54. St Mary of the Assumption, Froyle
This interesting 14th century church can be found a few miles northeast of Alton just north of the main A31 road. Of the original church only the chancel remains today. The present massive red brick tower is Georgian, dating from 1722, whilst the old nave was demolished and rebuilt early in the nineteenth century at a cost of £1,297 including the west end gallery.
On entering the church two features immediately catch the eye. First is the large amount of stained glass, much of it Victorian, and secondly the dozen or so funeral hatchments hanging around the walls of the nave. These mostly comprise the coats of arms of former Lords of the Manor, mainly the Nicholas, Draper, Moody, Miller and Pepperell families. I have never seen so many in a parish church. Another large board displays the arms of King George III.
Looking towards the altar the massive and colourful east window dominates all. The upper half comprises rare Dutch medieval glass of the early 14th century. It depicts the coats of arms of various kings and nobles including Edward the Confessor, Edward III, the Prince of Wales, John de Varenne Earl of Surrey, Isabella of France the wife of Edward I and the Earl of Norfolk. It repays careful study. Below is a Tree of Jesse window erected by Sir Hubert Miller in memory of his mother who died in 1896. The two windows blend as one in a glorious array of colour.
Most of the other windows both in the nave and sanctuary show biblical scenes and are the work of Charles Kempe. Examples include the Annunciation, the Shepherds, the Presentation in the Temple, the Flight into Egypt, Gabriel and Mary and Bethrothal of Mary and Joseph. A very attractive recent window, dating from 1933, can be found under the west gallery. It depicts St John the Divine writing the Book of Revelations. In the same year fragments of medieval glass were placed in a window on the south east wall to commemorate the centenary of the Oxford movement.
In the chancel are a number of statues including St Gregory, St Anne and the Virgin and Child mostly presented by Sir Hubert Miller following his travels in Italy where he owned a villa in Venice. In the north wall of the chancel is a rare example of an Easter Sepulchre.
On the south side of the altar is a 16th century brass of John Lighe who died in 1575. Other tombs in the sanctuary relate to the Gauden and Draper families, Lords of the Manor between 1660 and 1770. Other tombs of the Burningham family and of Frances Loggin can be seen in the floor of the nave. The roundels in the window in the north wall under the gallery showing St Christopher and the Blessed Virgin Mary are of 17th century Flemish glass.
In the churchyard can be seen unusual rounded brick graves alongside the path whilst behind the church is the 'Preaching Cross'. Originally erected in 1310 in memory of Bishop Nicholas de Ely of Winchester only the base is authentic. Propped alongside against the wall of the tower is an ancient stone coffin lid carved with an engrailed cross.
Above the clock on the tower the name John Baldwin 1722 is inscribed. He was churchwarden when the tower was built. On the keystone of the door are the initials 'H.B.' for Henry Burningham who was the other churchwarden. The tower contains a ring of six bells all made in 1724.
page last updated 7 DECEMBER 2001