The Parish Church of St George the Martyr, Waterlooville


Country Churches


Winter and Lent Edition 2010

121. St Mary the Virgin, Walberton

The village of Walberton lies just south of the A27 road between Fontwell and Arundel. The church dating from medieval times, though much restored in 1902-3, lies down a lane on  the edge of the village, and the large churchyard with its 1,000 year old yew tree near the lych gate forms a haven of peace and tranquillity.

The spacious red tiled roof of the nave is surmounted by a wooden bell tower with a shingled spire above. Modern glass doors lead into the 13th century porch paved with ancient memorial slabs. Once inside the dominant feature is the large angled oak staircase leading up to the bell-ringing platform over the vestry. There are 6 bells the earliest being cast in 1572. Underneath in front of the vestry stands a plain tub font of early Norman origin which was discarded in 1843 and discovered 20 years later being used as a cattle trough on a local farm.

In the north aisle can be seen the two village War Memorials as well as a stone tablet recording all the vicars since Acard in 1086. Opposite is a wooden board detailing legacies given by the Nash family in the 18th century. John Nash in 1734 bequeathed 12 per annum and a house for a school master to teach 18 poor children, boys and girls, to read, sew and knit. The valuable church silver, now in the treasury of Chichester Cathedral, was given by Gawen Nash in 1719.

The 13th century chancel has a wide arch with lancet windows on three sides filled with Victorian glass. A tablet on the south wall commemorates Philip Blakeway, a former Vicar, who died in Ismailia in 1915, whilst serving as Chaplain to the London Mounted Brigade. Another memorial relates to Arthur Henry Prime who died of consumption on his yacht on the river Tagus, November 1880.

The most interesting memorial in the church can be seen in the south aisle where a fine stained glass window, designed by Carl Edwards in 1969, commemorates the life of Earl Woolton. He served as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Lord President of the Council, Minister of Food and finally as Minister of Reconstruction in Churchill’s wartime cabinet. The window shows scenes connected with his life. The River Mersey, Liverpool Cathedral and three unemployed dockers relate to the 1930’s. The next window displays the Coat of Arms of Lord Woolton whilst the third light depicts the bombing of London in 1940 with St Paul’s Cathedral as the centre piece. A fourth window shows the Port of London, Tower Bridge and shipping in the docks. Various other Coats of Arms are also depicted such as Manchester Grammar School, Manchester University and the Worshipful Company of Salters. At the east end of the south aisle another window commemorates his first wife Maud, Countess of Woolton. His second wife Margaret Eluned is also commemorated on a nearby tablet.

The churchyard contains a number of interesting tombstones such as eight year old Ann Rusbridger killed in 1802 by a butter barrel falling off a cart. Another carved headstone shows the sad fate of Charles Cook crushed by a falling tree on 20 March 1767. Close by another tombstone lists his three children Sarah (22), Elizabeth (21) and Charles (18) with the following epitaph:

A pale consumption gave the fatal blow

The stroke was certain but the effect was slow

With wasting pains death found me long oppressed

Pitied my sighs and kindly brought me rest.’

On the south side of the churchyard lies the enormous marble Victorian vault of Richard Prime and his family. He was MP for the area from 1847 to 1854. Finally note the CWGC grave of a Canadian air gunner Sgt Anderson. When his aircraft crashed soon after take off he was thrown clear but dashed into the burning aircraft in a brave attempt to rescue other crew members still trapped in the aircraft. As a result he sustained severe burns and died a few days later. It seems likely that he emigrated to Canada from Walberton before the war.

John Symonds