The Church at Chilworth is of Saxon origin and is mentioned in
the Domesday Book. It came under the control of the Priory of
Saint Denys in Southampton about the year 1224 and bears
the name of that saint although it has no known dedication. After
the dissolution of the Priory, the church came into the
possession of the Lord of the Manor who held the right of
appointing the vicar, until 1975 when Chilworth parish became
again a plurality with North Baddesley, and their Patron became
ours also. A historian tells us that one of the first
vicars was "An old castaway monk, who can scarcely say his
Matins, hired for twenty or thirty shillings a year, meat
and drink, or for meat and drink alone."
After the year 1700 the church fell into disrepair and in
1801 it was described as 'an ivy-clad ruin standing upon rising ground: a small building apparently of
great age, without a ceiling and little better than a hovel, a belfry in front somewhat
resembling a pigeon-house. The ivy claims property in the walls and admonishes the parishioners to
bestow a little expense upon what they profess to esteem as the house of God.'
The Church today
Peter Searle, the Lord of the Manor, whose body is interred in
the chancel. rebuilt the church at his own expense in 1812, and shortly before 1820 the new
building was consecrated by the Bishop of Winchester. It had a steeple, and a choir gallery over
the west door. These were removed in the latter part of the nineteenth century.
Two ancient graves level with the ground on the south side of the
church are said to date from about 1200.
The two bells in the tower also date from about 1200. They are of
great historical interest (although no dates are inscribed on them), and when examined by
Taylor's Bell Foundry, Loughborough in 1924, they found them particularly interesting on
account of their antiquity and that they were believed to be French bells cast either in the
12th or 13th Century. The original clappers are in the glass case near the font. Near
them are two pastel sketches of the church as it was in 1853, showing the stocks and pillory
near the gate, and a two decker pulpit in the interior.
The bowl of the font is of Saxon work, and bears the notches in
the corners where iron clamps were fixed to retain a lid which was kept locked to prevent
witches from stealing the holy water.
The roof of the church is said to be inspired by that of
Sherborne Abbey. It is of interest to note the corbels in which we see the recurring theme of the "Bear
and Ragged Staff," the "Owl" and the "Dove."
The East Window, which was destroyed by a parachute mine in 1941,
came from the Nonsuch Palace of Henry VIII at Sheen, and represented the four
Evangelists. The present window shows a crown of glory, and the shields of the Dioceses of Winchester
and Canterbury, and also of Saint Denys. The four lancets represent the Incarnation, the
Resurrection, the Return to Judgement, and the Holy Communion. They are linked by a Cross
which rises out of the wooded hills of this county. The parish records go back to 1703.
The Crucifix above the pulpit is made of dark oak from the
original 1200 foundations of Winchester Cathedral, and the
light oak is from the 14th Century Wool House (now the Maritime
Museum) in Southampton. It is signed M. R. FURNEAUX, Dean of
The Garden of Rest on the south side of the church as shown on
the cover picture of the information leaflet is the result of a generous gift from an
anonymous donor, and the planning of the layout as a Garden to receive the internment of ashes, was
the work of a small but faithful group of parishioners. The Garden was dedicated and
opened on the 9th July. 1967.
With grateful acknowledgement to the late Mr A. V. Dibble, local
historian Revised by Alistair
McKay and Alfred Clements, Churchwardens.
VISIT ST DENYS CHURCH AT CHILWORTH CHURCH WEBSITE