| ST MARY THE VIRGIN
We would like to thank
Micheldever is steeped in history and a large volume could easily be filled with facts concerning it.However, a short account has been attempted and only the more interesting details have been included and these as briefly as possible.I am indebted to the History of Micheldever by A. B. Milner, The Royal Victoria County History and many other sources for help in compiling this synopsis of our past.Donald M. H. Gill.
The present church, dedicated to St Mary the Virgin, is at least the third on the site. The church of Micheldever was included in a grant to New Minster (Hyde Abbey) in about 903 A.D.
The church continued under the Abbey for a long time, and a priest would be sent out from Winchester to conduct services, or else a chaplain was paid to perform these. He would be a servant of the Abbey, poorly paid, and subject to dismissal at any time. Later a vicar was appointed and his position made secure against interference. This was achieved n 1308, and an income established. The vicar was given all tithes of wool, cheese, milk, pigs, geese, ovens, honey, apples, and thistles. Possibly, the last were cultivated to be used for carding wool.
The nave was rebuilt in its octagonal form in 1806. The Vicar and wardens together with the patron, petitioned the Bishop for permission to rebuild, because the walls, roof, floor, and seats were in a ruinous condition.
It is thought that this work was done under the direction of an architect named Dance, who was employed by the Earl of Northbrook for the rebuilding of East Stratton House. He was also responsible for a church of similar design in London.
In 1881 the church underwent major repairs and the gallery, which was at the West end, was removed. During this work the remains of a decorated stone reredos were found. Nothing is now known of what happened to these.
Report has it, and it is recorded in some histories, that the church was rebuilt after a fire, but there is no truth in this.
The chancel has monuments to various members of the Baring family. One of these is by Flaxman, and is supposed to be the best example of his work.
The Baring vault is under the chancel floor, but has not been used for many years.
Under the nave is the Bristow vault. When the wooden platforms,which bear the pews, were raised recently the position of this vault could not be identified. Under the stokehole is a vault called the Popham vault. This was opened in 1917 and seven lead coffins were found. Some of these had names or initials on them, but there is no entry in the registers to correspond with any of them. One coffin without inscription measured seven feet four inches long, three feet wide, and two feet six inches high.
In 1963 this vault was accidently opened when a new boiler was being installed. It was noticed that the top of this large coffin had collapsed at one end, and the interior was full of what appeared to be peat. It is reasonable to suppose that someone died at a good distance from Micheldever and to transport the body, a normal coffin was placed in the bigger one and the intervening space filled with peat. This could account for the unusual size.
This was probably built by Wriothesley in about 1544 after he had pulled down Hyde Abbey. It is also possible that stones from the Abbey were used in the construction of the tower, because in the walls are some stones of Norman style workmanship and the tops and bases of pillars, etc.
Over the belfry windows are stone panels with a circle cut in each. One of these circles on the west side has inscribed on it a W over a tun or barrel. This is a rebus, and evidently signifies W. Overton. One wonders whether this aged joke conceals the name of the builder of the tower, who was W... from the neighbouring village of Overton. There are six bells. Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 5 were cast by J. Taylor & Co of Loughborough in 1892. Bells 4 and 6 were cast by Rob Cor in 1703. The Cors were founders in Aldbourne, Wiltshire.
The north and south interior arches to the east of the tower are the oldest part of the building and date from about 1380, although some authorities suggest a century earlier.
These date from 1538, when records were ordered first to be kept.They are outstandingly complete. In 1597 registers were ordered to be of parchment, and copies to be made of the old paper ones. Consequently many of the original paper registers were destroyed.
Micheldever's first registers are among the exceedingly rare and there is the original, beginning in December 1538 and a copy made about 1600. The first entry is for the burial of Robert Canterbury on December 13th 1538.
Until 1881 all East Stratton burial entries were in Micheldever registers.
There are no memorial brasses in the church, but there is a record that in 1700, in the south aisle, there was a portrait of a woman under a canopy and a brass surround with the inscription in Latin Here lies Margery de Knyghton late mother of Thomas Bishop of Durham who died in 1355. On whose soul may God have mercy. Amen We do not know if Margery lived in Micheldever, nor when or by whom this brass was removed.
