The third was
cast in about 1700, but subsequently cracked, and was re-cast in
1748 by Robert Catlin, since when it has remained sound. The
tenor (eighth) weighs 14 cwt and was cast in 1724 by William
Tosier of Salisbury. The first and second bells were added in
1919 as part of the town's commemoration of those of Whitchurch
who fell in the First World War.
THE COMMANDMENTS BOARD
which was found behind a panel in the White Hart Hotel in the
middle of Whitchurch. It is dated 1602 and vividly depicts the
fate of those in the Bible who disobeyed the Ten Commandments.
These are written in the centre, but as it is older than the King James Bible, the
translations and spellings are sometimes quaint. The captions of
the pictures read, translated into modern English:
|Moses commanded by God to pull off
his shoes for the place was holy
|Pharoah drowned in the sea with
all his host for not knowing God
|3,000 of the Israelites slain in
one day for worshipping the golden calf in the wilderness
|One stoned for taking the Lord's
name in vain
|One stoned for gathering sticks on
the Sabbath Day
|Absalom hanged by the head and
thrust through by Joab for disobeying his father
||2 Sam 18:9
|Moses taking the Commandments in
|Joab kills Amasa
||2 Sam 20:9
|Phinias kills Zimn and Cozbi in
the act of adultery
|Achan stoned for stealing the
golden wedge and Babylonish garment
|Jezebel eaten by dogs forbearing
false witness against good Naboth
||1 Kgs 21:19
|Ahab for coveting Naboth's
vineyard was shot with an arrow from heaven
||1 Kgs 22:34
On the north wall of the north aisle are a
number of interesting things.
THE PORTAL MEMORIALS
At the west end of the north wall is an elaborate memorial to
John Portal of Freefolk Priors. He was the third generation of
Portals to be commemorated in this church. The first was Henri (later
Henry) Portal, whose memorial stone is on the south wall of the
chancel above the choir stalls. Henri was a Huguenot (French
Protestant), who fled his country for sanctuary in England after
the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. He set up the
paper mills at Laverstoke that still bear his name, although the
main factory has now moved to larger premises in Overton. These
mills produce bank note paper for the Bank of England, and now
also for many other countries around the world.
At the east end of the north wall is the third memorial to a
Portal, this time Joseph Portal, son of Henry, who died on 14
December 1792. This memorial is worth reading, for the paean of
his achievements. Joseph was the father of John Portal, whose
memorial we started with.
THE MARY MAZE
This mosaic, conceived by a local designer, executed by a local
mosaicist and installed by a local builder, was put into the
church and blessed by the vicar in 1993. It shows the Mother Mary
with the Christ child on her lap. Joseph looks on from behind. There is a long history of mazes in
churches. This one shows that the journey through life to
salvation may not be the direct and obvious one. This maze has
two paths, the direct and the indirect, and it is set tow in the wall so that children can come
and trace the paths and find their own way to Jesus.
Close to this maze and a bit higher up is the memorial to those
of Whitchurch who fell in the South African War of 1899-1902. It
is not common to find Boer War memorials in churches.
Looking to the east, you will see, stretching from a pillar to
the north wall, a wooden screen, which was originally across the
entrance to the chancel and was erected in honour of Queen
Victoria in 1901. It was later moved to its present position,
losing a small amount at one end, so that it would fit the new
aperture. Through this screen, you can see some of the pipes of
the organ, and more pipes can be seen in the chancel. This is a
three-manual instrument with 41 speaking stops, built by
Rushworth and Dreaper, given to the church in 1935.
THE SAXON STONE
This stone was discovered embedded in the north wall when the
Victorians were rebuilding the church in 1866-68. It is unique
but reminiscent of the style of the stones found on Hadrian's
Wall. It shows a carved figurin relief. The halo with the cross
behind the head indicates that it is of Jesus. who holds the
gospels in his left hand while his right is raised in blessing.
In spite of the damage of centuries, the fingers are easily
discernible. Like other very early representations of Christ, the
chin, albeit damaged, seems to be clean-shaven. Across the top,
and possibly at some later date, an inscription has been carved .commemorating
a Saxon lady whose name means "Pledge of Peace". It
HIC CORPUS FRITHBURGAE REQUIESCIT IN PACEM SEPULTUM
which is translated as: "Here the body of Frithburga lies
buried in peace". Whoever she was, she represents the Saxon
community of centuries ago.
On now to the chancel itself. If you go up towards the altar, on
your right you will see high up a lovely little stained glass
window to the memory of 10-year-old Rustat Hemsted. In the
chancel are two framed lists of all the vicars of Whitchurch from
1283 until the present day (listed on page 8).
