The foundation of Cheriton as a distinct
Parish and Manor appears to have originated with the erection of
the Church of St. Michael during the time of Henry de Blois,
Bishop of Winchester 1129-1171 and the earliest parts of the
building date from that period. Brother of King Stephen and
grandson of William the Conqueror, Bishop de Blois was promoted
to the Episcopal See of Winchester by his Uncle Henry I, after
being Abbot of
The appointment of the Rector of Cheriton was an important one in
the Diocese of Winchester, the incumbent having additional
oversight of the Chapeleries of Tichborne, Kilmeston and
Beauworth. It once had the third
highest stipend in the Diocese and was regarded as a stepping
stone for high office in the Church.
The Church Building
The Church is built on a small hill which was almost certainly a
prehistoric burial mound or long barrow. The original dedication
appears from old documents to have been to St. Michael the
Archangel and this was the name in use until the sixteenth
It is a fine Early English Church with a large Chancel which,
together with the broad tread of each step leading to the Altar,
(which was necessary for the celebration of the full services in
the older ritual with all their attendant
cermonial) is generally the characteristic mark of a mother
Church. In his will of 1404 the Bishop of Winchester, William of
Wykeham (whose friend and secretary was John de Campeden, the
Rector of Cheriton) bequeathed to- the Church a full set of Altar
vestments for priest, deacon and sub-deacon together
with ĞL cope and chalice.
The Church being built on a hill, the ground slopes away quite
dramatically at the Eastern end of the Chancel, which until the
Victorian restoration of 1879 had a crypt built beneath it. This
was filled in and the memorial stones in the floor were removed
and placed in the floor under the tower.
Among the memorials were two bricks one with the name Spencer
incised on it and the other with the date 1396. The remnants of
these are still in the tower floor where there are also some
smaller vault stones with initials and dates.
The porch entrance on the South side of the Church has plain
Norman shafts or pillars and a pointed arch with several rows of
ornamental moulding and is probably one of the oldest parts of
the building. The pattern of the
ornamentation and the style of architecture seem to belong to the
early part of the 13th century.
On the right and left sides of the entrance are two mysterious
curved- sided triangles, the origins of which have puzzled
numerous experts over the years. They probably originated as an
embellishment to an arch. There are also two heads which adorn
the wall above the triangles, the one on the left, the head of a
man with flowing hair and a beard, wearing a plain cap, and the
one on the right, the head of a woman with a veil or hood
descending each side of her face. These were once built into the
Western wall of the churchyard and were
reputed to have originally formed part of the old Church at
Beauworth, which was out of use by the year 1517.
There is also a Norman scratch or mass sun dial on the right hand
side of the porch entrance which was used to indicate the times
of the Church services. The pin has long disappeared; below
someone has cut the initials T.G. and the date 1697 in the
The Chancel was lengthened in the late 15th or early l6th century,
the original position of the East end wall having been where the
steps now lead to the Altar. When this work was done the large
Perpendicular East window was moved to its present position. The
original erection of this window was attributed to William
de Edyngdon, Rector of Cheriton 1335-1344 and Bishop of
Winchester 1346-1366. It resembles in its general design the
windows in Winchester Cathedral, which are also attributed to
that prelate and the ones in the magnificent parish Church of
Edington, Wilts, which William de Edyngdon also built. In the
South wall of the Sanctuary is a trefoiled Piscina for washing
the Communion vessels; there is a shelf and two brackets but the
basin and drain have been removed. It is of 13th century work and
would have been moved Eastward to its present position when the
Chancel was lengthened. At the same time the two transomed l4th
century Perpendicular windows were inserted in the North and
South facing walls.
In the North window the lights below the transom are cinquefoiled
but in the South window they are shouldered and have rebates for
wooden frames. On the outer face of the North window the label
stops or ends of the dripstones are fashioned as heads, the one
to the East is of a man wearing a plain cap, the one to the West
is of a beast's head which resembles a fox.
In the centre bay of the Chancel are two single 13th century
lancet windows facing each other in the North and South walls,
the one in the North wall being concealed behind the organ. At
the Western end of the Chancel also facing each other, are two 13th
century double lancet windows with low descending splayed cills.
All the lancets have had their stonework refaced on the outside.
There is a 13th century priest's door in the South wall.
