church of St Peter and St Paul
The church of St Peter and St Paul stands in the south
east corner of the old manorial grounds, within earshot
of the famous racing circuit. This small and unprepossessing
medieval church is among the most richly furnished in
Hampshire. Its squat ashlar faced tower and flint clad walls
give the impression of an early Victorian parish church but
the walls and roof of the nave and chancel are 13th century.
The origins of the church are much earlier than this, pre-dating
the Domesday Book and the Norman invasion. The original stone
church probably occupied the ground now covered by the nave.
There were six phases in the architectural development of the
church. Firstly in the 13th century the nave as it is now seen
was built. Secondly, at some later date the chancel was added
askew to the nave. This is normally attributed to the fact that
Christ's head is always shown leaning to the left on crucifix's
but is more likely to be due to poor planning of the chancel
extension. The chancel roof is of a style similar to that of the
nave and this fact is used to date the chancel close to that of the nave.
The Rev. Baynes carried out extensive alterations to the chancel,
and the use of iron bolts in the chancel roof frame stop it being
dated with certainty. The chancel may even be late 15th Century,
added at the time of or just prior to the building the chantry chapels.
The third phase carried out by the Lisle family in the late 15th and
early 16th century added two chantry chapels, one on the north side
and a smaller one to the south. The fourth phase added the original
tower in 1685. The fifth phase saw the rebuilding of the tower and
the destruction of the north chantry chapel and the apparent shortening
of the chancel in 1801. The last phase from 1850-1877 added the north
aisle, changed some windows, restored the chancel and left the church
as it is now seen.
Had the above works added cumulatively to the building, the church would
be truly magnificent. Unfortunately it suffered much in the 17th and 18th
centuries and it was not until the Victorian period that possibilities of
renewal were taken. In between 1839 and 1877, with much effort from the
Rev Donald Baynes (incumbent from 1837 to 1859) and others, the building
was transformed into the 'quintessentially early Victorian' building that
is now seen.
Few small churches received so much attention in the last century and the
interior is unusually richly furnished in the best ecclesiastical taste as
approved by the Cambridge Camden Society and its official journal 'The Ecclesiastical'.
The work seems to have gone unreported and so the name of the architect employed
by the Rev. Baynes is unknown.
However there is evidence to suggest that Edward Garbet was used. He is an elusive
and shadowy character, the talented son of Thomas Garbet who worked on the
restorations of Winchester Cathedral, Winchester College and Christchurch Priory.
The one great work of Edward Garbet is the ambitious and pioneering 'Early English'
style church at Theale near Reading which was built entirely at the expense of
Mrs. Sophia Sheppard of Amport, who as advowsen holder appointed the Rev. Donald Baynes
The stained glass windows of the church have survived intact from this period,
with the lamentable exception of the west window in the tower which was irreparably
damaged by vandals in recent times. The Rev. Baynes filled every window with the
best examples of stained glass work available, using artists such as Thomas Willement
and David Eavans. Thomas Willement was heraldic artist to George IV and Stained Glass
Artist to Queen Victoria. He pioneered the revival in the medieval manner of stained
glass using a leaded mosaic of coloured glass with minimal painting which is quite
distinct from the more painterly, pictorial idiom which prevailed in the mid 19th
century. His work at Thruxton is especially important since much of his other work
at Dogmersfield and Marchwood have not survived.
If the windows were not enough, the Rev. Baynes then went on to improve the walls
of the nave with appropriately gothic texts. The survival of these texts almost
complete is remarkable. The artist responsible is not known but the work may be
that of Edward Garbet who was also known for his artistry
contributed by Chris Coram