The Lady Rachel Russell chalice is mentioned elsewhere in these notes. The chalice is unusually large with a plain bowl, straight sided, and with a turned over lip, the stem thick with filleted band as a knop and a moulded foot. The inscription reads, The gift of ye Honble Rachel Lady Russell 1703". In September 1866 Arabella Lady Northbrook gave a chalice, paten, flagon, and two alms dishes, all of silver, in memory of her husband Francis Thornhill, first Lord Northbrook.
The Marquis de Ruvigny
Henry Marquis de Ruvigny fled from religious persecution in France because he was a Huguenot. He entered the service of William III as a Major General and by so doing he surrendered his estates in France. In 1691 he fought in the battle of Aughrim in Ireland. In 1692 he was made Commander in Chief in Ireland and created Viscount Galway. In 1693 he went to Flanders and commanded the English and Huguenot Horse at the Battle of Louden. He was captured by the French, who released him because of his honourable record. In 1704 he commanded the English forces in Portugal and lost his right hand in battle. He captured Madrid in 1706. In 1707 he lost his right eye at Almanza. In 1709 he commanded the English at the battle of Caya. He visited Lady Rachel Russell in 1720 and died while staying with her. He was buried at Micheldever on September 6th of that year. The location of his grave is unknown.
He was described as an aged general maimed and covered with honourable wounds, by birth a foreigner, by sentiment and inclination an honest Englishman, a gentleman of rare and eminent qualities that equally rendered him proper for cabinet or field.
On the outside wall of the chancel is an oval tablet inscribed In memory of Benjamin Whitaker, Chief Justice of the Province of South Carolina, died November 1751 aged 53". He was Chief Justice of the Province from November 7th 1739 to 1749, when he was removed being a paralytic. The registers record the burial of a Benjamin Whitaker in November 1728. This man was evidently the father of a Judge, who expressed the desire to be buried as near my honoured father as possible. There is a memorial to his wife in the chancel of St Philip's church in Charleston, South Carolina.
The Baring family, which is mentioned frequently in these notes, came from Bremen, where Franz Baring was a Lutheran pastor. His son John came to England and was a clothmaker in Devon. It was Francis, son of this man, who bought East Stratton House and founded the banking firm of Baring Brothers. He was born in 1740 and although he was deaf all his life, this did not prevent him from being a financial genius.
The Hon. Arthur Baring
He was the second son of the first Earl of Northbrook and was a midshipman serving in H.M.S. Captain, the first ship in the Royal Navy to be fitted with gun turrets. She was designed by E.J. Reed, Chief Constructor of the Navy. Her keel was laid down in 1867 and she was completed in January, 1870. Following pressure from her master, Captain C.P. Coles R.N., she had been modified considerably from her designer's original wishes, becoming as a result top-heavy and unstable, with a freeboard of only six and a half feet. In September 1870, with the designer himself on board, in a gale in the Bay of Biscay, carrying too much sail, she turned turtle and sank. Only a few were saved. At the Court Martial, the blame was laid on Captain Coles and Lairds, the builders, for gross departure from the original design. Reed, absolved of all blame, went on to design many more ships, but all unrigged and engine-powered only. H.M.S. Captain was the last turret ship to have sails. Arthur Baring was one of those who perished. The memorial to him is on the south wall of the chancel and the tower and clock at the village school were presented by some friends of the family in his memory.
In 1830 the parish and surrounding district were aroused by the agricultural revolt. There had been risings in Kent for a living wage, because the newly invented threshing machine was considered a menace by the farm workers and the machines were often smashed and ricks burnt. The demand was for a wage of twelve shillings per week instead of the customary eight. In answer to this, Parliament passed a law making the smashing of the machines and demands for more money capital offences. At Northington, not far from Micheldever, the seat of a branch of the Baring family, Bingham Baring, a Justice of the Peace, ordered some labourers, who had gathered outside his house, to disperse. While doing this, his hat was knocked off by a Micheldever labourer named Henry Cook, aged nineteen. Cook was charged with attempted murder, tried at Winchester, hanged and buried in Micheldever churchyard. Legend has it that snow never remains on the site of his grave, the position of which is unknown, but no bare area was found after a search during a recent snowstorm!
