This Meon Valley Saxon church, despite being built on a small hillock, is not easy to see as it lies surrounded by trees, particularly the massive yew overshadowing the South porch. This tree, 23 feet in girth is now well propped up but still flourishing. It is estimated to be over a thousand years old approximating to the foundation of the church in 1020.
Much of the original Saxon stonework, with pilasters strengthening the flints of the walls, remains. Inside, the nave and the beautifully rounded chancel arch, exude a great feeling of antiquity. The small font under the gallery has a round bowl with cable moulding on it and may well be pre-Conquest. The fine timbered roof probably dates from Tudor times whilst the pulpit is early Jacobean.
In the centre of the nave floor lies the large tomb slab of Mrs Ellen Long of Preshaw whilst her husband and son are commemorated on an impressive 18th century memorial on the north wall. Opposite on the south wall is a 19th century memorial to the Wyndham family as well as the village First World War memorial. There are three thirteenth century lancet windows, all with plain glass, two in the north wall and one in the south, whilst the floor is red brick.
Traces of medieval wall paintings, only discovered in 1968, remain on the north wall of the nave. Though not very clear they are believed to portray some of the Passion story such as the Agony in the Garden. But inside the chancel on both north and south walls more substantial colourful paintings remain. One relates to the expulsion from the Garden of Eden and another to the life of St Swithin the first Bishop of Winchester. One scene depicts an old lady whose broken eggs were miraculously restored by the saint. On the Chancel arch a rearing horse can be seen. Below, hang representations of loose hangings and veils with medallions showing lions and doves. They are believed to date from the 12th century.
On the north side of the altar is an ancient Saxon altar stone with six consecration crosses carved on it. Opposite, on the south side is a large and unusual 13th century stone seat. The original circular east wall of the chancel collapsed in 1855 due to road widening which weakened the foundations. It was built up again in red brick. The present East Window with its three lancets has stained glass dating from c.1920. Christ on the Cross is in the centre with the Blessed Virgin Mary and St John on either side. A narrow lancet window with plain glass and a deep splay is set in the south wall. Several floor tombs of 18th century date lie in front of the altar rails. One is that of Michael Ainsworth a former vicar who died in 1782. Looking back towards the west end you can see the attractive west gallery with its small organ both dating from Victorian times. Two bells hang behind the organ. Hanging on the front of the gallery near the font is a small water colour of the church in the early 19th century showing the original circular east window.
Outside, a blocked up north doorway can be clearly seen. It now has one of the lancet windows placed in it. East of the south porch is an unusual Saxon sundial divided into eight sections with odd bulbous objects at the end of each section. The reddish brown stone appears to be older than the church and may possibly date from the mid 7th century when St Wilfrid brought Christianity to the Meon valley. Even older is a Roman coffin in the churchyard. Only discovered in 1917 it now lies, filled with flowers, on the left of the path near the entrance gate as you leave, making a fitting farewell to this ancient and interesting little church.
page last updated 1 MAY 2001