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Modern Britain

Gallery: Churches of Hampshire

by Peter Kessler, 20 March 2011. Updated 30 October 2020

Test Valley Part 1: Churches of Romney to King's Somborne

Romsey Abbey, Romsey, Hampshire

Romsey Abbey is sandwiched between Church Street and Church Lane at the western end of the town of Romsey in Hampshire's Test Valley district. The Abbey Church of St Mary and St Ethelflaeda can trace its origins back to 907, the year in which the West Saxon king, Edward the Elder, son of Alfred the Great, first settled some nuns here under the charge of his daughter, Elflaeda. King Edgar refounded the nunnery about 960 under the rule of St Benedict.

Romsey Abbey, Romsey, Hampshire

The first stone church and nunnery were built about AD 1000 and flourished as a place of education for young nobles. Work began on the present building around 1120-1180. In 1349, the Black Death cut the number of nuns. Within the half-empty premises, a second aisle was added to the north side for St Laurence's Church, for the townspeople. They gained the entire building in 1544, following the Dissolution, which probably saved the building from destruction.

Church of St John the Baptist, Upper Eldon, Hampshire

The Church of St John the Baptist, Upper Eldon, is on the eastern side of Eldon Road, between Eldon House on its northern flank (and in its gardens) and the farm buildings to its south. Described as a nineteenth century cow shed, this tiny, elegant church was built in the twelfth century. Today it stands barn-like in the attractive grounds of the fifteenth century Eldon House. Its unassuming and simple exterior belies its history of near ruin and repair over the centuries.

Church of St John the Baptist, Upper Eldon, Hampshire

The building was substantially restored in 1729 to save it from collapse, and then again in the 1860s and in 1975. In the nineteenth century, it was indeed used as a cowshed. There are traces of nine consecration crosses from its original construction, each stone bearing a circle enclosing five holes which held long-vanished metal crosses. The parish is one of the smallest in Hampshire, and its single-cell church consists of just a nave 9.8 metres long, and a south door.

Church of St Peter & St Paul, King's Somborne, Hampshire

The Church of St Peter & St Paul, King's Somborne, stands on the southern side of Church Road at the junction with Romsey Road. The present nave appears to follow the nave of an earlier twelfth century building which, at that date, had a small chancel. In the thirteenth century a south aisle was added, and the chancel may then have been rebuilt outside the lines of the older chancel. In the second quarter of the fourteenth century it seems again to have been rebuilt.

Church of St Peter & St Paul, King's Somborne, Hampshire

Only the west part of the chancel's south wall escaped the rebuild, while the chancel as a whole was slightly widened northwards, becoming out-of-centre with the nave. The thirteenth century chancel arch remained central as before. The date of the north aisle being added is uncertain, as the arcade is now all modern. Such old work that remains points to the fourteenth century. The building was extensively restored in 1886, leaving little of the older building.

Three photos on this page kindly contributed by Sam Weller, two by Robert Cutts, and one by JMC4 - Church Explorer, all via the 'History Files: Churches of the British Isles' Flickr group. Additional information by Michelle Sweed and JMC4 - Church Explorer.

 

 

     
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