Wherwell Church - St. Peter & the Holy Cross
A GUIDE TO WHAT TO SEE IN THE CHURCH
The detailed history of the Saxon Church of the Holy Cross at Wherwell, founded by Queen Elfrida in AD 986, is to be found later in this booklet. The present building is an excellent example of mid-nineteenth century gothic revival where both the stone work and the timber are simple in style and free from the excessive decoration so often found in later Victorian Churches. It is of course a replacement of an ancient building, small pieces of which have been preserved as described later.
The massive stone corbels at the west wall and the heavy capitals to the drum' columns in the nave, together with the broad flat undersides to the arches are typical, but they do not overpower - as with both the plain walling above and the delicate roof corbels the height of the central section of the Church is enhanced.
The timber roof is slender and yet at the same time, beautifully constructed to give a sturdy and workmanlike appearance and the Choir roof is in fine hammer beam style. The separate internal support to the timber belfry tower is unusual in its Swiss style but is an entirely acceptable intrusion and as a piece of functional architecture is of interest.
The use of the entrance from the Choir to the Vestry is again an excellent example of early Victorian treatment, where a delightful effect has been gained by the use of a colonnade of cusped arches to support the wide opening; the result is entirely pleasing and delicate, the plain columns with thirteenth century style capitals and fifteenth century plinths working in perfect harmony.
Viewed from the east end of the Church the detached columns frame the west window with great effect.
There are several good examples of mid-nineteenth century glass, highly coloured in the medieval style; the large east window and the two smaller ones south of the Choir stalls are to the memory of the Iremonger family who owned the adjacent Wherwell Priory at the time of the reconstruction; the smaller windows being dedicated to a Mother and Daughter of the family who died within nine days of each other in the winter of 1872.
A fine small window of the same period to the right of the Altar is to the memory of Sir Charles Chatterton and dated 1855. The beautiful west window, erected in the early part of the twentieth century is by contrast in the more restrained colours of the time, and is also to the memory of the Iremonger family.
Preserved Early Stone Work
There are a few interesting pieces from the former Church which survived the replacement by the present building in 1857, these being located at the west end of the nave and in some cases outside the Church:-
Notably the recumbent figure of the great Abbess Euphemia of AD 1226 referred to later in this booklet.
The Elizabethan tomb of Sir Owen West who died in AD 1551 (of the De la Warr family and a possible connection with the American state of Delaware and with New Hampshire).
Some fragments are set into the walls; one a thirteenth century shaft from a Cross with interlaced design of Saxon origin. One a fifteenth century capital or plinth with a Tudor Rose which could have been used as a corbel. The bas relief panels are probably of an earlier date.
On the floor of the nave are three memorial slabs:-
One to John West, son of Lord De La Warr who died in 1656
One to John Cropp who died in 1740.
One to Mary, Daughter of Ferdinando Hudleston of Cumberland, wife of the Honorable Charles West.
A small illustration representing the Tudor Church on the site, (undated) can be seen on the west wall to the left of the font.
Hand worked Kneelers and Cushions
Many visitors will find the kneelers of special interest, these having been worked, as in many similar parishes, by local residents and depict where appropriate, parishoners' family crests and in others, a motif related to any particular facet of their life; one for example to a life in the service in twenty-one ships of the Royal Navy.
In the Choir Area
Hand work in the misere seats include the arms of the fourteenth century Penfold family of Cornwall with three birds close on a white field with a sable chevron, surmounted with a bare arm holding a battle axe; the arms of Sir Percy Orde's family from Northumberland quartered with three fish on a tenne field, an azure Maltese Cross on a white/silver field, surmounted by a tilting helm and deer's head; of the Reverend Murray Gawne, a former Vicar, bearing a white horse's head, this now being located in the Bishop's chair.
Also, in the officiating Priest's stall is the arms of the previous Incumbent, The Reverend Christopher Hubbard, blazoned with three heads of an opinicus charged on a green field with white chevron and surmounted by the head of an opinicus, armed and collared with a crest wreath and a coronet; the motto translated means "Seek higher things".
Six of the Choir stall cushions are in the design of the late Louisa Pasel known for her work with the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Royal Society of Arts and the British Association; the designs being those she produced for Winchester Cathedral.
In The Nave Area
Worked kneelers here are predominately red with the exception of special references to a few residents in the Parish of Wherwell. The pew to the left facing east, used by the lay Rector the late Marjorie Countess of Brecknock of Wherwell Priory, illustrates her connection with St John Ambulance, having occupied the post of Superintendent in Chief of that organisation when relinquished by her Cousin Lady Edwina Mountbatten.
To the opposite side, kneelers relate by heraldic device to the late Anthony Tuke, sometime Warden of Winchester College by an illustration of “The Faithful Servant" (being a standing ass in seventeenth century dress) and the black, gold and white eagle of Barclays Bank of which he was Chairman; these being worked by Lady Tuke.
There are several kneelers depicting appropriately St Peter the fisherman and Holy Cross.
At The Lectern
The mat here describes the ancient Wherwell legend of the dreaded cockatrice that wrought death and terror in the dark ages.
Outside the Church
Several early gargoyles from the gothic building are set into the eaves of the Victorian Mausoleum located to the south of the present Church and in the Churchyard.
There is a fourteenth century cross built into the gable of the adjacent Old Vicarage and at a time when fire and-decay damaged the earlier buildings, portions of the stone work have been used as a source of material elsewhere in the Village of Wherwell.
To the right of the font
A stone wall tablet dated 1691 (9 years after the founding of the City of Philadelphia USA) informs that one "Philadelphia Whitehead Purchased from the Right Hon John Ld La Warr out of the yearly rent of the White Lion Inn Wherwell the sum of 12 shillings to be payd yearly to 12 old men and women of Wherwell at Christmas and for ever ".
This charity is still maintained to this day - now by the Parish Council.
Like many Churches in Hampshire, Wherwell Church possesses a number of pieces of silver plate, of which the following are most interesting.
Weight 120zs 17dwts
No mark of Assay but probably about 1650 Maker's mark - a fleur-de-lys thrice repeated.
Marks - as Chalice
Inscription Thomas Smith Churchwardens of John BooterWhorwell
Both of these vessels are of crude workmanship and may be of local make.
Paten (actually the stand of caudle cup)
Weight 14ozs 10dwts
Marks:- London Assay for 1662 and S R with fleur-de-lys for the maker .
Rim is wide, boldly chased with tulip and flower work, often found on Dutch work of this period, In the centre is a rayed ornament of unusual and late design, with the sacred monogram in the centre.
This has been exhibited in the Treasury at Winchester Cathedral.
These details are taken from "Church Plate in Hampshire" by Braithwaite (1909).
The Church Clock
The Curfew had been tolled at eight every evening, all in the village setting their clocks by it, until Mr Harding, Head Gardener at The Priory, was relieved from his thirty year stint, by the presentation of the Church clock by the Parish to commemorate the Coronation of King George V in 1911.
Since then, the practice was to wind up the clock every Wednesday and Sunday after Church again this was done for over thirty years by Mr Fred Goddard, who had combined the offices of Church Warden, Parish Clerk, and Verger through the Second World War.
The Wherwell estate ceased to take electricity from the water power of the River Test (150 volts only) and came on the national grid in 1952. At the same time the Church clock was electrified. The not infrequent power cuts consequent on the industrial disputes of the next 25 years or so, made this a doubtful advantage for the PCC member entrusted with the care of the Clock.
Interestingly, the clock is currently maintained by Mr Denis Harding.
A huge thanks to Errol for providing this information