St George ,
St George's church
Photo courtesy IOWCAM
BEFORE THE NORMAN CONQUEST.
Through the ages the Vale of Arreton has been fertile and its inland
position comparatively safe from the sea marauders, Consequently some of
the 300 Jutish families whom St. Wilfred (A.D. 685) Christianised may
well have settled here, building their little timber church by the pond
with the spring—their small community becoming known as Eaderingtune—later
Adrintone. That the Manor belonged to the Anglo Saxon royal family is
known from the fact that it is specifically mentioned in King Alfred's
private Will in 885 A.D.
After the Norman Conquest William I gave the Lordship of the Island to
his kinsman William Fitz Osborn. The Church was bestowed on the
Cistercian Abbey of Lyra (Normandy), In 1132 the whole manor was given
to the Monks.
In King Stephen's turbulent times, the Abbot of Lyra in^ distant
Normandy would find it no easy matter to collect the tithes from
Arreton. A story is told of the Monks barring themselves in the Church
rather than pay the tithes to the collector. Hence it is recorded that
in 1140 the Abbot, in consideration of an annual lump payment (40s.)
made over the Manor, the Church with tithes and glebe to the Abbey of
Quarr newly founded in 1132 by Baldwin de Redvers. It is recorded that
no sooner had the building come into the possession of these Cistercian
Monks, than they set about enlarging and beautifying it. At this time
the Church had no tower, no side aisles and the chancel was
shorter—perhaps apse shaped.
In King Henry 11s reign about 1160, the north aisle was added. To make
this possible, the outer wall was taken down, and in its place three
early English arches supporting the side aisle were erected.
With but one side aisle, the Church was unsymmetrical. To correct this
the south aisle was built, thus giving it "balance." Incidentally the
two sculptured heads at the juncture of the arches are assumed to be
those of the abbot and his master mason. At the east end, the chancel
was lengthened and together with the sanctuary, given its present free
spacious appearance. More light was made possible by inserting two large
windows over the altars and two more in the north wall of the chancel. A
corresponding south chapel was added (dedicated to St. John the
Baptist). To divide the two chancels, a finely wrought arcade was
erected, the two marble pillars of the arcade being brought from the
Purbeck Quarries in Dorset. To give more light still, similar windows to
those in the Mother chapel were let into the south wall.
About 1299, a squat tower was added. This however,
blocked out the light from the old Saxon window in the centre of the
wall and partly obscured the long lancet windows on either side of the
tower. To compensate for the loss of precious light, three small
circular windows were placed in the north and south aisle walls, just
above the level of their low side roofs—for it was not until 1738 that
the side aisle roofs were made one with the central roof.
The walls were largely covered with mural paintings (polychromed).
Traces of one (9ft. by 7ft.) was faintly discernible by the little
Norman window in the chancel until very recent times. After the
Reformation the walls were plastered over. When in 1865 the plaster was
removed from the yellow freestone walls, the paintings had faded beyond
An ornate rood-screen, surmounted by a narrow loft for the 'Cantor' to
sing from, was erected across the spacious chancel arch. Although both
screen and rood loft were removed in 1886, the entrance to the loft
stairs can still be seen on the south side of the arch. About 1480 the
low tower was heightened and strengthened by the existing massive
Just before Quarr Abbey was dissolved (1537) the aisle roofs were
heightened for the insertion of the beautiful Tudor windows, two in each
aisle wall. In 1549 King Henry VIII sold the Church to John Myll a
Southampton merchant. In 1610 Sir Richard Myll sold the Church to Sir
Thomas Fleming. The Flemings being patrons of the Church to this day.
The oak roof rafters were 'ceiled' with plaster and the walls repeatedly
white washed thus covering up every vestige of mural painting. In 1738
the roofs of the body and the side aisles were made continuous, thus
rendering useless the six small round windows. In George II's reign,
'horse box' pews replaced the low Tudor benches. In 1797 a gallery for
the choir together with organ was built up against the wall of the
belfry. In 1886 this was removed and the present organ installed.
19th and 20th CENTURIES.
Queen Victoria's reign witnessed two drastic restorations. The first,
1865 was to the chancel. There the white wash was scoured from the walls
leaving them with a patchy yellowish appearance. The roof timbers were
entirely replaced ; soft wood choir stalls were installed and the altars
refashioned. The second was in 1886 when the fine old double trussed
roofing was unceiled from plaster. The Hanoverian horse-box pews were
removed ; Minson's red and chocolate tiles were laid down and, for the
first time in its history the church was heated.