King John stayed at Micheldever from July 27th to 30th in 1205, probably for hunting.
He was accommodated at the guest house somewhere on the south side of the church, perhaps where the Manor Farm now stands.
King Edward I was here on September 20th 1285. Robers de Hamulton was his Chancellor and also clerical rector of Micheldever and it is very likely that he entertained the king.
The village forge was here when Wriothesley bought Micheldever and must have been in existence long before that date.
The triangular area with the tree on it in the centre of the village and known as the Crease, was in all probability where the village Cross stood and the present name is a corruption of the word Cross. In the middle of the Crease there used to be a cottage with a shoemaker's shop and a small garden. The road from the Crease to Borough was at one time called Sloe Lane; Duke Street was originally Duck Street; Winchester Road, generally spoken of locally as Gin Hill, was Handford or Hawthorn Lane.
There used to be an ice-house at the Manor Farm to supply East Stratton House.
A headstone, now removed, in the churchyard recorded the burial of Savage Bear in 1813. The entry in the registers state that he was from Hursley.
(Postscript from Rev Donald Gill August 1992) I was walking around Romsey Abbey one day when I noticed the following memorial on the South wall of the nave.
a vault near this place are
She was the daughter of Mr Thomas King and widow of Mr John Holland, both of this town.She departed this life regretted in death as beloved while living the 23rd November 1787 Aged 39 years The wife of the mysterious Mr Savage Bear - with no `e'? Rev Donald Gill
A quinquennial survey of the Church building carried out in November 1981 revealed a general deterioration in the condition of the tower stonework, the oldest part of the building, with the battlements and the windows of the bell chamber needing particular attention. The reported condition of the tower came as no surprise because dangerous falls of stone had occurred during the preceding months and it was plain that major repairs were called for. It is believed that, with the exception of repairs to the roof, little work was done on the tower for probably more than 50 years up to 1983. In 1961 the lead roof of the tower and the small roof to the stair turret were stripped and mastic asphalt laid over a 5" concrete base, but there is no evidence of further work other than re-pointing the arches to the bell chamber windows. In addition to major repairs to the tower, the survey found several defects in the fabric of the nave, mainly at roof level, which needed attention.
The total cost of the work required to preserve the church was put at <156>69,875 (at 1983 price levels). Even with the aid of government grants this huge sum caused surprise and dismay and appeared far beyond the reach of a small Parish with no more than 325 families. The alternative to finding the money was to accept that within a comparatively short time the tower would become too dangerous to use and the Church would be forced to close.
Micheldever without a church for the first time in over 1,000 years was inconceivable and the parishioners were not prepared to stand indicted in the eyes of posterity for permitting its closure. They decided that an attempt should be made to raise the necessary money to carry out the repairs and they set about their task with great determination, energy and enterprise.
A public appeal was launched on 11th June, 1983 and the Archdeacon of Winchester, the Venerable David Cartwright, preached at a special service on 12th June to mark the opening of the appeal. Assistance was sought from Government Agencies, Local and Church Authorities, and Charities whose objectives included the advancement of religion and the preservation of buildings of architectural merit. At the same time a series of money raising events and ventures were planned by parishioners. The success of the campaign exceeded all expectations. In September 1984 it was possible to suspend further fund raising and a Thanksgiving Service was held on 15th September and the preacher was the Right Reverend David Cartwright, now Bishop of Southampton.
The task of raising such a large amount of money from a small community needed the wholehearted support of the parishioners, their direct involvement in planning the campaign and their willingness to participate in the fund raising activities. They did all these things with great enthusiasm and the whole enterprise engendered a most remarkable spirit of friendliness, fellowship and co-operation throughout the whole Parish and gave much enjoyment not only to those supporting it but also to the organizers as well.
A history of the appeal campaign Thy Will be done has been prepared and can be seen in the Church.
A village like Micheldever changes over the years and the Alms House turned into flats, mentioned above, have just been replaced with a fine close of `Starter Homes'. As you will see this has taken some 30 years since it was first proposed, and some of the new occupants are a whole generation later than those who first `put their names on the list'
It is good news that we now shall continue to have families of all ages in Micheldever and not suffer the fate of so many villages, where the average age seems to increase inexorably.