Discover the history, beauty and heritage of Hampshire’s Churches
Rich in imagery, symbols, architecture and art
The parish churches of England epitomise English history and the English way of life. At their most splendid they can rival cathedrals, with their soaring piers, rich sculpture and spectacular angel roofs, while even the humblest has about it an air of serene faith, a breath of spiritual refreshment in the midst of modern living.
There are over 900 Christian churches, chapels and meeting houses in Hampshire, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Wight, providing a rich architectural heritage that reflects changes in religious practice, architecture and vernacular building styles.
To understand more about our past and its influence on our world today, we can visit churches to see at first hand how the development and spread of places of worship plays a role in the history of Britain.
Ancient and modern
Fashions have changed over the centuries and churches have been built in many styles and with varying degrees of decoration. Some are very plain, while others are highly ornate. However, when looking beyond the obviously beautiful features, you can find layers of history and meaning woven into the very fabric of the building, some obvious, others not so clear. As anyone who visits churches will know, they are alive with images and symbols. But, the very building itself is also a symbol, to be understood by its congregation, local community and visitors. The original builders of our churches, be they ancient or modern, meant for them to be ‘read’ and understood. But today few people truly understand the wealth of meaning they find there.
Hampshire’s oldest church in current use is St Peter’s Titchfield dating from 680 AD. It has the oldest bell tower and contains architecture from all of the main periods from Anglo-Saxon to Perpendicular.
Until 2000, Winchester Diocese was building a new church every two years and we believe St Paul’s, Bursledon to be one of the newest in the benefice with the 12thC St Leonard’s. Some of these newer churches have wonderful features such as St Michael and All Angels, Paulsgrove. Built around 1970, one of the most striking features is an original Hans Feibusch painting of the Temptation of Christ
Some of the most remote churches include the Tin Tabernacle in the woods near Ropley, a mission church which was built in just five days in 1883 for Travellers and Romanies. Others are remote as their villages disappeared after the plague, leaving the church on its own. A curiosity in this respect is St Hubert’s, Idsworth . It features old pictures of a medieval village clustered around its site on top of a hill. Extensive scientific surveys have now shown St Huberts had never had a single building near it except possible an old Roman Temple half a mile away!
St Peter’s, Titchfield has historically been a stop off for royalty with Henry V staying in the town before departing for Agincourt, and the doomed Charles I resting there before being moved to his imprisonment on the Isle of Wight.
Romsey Abbey can also lay claim to Royal associations with Lord Mountbatten buried there and so was visited by Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip every Advent since their honeymoon up to 1980.
St Mildred’s, Whippingham Queen Victoria took a close interest in ‘her people’ in Whippingham. This is reflected in the many memorials in St Mildred’s Church which commemorate members of the Royal Family, including the Prince Consort
Romsey Abbey also features as background in many Inspector Wexford detective films.
St Andrew’s church, Nether Wallop appears in the role of St Mary Mead’s church in the BBC’s version of Miss Marple. Numerous villages in the north east of Hampshire have also appeared as locations in Midsomer Murders, you can have fun seeing which you recognise!
More recently Winchester’s Hospital of Saint Cross was used for an archery scene in Wolf Hall.
Some of the other churches worth visiting
See sidebar link for more information on our churches
- St Faith’s, Havant, 11 century church built on Roman foundations with a stone carving possibly of a Saxon font
- St Peter’s, Titchfield, 680 AD with the oldest bell tower in Hampshire and containingthe oldest bell tower and containing architecture from all of the main periods from Anglo-Saxon to Perpendicular
- St Michael and All Angels, Lyndhurst, with Alice Liddell (as in Allice’s Adventures in Wonderland) buried in the churchyard with red and white roses planted on her grave.
- All Saints, East Meon, a Norman church which is, according to Pevsner “one of the most thrilling village churches in Hampshire” lying so tight to a hill that there was no room for a north aisle to be built
- All Saints, Minstead, a 12th century Norman Church with a very rare 17th century three decker pulpit and a possible Saxon font.
- All Saints, Godshill, Isle of Wight with its unique Lily-Cross wall painting showing Christ crucified on a lily, and in the graveyard Arthur Conan Doyle’s grave.
- Hospital of St Cross, Winchester, founded by Henry Blois, monk, Knight and politician in 1132-6, said to be England’s oldest charitable institution.
- St Mary’s, Avington, is an unrestored red-bricked Georgian church built between 1768-71. The pathway from the road to the church with its dominating crenelated tower, is 100 yards long and made up of old tombstones which lie like stepping stones in the grass.