THE BROOKE MEMORIALS
On the east wall you will see the brass memorial to two of the
Brooke family. This family lived in the large house opposite the
church, now called Kings Lodge, but in the 16th century it was
Parsonage Farm. The two Brookes remembered in the brass are Richard Brooke and his wife
Elizabeth, an heiress of the Twyne family from nearby Longparish.
Both Richard and-Elizabeth are shown on the brass richly attired,
as befits a rich merchant family of the 16th century.
These two had three sons and three daughters, all represented in
two small groups beneath the main brass. The memorial was
originally on their tomb elsewhere in the church. The brass was
erected by their youngest son Robert. In fact it says as much
about him as it does about his parents; his indenture as
apprentice goldsmith is still to be seen in the City of London.
The words on the brass read as follows:
This grave (oh grief) hath
swallowed up with wide and open mouth
the bodie of good Richard Brooke, of Whitchurch, Hampton
And Elizabeth his wedded wife, twice twentie yeares and
Sweet Jesus hath their soules in heuen ye ground flesh
In Januarie (worne with age) dale sixteenth, died hee,
From Christ full fifteene hundred yeares, and more by
But death hir twist of life in Male, dale twentith did
From Christ full fifteene hundred yeares and more by
They left behinde them well to live, and growne to good
First Richard, Thomas, Robert Brooke, the youngest of the
Elizabeth and Barbara, then Dorothee the last,
AH six the knot of Nature's love, and kindness keepeth
This toome stone with the plate thereon thus grauen fair
Did Robert Brooke the youngest sonne, make of his proper
A Citizen of London state by faithful service free
Of Marchante great adventurers a brother sworn is hee.
And of the Indian Companie (come gaine or losse) a lim,
And of the Goldsmith liverie, all these Gode gifte to him;
This monument ofmemorie in loue performed hee,
December thirtie one. from Christ sixteen hundred and
Anno Domini 1603. La us Deo.
The nearby tomb shows the effigies of Thomas Brooke, the grandson
of Richard above, and his wife Susan. These chalk effigies have
not stood the passage of time all that well, and are worn from
abrasion, although small traces of paint work still show on them.
The richness of the clothes of Richard and Elizabeth Brooke on
the brass contrast sharply with the sombre lawyer's attire of
Thomas and his wife Susan depicted on the tomb. At some time in
the past, these effigies were removed from their original
position and were re-found in the tower in the early 1900s. They
were then placed in their present position, on a carved stone
base provided by subscription of the Brooke families in America.
Of the 11 children of Thomas and Susan, three sons are notable:
Thomas (1599-1665) for the manner of his death -- he was killed
by lightning while riding home from Winchester; Richard, for
entertaining King Charles I in the Parsonage Farm from 19-21
October 1644 on his way to the second battle of Newbury; and
Robert (1602-1655), an Anglican minister, for emigrating with his
family and 28 servants, sheep and greyhounds, on 30 June 1650 to
Maryland in America, where he became governor of Calvert County
and settled "a considerable plantation". Many of his
descendants from America continue to visit the church.
Also in the south aisle are the two memorials to the fallen of
the First and Second World Wars. The First World War memorial is
just behind the Brooke tomb, while that for the Second World War
is at the western end of
the south aisle. Beneath each of these two memorials there are
glass cases containing photographs of those mentioned in the
memorials; both presented by the Whitchurch branch of the Royal
Thus, we come back to the entrance door. But before you leave our
church, you should know that we feel a wonderful sense of
heritage and of being privileged to stand within the line of
faithful men and women, boys
and girls, who have lived in our town and made this a centre of
worship. As a visitor, will you not share with them in saying a
prayer here too?
OUTSIDE ALL HALLOWS
Just as All Hallows grew and changed over the centuries to
reflect the tastes and needs of a changing church, so it has
continued to do so in the 20th century. Attached to the west end
of the bell tower is a fine church
room, generously donated and built in 1974. This provides
facilities for meetings, social and other activities in which the
church is involved today.
As you go outside the church, look at the recently cleaned
tombstone at the northeast corner "In memory of John Haime,
soldier, preacher and fellow labourer with John Wesley. Died
August 18th 1784". This stone was
placed where it now stands by the local preachers of the district
in the 1930s. The original stone is now on the wall of the
Methodist Chapel in Winchester Street, Whitchurch.
No new plots have been allocated in the churchyard in this
century, although burials continued to be made up until the 1920s.
The gravestones leaning against the north wall were moved there
during the course of con-
struction of the church room in 1974.