62. St Peter's, Bishop's Waltham
A Saxon minster existed here from c.700 but was burnt down by the Danes in 1001. The present church was founded in 1136 by Henry of Blois, Bishop of Winchester and brother of King Stephen, though little of the 12th century church remains.
From the outside the massive tower dominates with its rounded turret decorated with crosses, which was rebuilt in Elizabethan times following the collapse of the original tower and steeple in 1582. It contains a peel of eight bells, two of which date from the 1590's. The fine 14th century iron clock came from the Bishop's Palace after it was sacked by the Parliamentary army during the Civil War. Its pendulum weighs 6 cwt 28 lbs making it the third heaviest in the world.
The sturdy oak door in the South porch has the date 1613 carved on it. Inside, the church gives an impression of great width and space. Most of the glass is plain apart from the Victorian glass of the East Window depicting the Annunciation, the Crucifixion and the Risen Lord. The gallery at the west end was built in 1733 and used as a school until 1872. High on the west wall are the arms of Charles II. In front stands the Saxon font with its square bowl, discovered only in 1933 as part of a garden rockery.
The fine trussed rafter roof dates from 1669 whilst the splendid pulpit with its great sounding board is also Jacobean. It was presented to the Rector Dr Robert Ward by Bishop Lancelot Andrewes in 1626. Both had worked on the translation of the Authorised Version of the Bible. Much of the chancel was restored in 1897 but the altar table and rails are Elizabethan.
The church is full of interesting memorials. In the north aisle note the Thomas Ashton memorial (d.1629). He is shown wearing a ruff and surrounded by Tuscan columns. An 18th century memorial commemorates Jane Wright a descendant of the Boswell family from Ayrshire. On the north wall of the chancel various rectors are remembered including Joseph Gulston, rector 1642-68, who was dispossessed during the Commonwealth and restored in 1660.
Several naval memorials deserve mention. On the south wall of the chancel Edward Griffiths Colpoys is commemorated. He commanded HMS London during the Spithead Mutiny of 1797 and was held prisoner by his crew for five days. Also a sad memorial to Henry Colpoys who 'having sailed from Halifax in HMS Packet Calypso, which vessel is supposed to have foundered at sea, and was never heard of again'.
A First World War memorial relates to Robert George Bruce. A 19 year old midshipman, he was killed on board HMS Invincible at the Battle of Jutland in 1916. Hit in the magazine by a German shell the ship blew up and split in two. 1026 of the crew were killed and only six survived.
In Admiral's Corner at the end of the North Aisle is a memorial to Admiral of the Fleet Lord Cunningham who commanded the Mediterranean Fleet throughout much of the Second World War. He lived in the village for thirty years until his death in 1963.
Before leaving, note the 200 attractive kneelers made by the Mothers' Union and other members of the congregation between 1967 and 1983. The designs were taken from the stained glass windows, choir stall carvings, coats of arms of various bishops of Winchester plus original designs relating to St Peter. They add much to the beauty of the church.
page last updated 12 OCTOBER 2002