The church of St John the Baptist, Burley was
consecrated by Charles Sumner, Bishop of Winchester, on 14th March 1839. It was a simple rectangular building, designed by
Charles Underwood, comprising what is now the nave and choir of
the present church. The cost of about £1,000 was raised by local
subscription together with a further sum of £1,000 for the
building of a Vicarage nearby.
Shortly afterwards a "Dames School" was built in the
churchyard which provided education for local children until the
County School was built some fifteen years later.
Burley was originally part of the Parish of Ringwood and it was
only separated from it in 1838 when Sir John Lefevre, Lord of the
Manor of Burley, gave part of his estate, called Barn Close, for
the erection of the first Anglican Church in the village. The Congregational Chapel
was built fifty years earlier, in 1789.
It is possible that there was a place of worship in Burley before
1550 as a deed of 1663 mentions a "tenement called the
Chapel" and a field called Chapel Haye. This may refer to a
chapel belonging to the Manor which became derelict after the
Reformation and had been converted to a cottage.
IN VICTORIAN TIMES
In 1851, the pews were "enclosed" and a gallery,
reached by an outside staircase, added at the west end. In 1886,
the church was stated "to be "very damp' and the seats
so ill-arranged that kneeling was impossible for adults." In those days the parish clerk was paid £3 a year
and the organist £5!
A well-known Victorian architect, William Butter-field, designed
a new sanctuary, vestry, north porch and organ chamber and these
were added in 1886/7. The gallery was removed from the west end
Between 1936 and 1978 the pews, choir stalls, altar rail, pulpit
and lectern, were all replaced with the fine oak ones you see now.
Many were given in memory of Burley people.
In 1955, the present Compton organ of three extended ranks
replaced the Victorian one, made by Bevington, which is still in
use in the Parish Church of Hook in Hampshire.
The white ensign over the west door was presented to the parish
by the officers and ship's company of H.M.S.Burley in 1958.
In 1967 the Victorian tiled floors in the chancel and sanctuary
were replaced with Purbeck marble and Portland stone.
The church room, on the north side of the church, was added in
1974 and enlarged in 1987 to provide meeting rooms, kitchen
facilities and storage space.
The stained-glass spans nearly 100 years, the earliest windows
dating from the Victorian restoration of 1886, the latest being
installed in 1984. Like the memorial tablets on the walls they
were nearly all given in memory of Burley people and each has its
story to tell.
The east window depicting St John the Baptist in the centre
together with St Luke and St Paul was given by William Esdaile,
formerly of Burley Manor. His own memorial is the west window
showing Faith, Hope and Charity, given by his many friends. The south sanctuary window
commemorates the death of a young girl, Ruth, aged 14, and tells
the story of our Lord raising a dead girl to life.
In the nave, on the south side, St George commemorates a soldier
killed in action in Tunisia in 1943. Near the north door is a
very different window, also associated with the two World Wars,
given by the children of the Sunday School in 1919 in
thanksgiving for peace.
Towards the pulpit, the figure of our Lord knocking on the door
is reminiscent of Holman Hunt's famous painting "Behold, I
stand at the door and knock". This window links Burley with
the South of France.
The next two have North American connections. Miss Applebee, who
lived to 107, introduced women's' hockey into America. St
Catherine of Sienna is the patron saint of sport. Note the hockey
sticks in the border, also the rhebus of her name shown in
pictures of apples and bees The window was given in 1984 by her
many American friends. The other window in memory of Mary Warren-Taylor
of New York was given in 1936 by her great friend Miss Applebee, who also gave the pulpit and
choir stalls in her memory.
Like the windows, the memorial tablets, both in the church and
churchyard, tell their own stories of Burley people.
One, in the churchyard, not far from the north door, commemorates
a Frenchman who sought refuge in England after the Revolution of
1789 and settled in Burley as a nursery-gardener. The inscription
reads. "In memory of Virtue Fey who departed this life Oct.9.1863 aged 62.
Also of William Fey who died July. 13.1859 aged 85. By much
largeness ot heart and enterprise he gave employment to many and
of his resources provided School Instruction for Burley when it was at that time
remote and destitute of any."
Another on the north side of the nave bears the delightful legend
"Emma Harding. 1873-1976 a faithful member of this
congregation who continued to walk to church when past her
hundredth year." Another centenarian is commemorated on the
next tablet but one.
The quality and wording of the memorial tablets repay careful
reading. They reflect well the styles of brass and stone tablets
over a period of about 100 years.
Hidden amongst the memorial pews and furniture in the nave are
two wooden mice, the signature of Tompsons who made them. To find
them, look carefully at the legs of the table near the font and
at one of the pew ends near the pulpit.