|ST MARY |
St Mary's church Michelmersh
The author of Michelmersh and its Antiquites wrote in 1867 that "...the village of Michaelmarsh is situated on an eminence commanding beautiful views of rich pastoral and woodland scenery, in the south west part of the County of Southampton, in the hundred of Buddlesgate and the Dearnery of Somborne"
Again in 1908 The Victoria History of Hampshire updated the description to read: "The Parish of Michelmersh is on high ground which falls in the west to the Test Valley, north and east are wide stretches of woodlands...." (Note the change from Michaelmarsh to Michelmersh)
This little church of the ecclesiastical parish of Michelmersh does indeed stand on high, in a position that does look across some outstanding Hampshire countryside. The church is large for a rural area but during earlier times the parish was substantially larger than it is today. To the south east of the church can be found Agincourt Field where the in 1415 600 knights and Archers had assembled prior to leaving for the battle of Agincourt. They stayed here for two nights and before marching to join the ships at Southampton, that would take them to join Henry V's army in France, they were reviewed by the Duke of Gloucester.
Five hundred and twenty nine years later troops once more camped in this same field, ready for the D-Day invasion of Normandy in 1944. To the south the bells of Romsey Abbey can be heard on a clear day if the wind is in the right direction. and we wonder if these same troops heard them before they left.
The exact date of the original church is difficult to work out and St Mary's has been described as 12th century, though much of it has been rebuilt and changed over the years. But there is little doubt that a church was here during the 1100s, and a Saxon church may also have been on this site long before then.
The church was dedicated to the memory of St Mary whose day is "Lady Day", the civil quarter day of 25th March.
One of the most eye-catching "wonders" of this church is the way the roof of clay peg tiles sweeps down low over the solid walls of flint and stone dressings that are set in a mixture of coal dust and lime mortar.
The wooden tower at the east end stands proudly pointing to the heavens. From around the 7th century bells were used in most monastic churches in England and in 1420 the Archbishop of Canterbury asked tht all churches be fitted with bells and the best place to hang them was in a specially constructed tower, but in the case of Michelmersh, it was not the tower that you can see now, but a tower was built to comply with the wishes of the Archbishop.
Its framing as well as the character of the present tower leads to the believe that it was built near the end of the 16th or the beginning of the 17th century. A lot of repair and replacement of timber has been carried out over the centuries and many of the joists in the first and second floors have dovetails and other mortices cut into them, this indicates that they may have been used elsewhere.
On one timber on the side of the first floor has the words "Renewed 10th December 1897" engraved into it and on the ground floor is another which cannot be deciphered though it has the year 1846 cut into it. The weatherboarding is oak and this was renewed in 1973 and other repairs carried out at the same time.
The tower is situated at the west end and is totally independent of the walls of the church though it is butted against them and is the only detached tower in the county that is made of wood, though at Perivale near Ealing in Middlesex a similar wooden tower of 16th century origin exists. The tower has been struck by lightning and is recorded that "little damage was done" during a summer storm of 1915.
The second floor of the tower had three bells that were mounted in a four bell frame whether a fourth bell existed it is not known. The casting of the bells was carried out at a foundry at Aldbourne in nearby Wiltshire which existed from 1696 up until 1825 when it was was sold to Mears of Whitechapel in London. The bells all have the year 1769 and the words "R. Wells, feict, Aldbourne MDCCLXV1111 R. Wheable and W Goff Churchwarden" embossed on their outer rims.
The clock on the tower was made by Thwaites and Reed in London and was sold to the church by John Tuck, who was a clock retailer in Romsey and it was he who installed it in December 1897. According to records it was put in the tower "in memory of the Queen's long reign of 60 years". It is a flat bed type with Graham dead beat escapemnts, which means the bit that tick! The striking mechanism is controlled by a count wheel mechanism and it only strikes the hour. The face is of hand beaten copper with at diameter of 36 inches with 5 inch high numerals which were re-written in 1994 using 23½ carat double weight gold leaf.
THE PORCH AND
It is believed that the chance at the east end was lengthened during the middle of the 13th century and is 12 m in length, which is long in proportion to the14m of the nave, and is the focal point of the interior of the Church as it houses the altar. For many centuries altars have been connected with worship and it is understandable that early Christians would associated it with the Last Supper. Communion rails are placed in front and in this church the present ones were installed 1946 and on the step leading up to the altar is inscribed "JPM 1874" and refers to the Rev. Jon Pierce Maurice, who was rector from 1840 at the age of 34. In the window jamb in the south wall of the chancel which is at an unusual height, and may have been a piscina though more likely to have been a squint or a low side window to view the altar from outside similar to a lepers window in some churches.
On the north side of the altar is a cupboard or aubry, that was given to the church in 1938 by Mr. H. L. Norris. While alterations were being carried out during 1881 the ceiling plaster which was put up in 1847 was removed those exposing 14th century roof timbers which can now be seen today.