Beneath the 17th century oak Altar Table are some specimens of
medieval encaustic tiles which were placed in their present
position during the restoration of 1879. They are believed to be
of Flemish manufacture and while the majority have patterns
fairly common in this part of Hampshire there are two which are
particularly noteworthy. One carries the head of Our Lord and is
unique to Cheriton; the other carries the head of the Blessed
Virgin Mary and there are three other known specimens, one of
which is in Holland and is dated
The Nave is the same width as the Chancel and has arcades of
three bays each side; it preserves the width of the older and
probably aisle-less Nave to which the former Chancel belonged.
The arcades of the three bays are dated about 1220, the date at
which it may be presumed that the aisles were added. The arcades
have pointed arches of two chamfered orders which spring from
short thick pillars with moulded capitals and bases with spurs on
the corners; they are of the same period as the lofty arch which
separates the Chancel from the main body of the Church.
At the West end of the Church is a high 13th century arch beneath
which a door leads to the tower. This is transitional Norman
style, but externally shows no medieval work, being faced with 18th
century brick and flint work. The South and east doors in the
tower are of that date and are of no particular merit.
On Tuesday 29th May, 1744 the Church suffered a terrible fire. In
the Church Register is the following entry by the Curate, Charles
"On Tuesday ye 29th May 1744 a very sudden and terrible
fire broke out in
this parish which in the space of two hours burnt down and
houses, outhouses, barns and stables belonging to the Parsonage
communicated itself to the church which being shingled was
immediately all in
flames, the roof and seats entirely destroyed, ye bells melted,
demolished and nothing left standing but ye walls...."
Before 1744 there had been four years of drought in England and
the series of dry years was not broken until the last quarter of
1744, the fifth year of drought. One can imagine how tinder-dry
everything would have been. Such a degree of drought has never
since been surpassed in this country.
Mr. Moody goes on to relate that the Rector had the Chancel
repaired and that the Bishop gave the timber needed to repair the
damage to the building; but apart from their generosity the
charge of the work involved amounted to the sum of £630 and
upwards. This sum was raised and the Church restored within two
In 1879 the Church suffered a typical Victorian restoration. As
was the fashion of the times it involved removing most of the
surviving old fittings. The new work included the re-pewing of
the whole Church, the retiling of the floors, the removal of the
old font and replacing it with a new font of Caen stone, new
communion rails for the Sanctuary and a new oak lectern, a gift
from the Rector's daughter. The works were carried out by Messrs.
Dyer, Builders of Alton.
In February 1892 the pulpit of Caen stone was installed in place
of the previous wooden pulpit which was then taken to Tichborne
Church and is still situated there.
In the North aisle wall directly opposite the South entrance is
the North doorway which has been blocked on the interior by
masonry although the 18th century exterior door is still in
By the blocked-up doorway stands a 17th century oak chest. In the
wall above are two ancient stones, one bearing an incised
consecration cross, and the other part of a shelf to carry an
image. Both were probably moved there during the 1879 restoration.
The Bells and Clock
The number of bells in the tower before the fire is unknown but
it would appear that a new five bell pea! was cast after the fire,
so in all probability the original peal numbered five.
The new peal was cast by John Stares in 1746 at the village bell
foundry of Aldbourne, Wiltshire; four of the peal still carry his
initials. In 1837 the fourth bell of the peal was recast at
Meares, the Whitechapel bell foundry in London; its original
markings (if any) were not replaced.
In 1887 the bells were recast and a sixth bell (the treble) was
added to celebrate Queen Victoria s Golden Jubilee. Owing to to
the poor condition of the wooden bell frame an appeal was
launched in 1971 to finance the rehanging of the bells in a new
steel frame. This work was carried out by the firm of John Taylor
and Co. the Loughborough Bell Foundry.
To celebrate Queen Victorias Diamond Jubilee in 1897 the
parishioners erected a Church clock. This is recorded by an
inscription on the clock case.
In 1881 the stained glass in the East window of the Chancel was
installed by Messrs. Cox and Sons assisted by Buckley and Co. of
The Strand, London, it was given by the Rector, the Rev.
Alexander Orr, principally in memory of his son and depicts the
four Evangelists with their Symbols. This was the only stained
glass in the Church at that time.
