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St George's News

Waterlooville's Parish Magazine


74. St Thomas a Becket, Warblington

St Thomas a Becket, Warblington

This historic church lies close to the shore of Chichester harbour adjacent to a farm and the ruined tower of Warblington Castle destroyed by Cromwell in 1644. One always feels that smugglers are not too far away from this isolated spot.

Most of the present church dates from the 13th century though the tower contains Saxon work. The spire above is covered with wooden shingles and the three gables each contain a window. From the west the church appears triangular as the high gable roof slopes down steeply to within seven feet of the ground. Two buttresses either side of the Norman west door support the wall. The north porch impresses with its massive carved ship's timbers.

Inside, the long nave has two arcades of three bays. The south arcade has octagonal columns of Purbeck marble with foliated capitals, whereas the north arcade has rounded shafts with moulded capitals. On the east wall of the nave above the chancel arch is a great tie beam and behind it a blocked round headed doorway which once opened into the Saxon tower.

There are two 14th century tombs to be seen. Phyllis de Eastney (d.1315) lies at the east end of the north aisle reclining peacefully in her long gown and wimple, whilst the damaged effigy of her sister Isabella Bardolph (d.1325) lies in the north east corner of the south aisle. They were co-heiresses of the Lord of the Manor and paid for the arcades to be rebuilt.

The chancel contains red and yellow glazed tiles including a few 14th century encaustic tiles with fleur de lys and lions rampant designs. The east window has Victorian glass showing Christ in the centre with Thomas Becket and Bishop William alongside. In the chancel are a number of memorials to the Norris family who supplied Rectors for the church from 1789 to 1929 and a number of 17th century floor slabs including Francis Cotton (1687) and Andyna Wheeler (1688). The oldest memorial is a brass commemorating Raffe Smalpage who died in 1558. He is shown in Elizabethan dress kneeling before the altar. He was once chaplain to the Earl of Southampton before becoming 'parson of this church'.

There are a number of interesting military and naval memorials such as Major James Burton who served in the Sikh Wars and then with the Turkish cavalry in the Crimean War before dying of 'severe illness' in 1855. Also John McArthur, secretary to Admiral Hood and present at the surrender of Toulon in 1793 whose 'knowledge of modern languages allowed him to perform important services'. Alongside, another memorial commemorates John Walker, commander of a West Indiaman who perished with most of his crew on January 2 1824 when wrecked on Hasbro Sands. At the east end of the south aisle is a window in memory of William Butler Fellowes, Captain in the 3rd Madras Cavalry who 'engaged the rebels at the Ran Ghaut in Jan 1845.'

All the stained glass is Victorian. A window in the south nave wall shows King David playing a harp and wearing a crown, and St Simeon and Anna at the Presentation in the Temple. Elsewhere can be seen St Cecilia holding a portative organ whilst in the chancel another window shows St Paul holding a sword and the epistles.

The churchyard contains a 1,500 year old yew tree as well as two unusual Gothic style flint and brick buildings built in 1828-9 as grave watchers' huts to prevent bodies being dug up and sent to surgeons for dissection. Two maritime tombstones are worth mention. Near the east wall of the church is a stone to William Palmer 'lost in Dublin Bay' on 20 February 1759 when his ship capsized. This ship is carved on top. Another tombstone near the north wall, now barely decipherable, relates to William Bean, pressganged into the navy who 'lost his life by some powder taking fire' in HMS Torbay in Portsmouth harbour on September 21 1758. Finally on the south side of the tower note the large sundial dating from 1781.

John Symonds

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page last updated 22 December 2003