35. St Mary and St Michael, Stoke Charity
Stoke Charity is a small village lying between Sutton Scotney and Micheldever about 10 miles north of Winchester. The tiny church lies across a large field about two hundred yards from the road and can only be approached on foot. Its shingled bell tower and spire lies partly hidden by a yew tree. When I arrived on a sunny May morning only the sound of skylarks could be heard.
Outside on the south wall a number of tiny mass clocks are carved. Inside the church is full of light with its white washed walls and ceiling with barrel like beams running across. The nave and chancel are eleventh century Norman but the aisle on the north side is Saxon c.850. Despite the fact that William Cobbett in his 'Rural Rides' dismisses Stoke Charity as a "half starved place with only two well fed families" this church contains many treasures.
To the left of the impressive carved Norman chancel arch lies a rare double squint, one shaft looking towards the chancel altar, the other to the chapel altar. Dating from the thirteenth century only one other like it exists in England. In the south wall of the nave near the pulpit is the tomb of Thomas Wayte who died in 1482 with a brass depicting him in full armour. To the right of the chancel arch was St Katherines altar but only the piscina can now be seen. Lying on the floor of the chancel is a tombstone dating from 1100 with a cross carved on it.
The dominant feature of the chancel is the large tomb of Sir Thomas de Hampton and his wife Isabella. He was Lord of the Manor until his death in 1483. A brass depicts him in full armour with his dog at his feet and his wife at his side. Below them are their eight children. The East window was erected in his memory. The stained glass is mostly Victorian and shows St Gabriel and St Michael.
The chapel on the north side dates from 1250 and contains a Jacobean altar, many of the original tiles and part of a medieval wall painting (only discovered in 1966) dating from the thirteenth century. In the corner stands a rare medieval sculpture entitled the Mass of St Gregory. It dates from 1500 and shows Pope Gregory in his cope celebrating Mass assisted by a deacon with the figure of Christ above him.
Nearby stand two large and impressive tombs. One from the seventeenth century is of Mary the eldest daughter of Thomas Phelyppes, baronet, and his wife the Lady Charitie. She died in 1674. Three side panels show heraldic shields whilst a large slab of Purbeck marble covers the top. Near the north wall is the Waller Tomb of John and Johanna who died in 1527. Standing nearly 9 feet tall and in Tudor style it has two painted panels which are original, depicting Thomas a Becket and the Virgin and Child. On the floor alongside is a brass memorial to their grandson Richard Waller who died in 1552. The windows of the chapel contain fragments of 15th century glass showing the rays of the sun.
The rather plain font at the back of the church is medieval and has the unusual feature of an iron staple driven into the top on the east side. This dates from a church ruling of 1236 to prevent parishioners from stealing any of the holy water. Above the font is a memorial to lady Charitie Ogle. First married to Sir Thomas Phelyppes, her second husband was the Viscount Ogle who commanded the Royalist forces in the siege of Winchester in 1645. Besieged in the castle with her husband she fell ill and Oliver Cromwell allowed her to return to Stoke Charity where she died. The tomb of her son Sir James Phelyppes who died in 1652 is also there.
Two of the former rectors have some claim to fame. Joshua Reynolds, Rector 171634, was the uncle of the famous painter, whilst Dr William Buckland, Rector 182546, was Professor of Mineralogy at Oxford. A famous scholar he did much to disprove the Genesis story geologically.
All in all a church full of history which has largely escaped restoration. It is none the worse for that. An excellent guide by T G King a former Rector is available in the church.
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