84. All Hallows, Whitchurch
This large Norman church was massively enlarged and restored between 1866-68 including the upper part of the tower and the present spire. The result is a rather flat and ordinary interior so typical of most mid-Victorian restorations, yet there remain many features of great interest to be seen in this church.
For instance at the west end, adjacent to the tower, is a very rare and unusual Commandments Board. Found in the White Hart Hotel it dates from 1602 and vividly depicts the fate of those who disobeyed the Ten Commandments. These are written in the centre and all around are a series of small paintings, all based on Old Testament events, to illustrate each commandment. Thus Pharaoh and his Host drowned in the Red Sea for not knowing God (Exodus 5.2) and Ahab for 'coveting Naboth's vineyard' is shot by an arrow from Heaven (1 Kings 22-34) and so on.
In contrast on the north wall is a modern circular mosaic entitled The Mary Maze completed only in 1993. It shows Mary with the Christ child on her lap with Joseph looking on from behind. Above is a Boer War Memorial and further along an elaborate memorial to John Portal, son of a Huguenot emigre who set up a paper mill at Laverstock. His father Joseph (d.1722) is also commemorated with a typical 18th century list of super-human qualities and achievements.
Near the chancel is the oldest relic in the church, a Saxon stone found embedded in the north wall at the time of the 1866 rebuilding. It is a figure of Jesus holding the gospels in his left hand whilst his right hand is raised in blessing. Across the top is a Latin inscription which reads in translation 'Here the body of Frithburga lies buried in peace'. In the chancel itself particularly note the gorgeous collage behind the altar with its rich mixture of colours, red, blues and yellow as well as the small stained glass window in memory of 10 year old Rustat Hemsted.
In the south east corner is an interesting brass of the Brooke family who lived opposite the church in Kings Lodge. It commemorates Richard, a rich merchant, and his wife Elizabeth. Dated 1603 part of the inscription reads as follows:
But death hir twist of life in Mai daie twentieth did untwine
The nearby tomb shows the effigies of Richard's grandson Thomas, a lawyer, and his wife Susan. One of her sons, Robert, was an Anglican minister who emigrated to Maryland in 1650.
In the south aisle are the war memorials to the fallen of both world wars and underneath, a book of photographs of all the men killed, which adds much to the interest of the memorials.
The font near the door is Tudor and has a Tudor rose carved on its side. The tower contains a peal of eight bells, the oldest being cast at Wokingham in 1445. Two additional bells are planned for the future. The new Tenor Bell will be named 'Big Tom' to celebrate the life and achievements of the famous Judge Lord Denning, who recently died aged 100. Thus is history continued in the new Millennium.
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