The Church of St. Mary Magdalene is reached
by footpath from the main road running through West Tisted. Its
history is closely associated with the original Manor House, and
it stands within the grounds of the house - in fact, to reach the
Church visitors cross, by a small bridge, the moat which
surrounded the property.
The Church is of simple single-cell Norman design, with walls up
to 3 feet thick,of sandstone ashlar with a dressing of flint and
rubble.Remains of a small (5 inch) Saxon window may be seen to
the West of the South doorway. Both the West and East ends have
been altered in later periods.
In modern times, entrance is gained through the South porch which
is plain with wooden seats and a wicket gate.
The Church, in its present form, was built probably soon after the
Norman Conquest, originally in the early Norman style, but with
Saxon influence. This was possibly due to the slow acceptance of
Norman methods in the more scattered communities, and it was left
to West Tisted's own craftsmen to make copies of what they had
seen in nearby towns like Winchester. An ambitious attempt, the
result provided a warm, "local" feeling often lost in
more austere pure Norman Churches. In the ground plan, too, this
Church evokes a sense of rustic intimacy, with its long, narrow
structure of simple nave, whitewashed walls and barrel ceiling
interrupted by heavy transverse beams.
This is probably the form of the early Church, although some
structural alteration has taken place subsequently. The South
wall appears to have been rebuilt in the late 13th century and
all the windows replaced. At about the same time was added the
Tower, with consequent strengthening of the West wall to secure
the extra weight. Latest additions appear to be the porch in 1750 , under the
initiative of the contemporary patrons, Magdalen College, Oxford,
and the addition of Chancel and Vestry in 1847.
In the jamb of the South doorway is a stoup - originally for holy
water. The doorway, with its pointed arch is early English, part
of the "new" South wall.
Four timber supports of the Bell Tower command the West End, and
the window is 14th century. There are signs that there was a West
Gallery, removed in 1847-8 during the last major alterations.
Here, also, stands the organ, built to a contemporary
specification by Osmonds of Taunton in 1978 and the gift of Mr.
and Mrs. Basil Samuel.
On the North wall are mural monuments to Sir Benjamin Tichborne,
1665, Margaret his wife, 1671, and Margaret Tichborne 1672, and
a tablet to Richard Lacy, 1690. Also the wartime loss of two sons
of the Zambra family, 20th century residents of the Manor, is
The blocked North doorway is older than the South wall and door,
and its plain round double arch suggests the hand of a Saxon
mason in the early Norman period. In front of the doorway stands
the font, believed to be of the same period, and a carved ledge
in the rim is indicative of the earlier practice of the Church to
secure the Baptismal water once blessed at Easter, from idle and
The North trefoiled window dated from late 13th/early 14th
century, and is set close to the line of the original East wall.
Opposite in the South wall is a trefoiled piscina and stone
credence shelf of the same date, which indicate the site of a
South nave altar. The square-headed window in this wall is cinquefoiled, of 15th century origin.
The Pulpit,in Gothic style and painted black, bears carved and
painted shields depicting the heraldic symbols of Magdelen
College, the Diocese of Winchester and the See of Canterbury.
This is the most altered feature of the Church, and its history
is obscure. The current structure, probably of 19th century rebuild, if not complete addition, is described in the 'Victoria
History of Hampshire' as: "a poor specimen of modern
fifteenth century Gothic (architecture) with a three-light East
window, and two two-light windows, in the South wall." This
East window is to a design by C. E. Kempe, a notable stained
glass artist of the Victorian period, and is dated 1892. It
depicts our Lord with St. Mary Magdalene and St. John and is
dedicated in memory of a former incumbent, William Anthony
Under the care of Magdalen College, restoration was carried out
in 1913, and the oak panelling brought from a Dutch chateau was
added. This is thought to be 18th century in origin. Flagstone
memorials to the Moreton family may be observed, and a wall plaque
recalls William Budd, 1772.
The Altar Table is 17th century oak with baluster legs some
alteration and remounting having taken place in the early 20th
century.Recent thefts have left the Chancel plainly furnished by
Restoration forms part of the stewardship of each succeeding
generation, and the most recent major work was undertaken in 1962.
The Manor of West Tisted can be traced as far back as Anglo-Saxon
times when a charter of 941 specifies that Edmund, King of the
English gave 7 mansae at Ticcestede to his thegn Aethelgeard (Birch.Cart.Saxii
495 and 529).By the time of the Domesday Survey it had passed
into ecclesiastical hands and was held by the Bishops of
Winchester until the beginning of the 13th century, when Richard
de IIchester, the then Bishop of Winchester treated it as his
personal property by giving it to his illegitimate son, Herbert
le Poor, Bishop of Salisbury. It was finally retrieved by Peter
des Roches in 1228 on behalf of the bishopric of Winchester.
There appear to have been. further arguments settled in 1289, when
Richard Poore, Bishop of Durham, released lands in West Tisted to
Peter des Roches 'about which they had a contention in the court of King
Henry' (Selborne records).
During the 12th century the greatest part of the Manor was held
from the Bishops of Winchester by the Tisted family and it seems
that they are the first family to really leave their mark on West Tisted. They improved the state of the
Manor, built a moat to
protect their property (the one crossed to reach the Church) ,
and probably it was they who had the Church of St.Mary built next
to their Manor House. Although little is known of the Tisted family, much of the Church built in this period still survives: the
blocked North doorway, the small window to the West of the porch
in the South wall, the font and probably much of the North Wall.