The use of choirboys was ended in 1945 and the majority of the church stalls were removed. The ornately carved double-sided lecturn was donated in 1946 in memory of Commander Stephen Norris, Royal Navy who was drowned off Yugoslavia in 1942.
It is believed that the church was in a very neglected state during the early 1800s and in 1846/47 there was a lot of repairs and alterations carried out, mainly by a W. Gover of Winchester, who in the process destroyed may of the features that could have helped date the church. It is known that the wall between the nave and south aisle was taken down and rebuilt, and it is believed that the arch between chancel and nave was of this date.
In 1888, Sir Arthur Blomfield and architect wrote "... Whatever beauty of detail it may have possessed many years since, the greater part appears to have been destgroyed in the works carried out 40 years ago, when the whole of the south wall of the nave with its arches was rebuilt in its present form. All the original columns and arches and other ancient features have disappeared and stonework has been replaced by brick and stucco." (the central and eastern piers were rebuilt in chalk mixed with reused stone in the central one, the west pier is constructed entirely of stone imported from the Isle of Wight.
In the west end of the nave there used to be a first floor gallery, and the entrance can bee seen high up at the back of the church, vestry records of October 1875 record that "It was agreed that the western gallery should be removed, the Rector (Rev H. G. Merriman) being responsible for the cost." At the western end of the south side can be found some 17th century panelling from the front of the gallery.
Today the nave is 47ft 2 inches long and 18ft 9 inches wide and excludes the south aisle. A plain doorway over which is a pretty uncusped window with coloured diagonal panes depicting national emblems is at the west end.
The south side contains the font.
The walls today are plain and undecorated but before the Reformation during the latter half of the 16th century it would have been highly decorated to depict the parish' commitment to the church. A trace of colour can still be found on the arch above the organ and on the effigy which points to the walls being adorned with paintings long ago.
On close examination the name of Bishop Browne can be seen on the halo of a Bishop in the fifth panel up on the right hand side. At the east end of the chancel on the south side is the mediaeval window which is made up of mediaeval glass that had once been in the east window and was installed here in 1894. It is believed that the glass may have been made in the village.
Next to the mediaeval window can be found two lancets which are locally referred to as "the George and Kim Hunt window", as George Hunt was a highly respected local farmer who was church warden for many years, and his family gave money towards this project when he died, other private donations also helped. In the bottom right hand corners there is a picture of a bee, which is the emblem of Tricia Spink of Winchester who prepared the original drawings which include a "Hampshire Down" lamb and "Hampshire Hog". The text comes from Psalm 24 v.1 of the authorised version of the Bible and is included in the introduction to the Michelmersh Charter of 985 AD.
The north side of the Chancel contains a pair of lancets which are referred to as "the roundels windows" .At the top can be found the Hampshire Rose in red with a dove on the right that represents the Holy Spirit, below is a roundel in dark blue with 2001 engraved on it which records the start of the second millennium. To the right of this are three fishes that represent Tilapia, the fish of the sea of Galilee.
These windows were made by Sam Kelly of Salisbury Cathedral Stained Glass and he used English White Antique glass that came from Sunderland. This in fact was the last sheet of such glass supplied by Hartley Woods of Sunderland, amd both windows were put in place in July 2002 at a cost of around £7,000.
Nearby is the "Millennium Window" During mediaeval times land was give by Charter and in 985 King Aethelred donated land around Michelmersh to his friend Aelferd. The window was the work of the glaziers of Salisbury Cathedral and was placed in 1988 and marks the first 100 years of that event. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dunstan witnessed the charter as did Oswald, Archbishop of York together with the Bishops of Winchester and London and four Dukes. The spelling of the village name in 985 of Miclamersce is recorded in the Charter.
The north side of the nave has three square-headed windows with cinquefoild lights the western one being more recent than the other two which still retains 14th century stonework.
In the south aisle are the Incumbents windows, installed in April 2000 by Salisbury Cathedral Works department. The names of the Rectors since 1212 were engraved by Mrs Julian Cole using a foundational hand.
To the west of the main door is the windows of the Good Shepherd with children and lamb and was made by James Powell & Sons (Whitefriars) Ltd of London in 1907 and designed by Charles Hardgrave.
Fonts are classified by their exterior design and can be unmounted, or mounted on legs or pedestals. Again mounted fonts are then subdivided into tabular or in the case of the font at St Mary's cup fonts. These latter fonts are those where the underside of the bowl is curved or cup shaped.
The font at Michelmersh has both architectural and historic interest as although it has been extensively repaired, it originates from the 13th century. Made of Purbeck limestone, supported on a pedestal that has a moulded base to raise its height.
The bowl is decorated with four masks, or heads, which is rare as normally the decoration is of foliage. Between the heads can be found sprigs of foliage some of which look like fleur-de-lys while others are more of a stiff type of foliage. An unusual feature is that two of the heads are no more than that but the western two are set on necks and robed shoulders. The cover of the font is made of wood and the renewed stone top arc is of much later times.
