40. St Johns, Farley Chamberlayne
It is a surprise to come across this church in the middle of nowhere south of Farley Down five miles west of Winchester. Apart from one large farmhouse about half a mile away not a house can be seen as you approach the church via an avenue of trees planted in 1923 as a War memorial. Instead there are horses, herds of cows, acres of cornfields and the twittering of birds. Yet the church is still in use and well looked after.
Mostly built in the eleventh century it replaced an older Saxon church. The south door is early Norman and Crusader crosses and a Mass dial can be seen carved on the door jambs. Once inside, the red brick floor is not particularly attractive but look up and you will see a very fine king post oak roof containing many of the original timbers. Two large funeral hatchments hang at the west end commemorating Sir Paulet St John (d.1784) and his wife Jane. Three hedgehogs are depicted on her hatchment. On the north wall alongside a large wooden board lists the Ten Commandments.
The church is full of interesting monuments and tombstones mainly relating to the St John family, Lords of the Manor for several centuries. On the south side of the chancel is the large altar tomb and effigy of William St John (1576-1605) who was an Elizabethan MP. There he lies sedately in his armour wearing an Elizabethan ruff and his hands together in prayer. A more poignant adjacent memorial beside the altar is to John St John (d.1627) and Susanna his wife 'who changed this life for a better' on 5 May 1628. There is also reference to John St John 'their sonne an infante borne after his father's death and dyed before his mother' on 26 February 1628. Underneath a carving shows the kneeling parents dressed in black with a baby in a basket-work cot between them.
Three large floor tombs of the same family lie in front of the altar. One relates to Sir Paulet St John (d.1780). He built the famous 30 foot monument on nearby Farley Down about a mile north of the church to commemorate a remarkable escape from death or injury in 1733 when he and his hunter accidentally leapt 25 feet down into a chalkpit and lived to tell the tale.
Other St John memorials show connections to the Lancastrian families of the fifteenth century and also links with King Henry VII. Another to the left of the altar relates to John St John who became Vicar of Hartley Wintney in 1765 'which he resigned with his breath' in 1786 aged 46. A former Rector of the parish is also commemorated. He was Thomas Fielder Woodham who died aged 96 in 1902 having been Rector from 1835-8 and again from 1850-1902, a grand total of 58 years and a rare example of a nonagenarian in office.
The windows of the nave all date from the eighteenth century and consist of plain glass which give excellent light inside the church and also a wonderful view of the cornfields outside if the sermon gets boring. The East Window is Victorian glass showing the Crucifixion. The altar rails and tester of the pulpit are Jacobean though both pulpit and lectern were installed during the restoration of 1910.
The attractive wooden First World War memorial in the porch amazingly lists eight names. Since there appears to be no village beyond a few scattered farms where did all the soldiers come from?
page last updated 1 JULY 2000