The stained glass in the four stone windows in the North and
South aisle walls of the Nave was installed by Mrs. Mary Augusta
Phipps Egerton in memory of four nephews killed in the First
World War. They depict the knightly virtues with figures of Duty,
Courage, Loyalty and Honour each bearing the face of one of her
nephews. Accompanying the figures are scenes from the Bible, the
Saints and the legends of King Arthur, with the badges of their
schools and regiments.
The corbels on the exterior carry the names of the battles in
which they laid down their lives. The stained glass in the East
window of the South aisle was installed in 1946 to the memory of
Mrs. Egerton "who went about doing good". It is
medieval in conception though modern in execution for the
benefactress herself appears in the right hand light, while in
the left is a delightful Madonna and child; the background has
views of the village. The window was a gift from Mrs. Egerton's
sisters and is the work of Martin Travers, as is that of the
stained glass windows in the Nave.
For a Church as old as St. Michael's there are relatively few
memorials; some have been destroyed in the 1744 fire or during
the Victorian restoration. The oldest memorial, which is in the
floor of the tower, is to the Rev. Morgan Jones M.A. Rector of
Cheriton 1694-1720 who left an educational charity to the village.
Other memorials in the Church are to the Rev. Edmund Ferrers M.A,
Rector of Cheriton 1780-1825 and his family, the Rev. Harold
Brownlow B.A, Rector of Cheriton 1904-1942 and the Rev. and Mrs.
Lionel Corbett of Hockley House. In addition the organ was
donated by Mrs. Egerton in memory of her husband Rear Admiral F.W.
Egerton who died in 1909. There are also two war memorials, one
commemorating those parishioners who died in the South African
War of 1899-1902, and the other those who died in the Great Wars
of 1914-1918 and 1939- 1945. The oldest known memorial in the
churchyard is to John Cozens who died in 1680.
Registers and Plate
The registers date from 1557 and the early ones contain Beauworth
as well as Cheriton entries; the account books date from 1816.
The oldest piece of plate is the silver chalice with London Assay
marks for 1621 and RB for the maker.
The paten has the London Assay marks for 1698 and CH with crown
over which indicates the maker, James Chadwick; it has the
inscription 'Cheriton Parish 1699'. The flagon was given in 1911,
and the wafer box in 1967 in memory of the Rev. Arthur Skene,
Rector of Cheriton 1943-1966. A modern silver chalice was given
in 1973 by Lady Templar-Smith.
The name Cheriton means Church Village and appears to have
originated with the building of the Church. Prior to this what is
now known as Cheriton was part of the large Saxon Manor of
Tichborne which embodied what are today the two distinct Parishes
and part of the present Parish of Beauworth. In due course the
Bishop of Winchester became Lord of Cheriton Manor and of the
three sub-Manors, the Tichborne family Manor, Beauworth Manor and
the Manor of Cheriton Rectory. In the nineteenth century the
Church Commissioners took over as Lord of the Manor. The United
Benefice of Cheriton with Tichborne and
Beauworth was created by Her Majesty's Order in Council of 6th
Before the Reformation in 1538 the Bishop of Winchester was
Patron of the Livings in his Diocese including Cheriton but after
this event King Henry VIII assumed the Patronage. It was not,
however, to be long before the King restored the patronage to the
Bishop of Winchester. This position continued until 1874 when the
patronage of the Living of Cheriton again passed to the Crown who
still presents the Rector to the Parish.
The Reformation brought turmoil to the Church and John White the
Rector of Cheriton and an opponent of the Protestant Faith was,
for a time, imprisoned in the Tower. When Mary Tudor came to the
throne he was made
Bishop of Lincoln and later Bishop of Winchester. When Queen
Elizabeth succeeded to the throne, White was again imprisoned in
the Tower but he was a sick man and died a few months later.
on 29th March 1644 the Battle of Cheriton was fought to the East
of the village between the Parliamentarians and the Kings Army.
This resulted in a great victory for the former, and marked a
turning point in the Civil War.
Through all this turbulent history St. Michael's Church has
remained the centre of Christian worship in the Parish of
Cheriton. In spite of fire and changing practices the Church has
been faithfully maintained and, when
necessary, restored by the local community and for over 800 years
has borne constant witness to our eternal and enduring Christian