SUBSEQUENT EVENTS OF IMPORTANCE HAVE BEEN:—
1925. The erection of the new pulpit.
1948. Repair of the war damaged windows in the chancel with tinted
glass. When possible, they were bordered with the old green glass of
1950-1. A thorough but costly treatment of the 70 year old Death Watch
1953. Replacement of paraffin lamps by electrical lighting, and
subsequently some heating was installed.
1966. The south slope of the nave roof was re-tiled.
1969. The north slope of the nave roof was re-tiled.
1972. AN APPEAL IS BEING LAUNCHED FOR £10,000 FOR URGENT REPAIRS TO
CHURCH AND ORGAN.
Families connected with Arreton Church in the past
whose descendants live in and about Arreton to this day, to mention a
few taken fron'i the
old Church records :
Thomas Cheke—1544 James Way—1658
William Orchard—1579 Thomas Boswell— 1663
Richard Cotton—1590 Thomas Alien—1665
Joan Dore—1607 John Sailer—1668
1. The Belfry with its peal of six bells. On the 1601 bell are the
ringing words "In God is my hope !" The others date back to 1559, 1699,
1896 (2) and 1951.
2. The deep splayed round headed window over the Saxon door opening into
3. The restored font on the old Purbeck marble plinth. Note the fish on
the east side—the secret symbol of the early Christians—and the oak
cover carved by an Isle of Wight lady from a nearby barn beam.
4. The Priest's door in the chancel north wall whence can be glimpsed a
sylvan view of the ageless Downs. The original chancel just included
this door. High up in the outside wall is a tablet dated 1594 to William
Colnet, 'gent of Gomblie.' He is reputed to have been the great nephew
of the last Emperor of Constantinople 1453.
5. The Norman window, deep inset between the two larger windows of the
early English period. This Norman window is the gem of the church and as
dusk falls the
crucified figure is suffused with light.
6. the south altar rails into which are worked the remnants ot the 15th
Century rood screen, taken down in 1886.
7. The recess over the Jacobean altar table in the south Sanctuary. In
the Middle Ages it symbolised the Eastern sepulchre around which, on
Maundy Thursday, the villagers were wont to keep vigil.
8. According to Sir John Oglander's book: There is ye picture of a man
in brasse with a sword by hys syde, and three woolves hides in a coat
with this inscription—"Here is y buried under this grave. Harry Hawles
his sowie God save. Long tyme Stuard of this Yie of Wight. Have m'cy on
hym God full ofmyght." The brass is on the sanctuary floor. Harry Hawles
fought at Agincourt 1415.
9. The oak chest 1679 and initialled "W. H." and "B. R." Unless the
three locks were turned together (one for each Church warden and one for
the Vicar) the lid would not open. On the chest is a 1631 edition of
'Fox's Book of Martyrs.'
10. Opposite the chest, the opening in the side of the Chancel arch to
the one time rood-loft. Over it the square aperture whence hung the
Sanctus Bell presented in 1465 by Nicolas Serle.
11. The Pulpit. Percy Stone, the Island Architect, conceived its design
from two panels of a cottage cabinet which he bought. He gave the panels
to Leonard Ledicott of Newport who then fashioned the others after their
style, and Messrs. A. A. Westmore of Blackwater, built up the whole
pulpit, including the two original panels.
12. On the east wall by the pulpit, the mutilated torso of "The Lord in
Glory" and the dragon's head (St. George and the Dragon), under which
are the remains of the original 13th Century font.
13. And lastly note the harmony of the windows—Tudor in the aisles,
early English in the chancel and Saxon in the belfry.
Outside the Church.
The Elizabethan square stone Porch facing due south. Note the vertical
sundial above to give the right time to the villagers and their
parson.By the west corner of the porch, the inner red brick tomb, 1720,
of Oliver Cromwell's grandson William and his wife Martha. They lived at
Horringford Farm. Along the path, by the railing, the tombstone of James
Urry with its rhyming epitaph composed by his 'relict' Hannah Urry after
he had been gored by his bull just after the battle of Waterloo. The
bell ringer William Rayner's tomb, 1823, restored in 1925 by the
Diocesan Guild of Ringers. Daily for 20 years this enthusiast put aside
a halfpenny towards the addition of two treble bells for St. Thomas's
The Dairyman's daughter's tombstone (opposite the priest's door)
Elizabeth Wallridge was the heroine of this Island story. One million
copies were sold between 1805-20. Written by the Reverend Legh Richmond.
In the north-west wall recess by the tower there is a small expanse of
pre-Norman masonry, which like the Church, is a silent witness to the
devoted handiwork of the Isle of Wight masons through the ages to the
Glory of the Lord.
(text kindly submitted by Ann Ryder)