In the west end of the south aisle is a monument to Sir William Ogle Viscount of Caterlough, Ireland. For some years prior to 1642 Sir William had served as a Member of Parliament for Winchester but as a staunch Royalist at the time of the Civil War the House of Commons resolved that he be discharged and disabled from being a member "for being in war against Parliament".
Sir William became Governor of Winchester Castle which was located next to the old Peninsular Barracks at the top end of the city and was responsible for the defence of the city against the Parliamentarians.
After a siege in 1645, he had to surrender the Castle on 6th October to Oliver Cromwell and his Generals. This surrender was delayed until 2pm on the following afternoon "by reason the Governor and some of the Officers being unwilling to leave any wine behind them, and made themselves drunk - 700 men marched out and the Viscount Ogle as drunk as a beggar."
When the Civil War came to an end Ogle is believed to have fallen on hard times and eventually died on 14 July 1682 and is remembered in the church.
The north wall of the nave contains the War Memorial and records the names of 10 men of the village, three are from one family, who gave their lives in the 1914-1918 war, also are three men who died during the 1939-1945 war.
One of the oldest family names in the village was Wheable and the first mention of them appears in the records of the Manor Court in 1281. They remained in the village until 1950 when Mr Clough Wheable sold Michelmersh House Farm to a George Hunt, who farmed there until he retired in 1970.
The memorial in the middle of the north wall of the nave is dedicated to Henry and Jane Wheable who both died of fever within hours of each other. It is also their son John who at the age of 21 died in 1837 before his parents. Sarah Wheable died in 1845 aged 23 and is recorded on a separate tablet.
The floor of the nave and opposite the entrance porch can be found a diamond shaped brass plaque to other members of this family who died in 1728 and 1730 and to their son John who died in 1827 at the ripe of age of 107, his wife Phoebe died in the same year aged 71.
Set in the wall to the right of the vestry door can be found the words "Here lyeth Master Trustram Fantleroy squire and Johan his wife which Trustram was buried the XV day of August the yere of our Lorde God MCCCCCXXX ano VIII (1538) whose souls God". The Fantleroys were an established family at Fantleroy's Marsh at Folke near Sherborne in Dorset and a John Fantleroy who was married to Joan Walsh died there in 1440. It is said that when King John of France was taken prisoner at the battle of Potiers in 1356 he found after his release that life in France was not so easy as life in England and he made his way here and lived till his death in 1364. His child had become known as "En fant le roi" which translated means Child of the King and this was later anglicised to Fantleroy.
Trustram was the husband of Joan, the daughter of Lord Stourton who had died before his, and from his will we know that two sons Bryan and John, the former inherited a lot of the estate, but there was a bequest of 6s 8d. "to the works of the Church of Michelmersh". Trustram Fantleroy was appointed by the Prior of St Swithuns Winchester "who has rendered good and faithful service in the past and is expected to do so in the future, sub steward of all the lands and possessions of the Priory in Wiltshire and Hampshire." Trustram later farmed Michelmersh Manor Farwm and was a Commissioner of Henry VIII and who in 1535,drew up the Kings Book.
There is a 15th century shield carved on a stone wall panel on the left jamb of the opening to the vestry. The carving is of two Coats of Arms, the left hand one being the Arms of a man and the other his wife which show the fleur-de-lys of France. In the middle of the husbands Arms is a crescent which is a cadency mark of a second son. Nobody knows for sure but this could be the Coat of Arm of Trustram Fantleroy and his wife.
The right hand jamb contains part of a mediaeval stone coffin lid that was discovered in the Church and place near the head of the effigy of the Revd. J.P. Maurice.
The most prominent memorial is the effigy of a knight that is clad in chain mail and lies in the chancel but was probably sited beneath the vestry arch as traces of the paint on the arch match the base of the memorial.
This is presumed to be Geoffrey de Canterton but it has also been recorded that it may be a member of the Hotot family who ancestors came over with William the Conqueror and whose Arms correspond with those on the shield. The Hotot family arms have two narrow bars close together in a chevron. It is thought that the monument may date from the beginning of the 14th century as the legs are crossed, after 1350 they would have been laid out straight, and in the mediaeval period all monuments stood on the floor with wall mounted monuments being unheard of until the 16th century and before 1500 all effigies were recumbent.On close examination you will find faint traces of colouring, mostly on the chevrons of the shield, that the knights feet rest on the body of a stag which indicates that he may have been a Kings forester and that there are two broken remains of small angels on either side of his head.
There is also a tablet in brass that was designed by Heywood Sumner of Fordingbridge and is in memory of his brother-in-law Canon Barrington Gore Browne, who wa a former Rector of this parish and whose wife was the daughter of Mary Sumner the founder of the Mothers Union (see Old Alresord Church history).