St Nicholas Church
This simple two-cell ancient church, standing
almost in isolation in the unspoilt rolling farm and wooded land at the foot of
Portsdown Hill, has been described as a 'perfect pre-Conquest church', 'a
valuable specimen', and, 'a wonderful little treasure house'.
Some archaeologists incline to the view that a place of worship existed on this
site in the pre Christian era, and while the date of the foundation of the
church is lost in history, it was certainly built by Saxons who worked
untroubled by and unaware of William who was to become the Conqueror. The
original Saxon west wall was removed at some stage and the western apartment
thrown into the nave.
open bell turret, formed as an archway, with delicately moulded pillars is
roofed with stone tiles. The pillars and original stonework are probably Early
English, but the protective roofing is principally 19th century repair work. It
has been said that 'the jointings of the internal and external stonework, as in
Saxon quoins or ashlar, can be fairly termed "fine-jointed stonework", in direct
contrast to even the best early Norman masonry. The work on this building
illustrates the elegance of design, and the ability of execution, by native
Despite a general restoration in 1853. much of the original church remains. On
the east gable a vertical pilaster strip rises from a stone string course, a
feature of Saxon architecture, and on the north wall of the chancel a splendid
example of a double-splayed Saxon window opening, decorated with a double line
of cable- moulding, may be seen, but from the exterior only.
The Saxon window
No other trace of an early light opening,
save this, can be seen anywhere throughout the church. It, therefore, could have
been the only window in Saxon times. There is some evidence that a wooden
shutter was fitted at a later date.
The remains of the Saxon doorways may be traced on both the north and south
walls, and the more prominent brick-blocked openings are the entrances of the
13th century. The walls are rubble and flint and the west wall has been refaced
with flint and flint knapping.
entering the church the dominant architectural feature is the plain unmoulded
Saxon chancel arch, less than 2.13 metres wide, with a square band raised over
the head finishing at the level of the abaci, but which, at one time, no doubt,
continued down to the floor. It will be noticed that the flat stones of the
abaci comprise four on one side and five on the other. The unusual half-arch to
the left of the chancel arch is a 13th century addition and the corresponding
space on the right was evidently used for a side altar for which the stone
piscina, at the foot of the pulpit steps, seems sufficient evidence.
Within the sanctuary, the sculptured Norman head is also 13th century work, as
is the piscina to its right, where priests washed Communion vessels almost a
thousand years ago. The stone brackets on either side of the altar are probably
image brackets on which statues of the Virgin and Child, and the like, were
stood in the Middle Ages to stimulate devotion, a function similar to that of
stained glass windows. The recess in the south wall was probably used as an
aumbry for the storage of the sacred vessels, and the blocked doorway in the
alcove to the right was developed from an earlier entrance, very possibly the
priest's door of the original building, which is seen only from the outside.
||The monument on the north wall of the
sanctuary, which has stood for four centuries, has recently been
renovated by the Henslow family who were first recorded as armigers
of Boarhunt in 1412. At some time it was removed from elsewhere in
the church and it was seemingly damaged during transit.
Opinions vary concerning the three headless figures of Charity,
standing between Faith and Hope, on the pediments, and some believe
they were made headless and that they have not been decapitated. The
condition of the stone certainly favours this impression although
the reason for it is obscure. The monument is a typical and highly
regarded example of Elizabethan times, the
strapwork around the coats of arms and the proportions of the
Corinthian columns being particularly
notable; and all this was executed, or so it appears, by an
itinerant Flemish mason for the sum of £5! The arms in the centre
are Henslow, with Pounde, for Clare the wife of Ralph Henslow to the
left; and Poole (or Pole) to the right, the arms of the family of
Katherine, his second wife.
The flatstone at the foot of the monument
commemorates Sir Thomas Henslow who died in 1662. His arms are impaled with
Uvedale. A translation of the Latin inscription is nearby. This hides the
main outline of the old Saxon door on the south wall. It is a memorial to Rev.
Robert Eddowes who died in 1765 and was Rector of Hannington and Vicar of
Twyford, and to his wife. The reason for the memorial being in Boarhunt church
has not been discovered.
|Slightly to the west of the Eddowes monument
can be seen the remains of the decoration of a medieval mural
Turning to the nave, the boxed Squire's pew,
(still used as such), the three-decker pulpit and the west gallery, all in plain
pitch pine, remain from the restoration of 1853. Sir Nikolaus Pevsner, the
celebrated commentator on architecture and art observed that the restoration
work 'suggests an immunity, in this remote place, from the influence of
ecclesiological revival which had, by then, penetrated almost everywhere else',
and it remains true that, at Boarhunt church, we are disinclined to bend to the
whims of fashion!
The font, a massive tapering bowl,
tub-shaped, large enough for the 'dipping' of Saxon babies, is among
the oldest in Hampshire. The baptismal register dated from 1578 and
the burial register from 1588. The Communion cup is Elizabethan
silver of the type common enough in 1570.
The dedication of the church is to St.
Nicholas, as shown by the Victorian glass in the 13th century lancet east
window. St. Nicholas's Church has been a chapel of Southwick since the late 13th
Before leaving, see the famous Yew at the east end of the church. It is over a
thousand years old, one of the oldest in the country, and the circumference is
8.23 metres. Local legend has it that a family, in medieval times, sheltered
within its hollow trunk throughout an entire winter.