After the Tisted family the lands were held by a succession of
notable families; the de Camois,the le Hoods and the de Crofton
families in the 13th century and, finally,the great Tichborne
family in the next century. The 'overall' owners also changed: to
the de St. John family then the Poynings and Kyngestons before
passing back to the Bishops of Winchester.
Meanwhile, it appears that another important ownership chain was
being forged in West Tisted. The Limesi family owned an extensive
part of the village but, in the mid 13th century, got into
financial difficulties, and were forced to give their lands here
to Selborne Priory, to whom they owed money. It is during the
time of Selborne's interest in the village that we have our most
extensive knowledge of the affairs of West Tisted. The lands of
West Tisted are described , its layout and place names, the
villagers; their names. occupations and disputes and the general
assets of the village. For example, Selborne has its own grange
here by 1254 and there is also a smithy. Much is owed to Selborne's
records for our knowledge of West Tisted at this time.
Of course the records were not written with this in mind they
were written both to aid Selborne's administration of their lands
here, and as evidence of their ownership in disputes - of which
there were many. By 1239 Selborne was already involved in a law
suit over the advowson of the Church with the lord of the Manor,
Ralph de Camoys. It appears that Ralph had presented John de
Brideport to the Church and this was challenged by the priory. A
compromise was reached when the sole rights of Selborne to the
rights of presentation were
upheld but Ralph would always have the privilege of presenting a
clerk to the priory to pray for his soul, and Selborne had to
pension John de Brideport off with 100s p.a. (100 shillings
per year) until they found him a job.
There was one other illegal claimant to the living in 1280,a
Roger de Radenhalle, but he finally withdrew from the law suit 'penitently
acknowledging that he had no right to the Church'. By 1281 it
could be confidently stated by the ecclesiastical authorities
that John de Brideport had a new job, Selborne had always had the
right of advowson, the Church was worth ten marks and the present
incumbent, chosen by Selborne, was of 'good life and honest
conversation, and in Priest's orders' - and all was right with
For the next two hundred years to 1484, the little Church at West
Tisted was held, without further trouble, by Selborne. They
continued to present the vicar, receive the rents, and administer
their lands and grange here. Due to such stability it was a time
of considerable growth for the little Church of St. Mary and she
benefited greatly from the auspicious patronage of both the
priory and the lords of the Manor. The South wall was completely
rebuilt, and all the windows in the Church replaced by new ones.
Possibly it was at this time that the new chancel was added onto the East end. The Bell Tower too was
added and the West wall altered to secure the extra weight.
1484 marked a period of great change for St. Mary Magdalene when
the priory of Selborne was dissolved and the advowson was annexed
to Magdalen College, Oxford. It marked her transition from
medieval to modern, from ecclesiastical dependent to a more
secular one and this is apparent in the stories we have of her at the time, nearly all of which concern the Civil War:
The village played quite an active part in the war, being used as
an outpost by the Parliamentarian cavalry under Sir William
Waller. The most famous tale centres around the' Tichborne Oak', an
oak tree which stands about 200 yards S.W. of the Church, within
which Sir Benjamin Tichborne is supposed to have hidden after the
battle of Cheriton in 1643. He had fought with the Royalists who
had been roundly defeated and, apparently, on his return horn to
the Manor House, he had found it already occupied by the enemy
under Waller. He had been forced to hide in the oak until the
pursuit had died down when he made his way to the priest's hole
in his own house. From this, a second fascinating story ensues,
recorded in the entry in the parish register for February 10th,
1644, which describes the accidental shooting and killing of
Lieutenant Vernon, a Parliamentarian soldier, in the kitchen of
the Manor House. A groom was accused and Vernon buried in the
chancel of St. Mary's. But oral tradition has it that in fact he
was shot by Sir Benjamin himself, who had left the priest's hole
for food from the kitchen and been surprised there
by Vernon whom he was forced to shoot.
Under Magdalen College, the Church itself was updated too; the
main South porch was added in 1750 , the vestry in 1848 and the
West gallery, which had formed a stage of the Bell Tower, was
removed. At the same time the chancel was renovated and the
stained glass of the East window added in 1892.
In 1947 the patronage for Mary Magdalene was transferred from
Magdelen College to the See of Winchester, and finally in 1956
the parish of West Tisted was united to that of Ropley and then
combined with Bishop's Sutton into the United Benefice in 1978,
the links between the three Churches having always been strong.
So far as can be traced, the Church was dedicated to St. Mary the
Virgin until the Reformation, when many such dedications were
changed, and St. Mary Magdalene then became our Patron Saint.
There is a beautifully simple cup and cover paten dating from
1568, a paten dated 1823, and a modern chalice and paten of 1928.
In the Churchyard is a withered oak: beneath which lies a former
incumbent who wished to be buried under its shade. There is also
a brick tomb covered with a stone slab known as the 'Money Table'
because out door relief was put on it for parochial paupers.
Nearby is an old yew said to have been mentioned in the Domes day
Survey. It is certainly one of the oldest in the country and its
girth is 27 feet.
The registers date from 1538 on and are among the oldest in the
county. The Act requesting them to be kept was passed in 1537 and
the first entry in these registers is February 9th 1538,
recording the marriage of John Paxton to Alis Becher