79. St Margaret's, Wellow
This rather isolated church in lovely countryside south west of Romsey was founded in 1215 the year Magna Carta was signed. It consists of a chancel, nave and side aisles plus an attractive wooden belfrey of the dovecote style. Entrance is via the 16th century timbered south porch.
Medieval wall paintings survive in this church. The nave walls are covered in painted squares containing lilies. In the centre of the north wall is a large figure of St Christopher carrying the infant Christ across a stream. Further east a woman can be seen spinning with a knight riding towards her holding a bunch of keys. On the south side of the chancel are fragments of another painting showing the martyrdom of St Thomas of Canterbury.
Massive timbers support the belfrey which contains three bells, the earliest dating from 1450. Attached to the west wall under the belfrey is the lid of a 14th century stone coffin carved with a cross.
The three light east window depicts Christ in the centre flanked by the prophets Moses and Elijah on either side. Above is an attractive roundel showing the head of Christ. The north side window depicts St Margaret of Antioch and the south side St Francis.
The church is especially known for its association with Florence Nightingale, the famous nurse who lived in the parish as a girl and is buried in the churchyard. Her initials F.N and the dates 1820-1910 are simply inscribed on the family memorial which can be seen about 70 yards from the south porch. Several Nightingale mementoes are displayed inside the church. At the west end is an engraving of her at Scutari hospital as well as an oil painting of her and the church by Robin Sharpe, copies of which are sold in the church.
A memorial plaque to her can be seen on the south wall of the nave whilst on the window ledge nearby are many family portraits, a framed text, as well as a fibreglass replica of the Scutari Cross. The original made by a British soldier in the Crimea and made of shot and shrapnel was sadly stolen from the church in 1939. One other exhibit is an enlarged photograph of a silver groat from the reign of Richard III, dated 1483, which was found nearby.
Before leaving also note the fine hexagonal Jacobean pulpit as well as the Jacobean oak panelling around the chancel taken from the old pews. The vicar's desk is also made from fragments taken from the ancient chancel screen.
On Saturday May 8th, John Symonds was presented with an award for his latest book, "A Chronicle of the Village of Over, 1900-1950".Over is the village of his birth. The presentation took place at the AGM of the Cambridgeshire Local History Society's meeting, which was held in the village of West Wickham, Cambridgeshire. This is the second award John has received, the first was given in 2001 for "Heroes of Over". On that occasion John was on holiday and his eldest daughter Helen attended the presentation on his behalf.
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