17. St Hubert's Chapel, Idsworth
Next time you travel down from London by train look out of the window to the left just before you reach Rowlands Castle and you will have a fine view of this lovely little chapel sitting serenely amid the cornfields about 200 yards from the road. It was built in 1053 by Earl Godwin of Wessex. It may well have been used as a hunting chapel by King Edward the Confessor.
Entrance by the West door under the gallery and organ loft reveals a nave filled with old boxed pews, whilst the 17th century pulpit is oddly situated half-way down the south side. On the wall alongside is a fading text from Isaiah 'Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet'.
The plain glass windows give pleasing views of the wooded downs outside. The only piece of stained glass in the East Window is a small circular inset showing St Hubert's conversion. Either side of the window are frescoes of St Peter holding the keys of Heaven and St Paul with a staff on his shoulder. The white ceiling of the chancel was redecorated in 1913 with 13 medallions. They depict a variety of scenes such as fishes, St Hubert and a stag, a three-masted ship, a peacock, a Phoenix and a Cross of Lorraine. All finely carved they do much to enhance the beauty and simplicity of the chapel.
But the main glory of the chapel must surely be the early fourteenth century murals on the north wall of the chancel. The upper picture shows a hunting scene. In the centre stands St Hubert touching and curing the Lycanthrope, a legendary hermit who believed himself to be a wolf and walked on all fours. The panel below tells the story of St John the Baptist. On the left he is shown being thrown into prison, whilst the right hand scene shows Salome being given his head on a salver at Herod's feast. A most vivid painting which repays careful study. Above the nave are three tie beams. Hanging near the bell turret is a large Royal Coat of Arms of George III. An inscription alongside refers to chapel repairs done in 1793 and 1825. Under the gallery is an octagonal font dating from around 1400. Two other features of note are the original Norman light in the North wall and a blocked archway, only 21 inches wide, also in the north wall of the nave.
After leaving through the eighteenth century porch pause awhile in the peaceful churchyard, holy ground for over 900 years. The fine views of the rolling farm lands all around blend perfectly with the flintwork of this Saxon church. One cannot but come away refreshed and with a renewed sense of the timelessness of history.
written by John Symonds
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