22. St Nicholas, South Boarhunt
Mrs Beeton's famous recipe for jugged hare began "First catch the hare." Similarly one could say "First catch the church" when searching for this small Saxon church which lies well hidden from view surrounded by trees in the farmland at the foot of Portsdown Hill. But persevere and you will be well rewarded.
Entrance is by the West door and the eye is immediately drawn to the plain unmoulded chancel arch some 7 feet wide and beyond to the beautiful stained glass of the small lancet window above the altar. This portrays St Nicholas with a child and with a ship underneath. The plain white-washed walls and ceiling throughout impart a wonderful air of peace and tranquillity.
The large tub shaped font to the left of the door dates from Saxon times and traces of a medieval mural painting can be seen around the Eddowes Monument on the south wall. This is a memorial to Robert Eddowes 'late storekeeper of the Ordnance, Portsmouth' who died in 1765 and also to his son the Revered Robert Eddowes Rector of Hannington and Twyford who died two years later.
Opposite the pulpit is the boxed Squire's pew. It is backed by a small stained glass window showing the family crest of Hugh and Eva Borthwick-Norton. She died in 1988 having been Squire of Southwick for many years. On the wall above the pew is a memorial to Private Edward Austin killed in France in 1917. The three decker pulpit on the south side is flanked by a late Tudor two light window.
A well maintained Tudor monument dating from 1577 can be seen on the north side of the chancel. This is the Henslow Monument. The family tree can be traced in Boarhunt as far back as 1412. Three headless statues of Faith, Hope and Charity stand on pediments and behind three coats of arms are displayed. In the centre those of Ralph Henslow, to the left his first wife Clare Pound and to the right those of his second wife Katherine Poole. Names and dates of seven more Henslow descendants are carved underneath the pediment.
On the floor alongside a flat stone commemorates Sir Thomas Henslow who died in 1662. A part translation of the Latin inscription reads as follows: 'Here lie the mortal remains of the Lord's Servant Thomas Henslow a man of exceeding rich talent in whose passing learning lost a scholar of distinction, the Church a great supporter, the poor a source of succour and his friends a help, nay rather a pillar of strength...' No false modesty here!
Also in the chancel can be seen a piscina in the south wall as well as a carved 13th century Norman head. Looking back towards the West door notice the small gallery of pitch pine. It is worth while climbing up the rickety stairs to it and thus getting a fine bird's eye view of the whole church.
Saxon Doorway, St Nicholas South Boarhunt
Walk round the outside of the church through the ancient churchyard and see the clearly marked Saxon doorways in both the north and south walls. There is also a fine double-splayed Saxon window on the outer north wall of the chancel. Beyond the east end of the church is a large yew tree, 27 feet in circumference, which is believed to be 1000 years old, presumably dating from the foundation of the church. Finally look up to the open bell turret above the West doorway formed as an archway with the single bell hanging between pillars roofed with stone tiles.
Before leaving it is worth sitting awhile in the churchyard. The noise and clamour of 20th century life vanishes in this peaceful place which for a thousand years has symbolised the Christian faith. Perhaps the Millennium should be celebrated here?
written byJohn Symonds
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page last updated 4 OCTOBER 1998