59. St Nicholas Freefolk
About two miles east of Whitchurch and nestling beside the river Test is the delightful 13th century church of St Nicholas. Partly hidden behind high hedges this small church with its white lime-washed walls, topped by an attractive wooden bell-cote added in 1703, is approached across a lawn. Sadly since 1976 the church has been closed for services but it has been well cared for by the Church Conservation Trust. The key is available from the adjacent cottage.
Entrance is via the 15th century south doorway. To the left is a fine 15th century rood screen, painted red, moved from the chancel entrance in 1707 to form part of the squire's pew. Above hang the Royal Arms of William IV dated 1701 and two funeral hatchments of the Pearse and Portal families. On the north wall opposite the door are the remains of a large medieval wall painting of St Christopher.
Further along the north wall is the large and impressive monumental tomb of Sir Richard Powlett who died in 1614. His two daughters Lucy and Anne are shown below. Sir Richard lies comfortably at rest, his hand resting on his helmet. Above is the family coat of arms and a 17th century helmet hanging from a bracket. Iron railings enclose the whole tomb. Immediately opposite on the south wall is a wonderful reredos portraying Moses and Aaron holding the Ten Commandments and flanked by pilasters.
The east window, made in 1904, contains stained glass donated in 1913, but in 15th century style, in memory of Wyndham Spencer Portal of Laverstoke House. Christ in Majesty is seen flanked by St Nicholas and St Swithun (the manor of Freefolk being formerly held by the Priory of St Swithun in Winchester). Below and either side of the altar the Lords Prayer and the Creed are written on banners held by pairs of cherubs. The white painted communion rails are eighteenth century.
To the right of the entrance door on the south wall is a memorial to Thomas Deane, Lord of the Manor, who died in 1686, and his wife Anne daughter of William Farr grocer and citizen of London. The octagonal font is Victorian but the marvellous roof timbers, for many centuries covered by a plaster ceiling, are medieval. The belfry above the squire's pew contains a single bell cast in 1729. The floor is red brick and surprisingly there is no pulpit or lectern.
There remains a fine peaceful atmosphere redolent of past ages back to 1265. It is nice to see a redundant church kept in such a good state of repair. All credit to the Church Conservation Trust created in 1969.
page last updated 4 JUNE 2002