The Parish Church of St George the Martyr, Waterlooville


124. St John the Baptist, Burley

This lovely little church lies hidden away in woodland in the heart of the New Forest. Originally part of Ringwood parish the present church was built in 1839 for 1000 all the money being raised by public subscription.

It is a simple rectangular building of no great architectural merit and looks unimpressive from the outside. A gallery was added at the west end in 1851 but was removed in 1887 when William Butterfield designed a new sanctuary, vestry, north porch and an organ chamber. In 2009 the St Mary Magdalene Chapel was added on the south side and is accessed by an impressive patterned glass door in the south wall of the nave.

There is a wonderfully peaceful atmosphere inside the church which is beautifully maintained. The attractive oak pews are all inscribed in memory of various Burley parishioners. The 19th century font near the entrance door is of grey and white marble and covered with a carved oak lid.

There are many stained glass windows. In the south west corner is a millennium window designed by Pamela Sutton which symbolises the journey of Christianity throughout the ages with a star a the top and in the centre hands encircling the globe. At the bottom an open bible is depicted with the text from Galatians 4.4. The most recent window in the north wall celebrates the life of Vernon Churchill Simmonds of Manor Farm who had been a Spitfire pilot in the Battle of Britain. Spitfires are depicted at the top and underneath forest scenes including New Forest ponies.

The east window (1886) shows John the Baptist flanked by St Luke and St Paul, whilst the west window, a memorial to William Esdaile of Burley Manor depicts Faith, Hope and Charity. Two windows in the north wall have North American connections. One dates from 1984 and was given by American friends of a Miss Applebee who introduced women’s hockey into America. St Catherine of Siena the patron saint of sport is flanked by hockey sticks and bees. An earlier window (1936) was given by Miss Applebee herself in memory of Mary Warren-Taylor of New York.

In the south sanctuary a window commemorates a 14 year old girl Ruth and shows Jesus raising a dead girl to life. There is also a St George window in memory of Nigel Henderson Scott an army officer killed in Tunisia in 1943.

Over the west door hangs a white ensign presented to the church in 1958 by officers and ships company of HMS Burley. Underneath is the village War Memorial attractively painted on a wooden tryptch. There are several military memorials of both world wars. The most interesting is a large brass memorial near the pulpit commemorating Lt George Masterman Thompson of the Royal Scots. He was killed on 22 August 1914 whilst serving with the Gold Coast Regiment in Togoland, the first British officer to be killed in the Great War. Unusually the memorial includes a moving tribute to the African soldiers killed in the same battle.

“In honour also of Sergeant Asuri Moshi, a private of the Gold Coast Regiment, a Sergeant, 2 Corporals and 9 Tirailleurs (Senegalese) who bravely followed their young leader and laid down their lives in defence of his body.”

A more peaceful memorial commemorates Emma Harding 1873-1976 ‘a faithful member of the congregation who continued to walk to church when past her hundreth year.’

The church is surrounded by a large churchyard. One interesting tombstone near the north door commemorates Victor Fey and his father William Fey. William (b.1774) was a Frenchman who fled the Revolution in 1789 and settled in Burley as a nursery gardener. “By much largeness of heart and enterprise he gave employment to many and his resources provided School instruction for Burley when it was at that time remote and destitute of any.”

John Symonds

Summer Edition 2010

Country Churches

Photo courtesy of  Michael Ford