Broughton – St Mary’s Church

Despite it being a bank holiday the winding road between Romsey and Broughton was almost traffic free, just as well as there are sections where it is too narrow for two vehicles to pass.  However, it is an attractive route, but must be the road with the greatest number of bridges per mile in Hampshire as it crosses and re-crosses the various strands of the River Test. 

St. Mary’s Church was easy to find, right in the centre of Broughton conveniently opposite our lunch venue, The Tally Ho!

On entering the church we were surprised to find a sign warning us not to enter the chancel, and if we did, an alarm would be triggered.  This was disappointing as within this area there were some interesting features that we had hoped to see. Fortunately, in the entrance porch we found the telephone number of the churchwarden and although he was unavailable his wife helpfully advised that we could safely pass into the alarmed section provided we avoided touching any fixtures or furniture within the chancel. BQ, who is a little unsteady on his feet decided this would be too risky, but I was able to venture through. It was certainly worth the effort, if only to see the fascinating 15th century stone piscina with its octagonal bowl carved with roses. Underneath, three grotesque figures are lurking, one a devil catching a man in a noose.     MW



St Mary’s Church can be traced back almost a thousand years beginning in the 11th century when it consisted of a small building on the site of the present nave.   That early church consisted of a nave and chancel, but no tower. The early stonework can be seen in the exterior quoins on the south side of the church.In the late 12th century a north aisle was added and around 1210 a south aisle also. The nave was lengthened in 1220, when the large west door was added. In the 15th century the lower part of the west tower was built, and it would take another 400 years before the top section of the tower was completed. The different styles and materials between the top and lower parts of the tower can clearly be seen.
The nave suffered considerable damage during a fire in 1635 and evidence of its intensity can be seen in the splintered chalk arches and capitals.  The pleasing looking pews are 19th century, but contain panels from their 17th century predecessors.


The fine 15th century pillar piscina would have originally have been attached to the wall. Piscina are common in churches of this period. They are generally positioned close to the altar and are reserved for the washing of communion vessels, for disposing of materials used in the sacraments and water from liturgical ablutions.   The sacrarium, or drain must return the water directly to the earth.
The 13th century door moved to its present position when the tower was constructed

The Columbarium or Dovecote

Up to 1730 when ‘Turnip’ Townsend introduced the English to the idea of growing root crops to feed cattle through the winter, most animals were slaughtered and eaten in November. Pigeons then replaced meat in the diet as they could provide an almost constant supply of fresh meat because of their exceptionally short breeding cycle. Every 6 weeks they could lay a pair of eggs, hatch them out and fatten them up on pigeon milk (pre-digested food) until the two 1lb squabs were in prime condition ready for the pot.

The construction of columbaria was highly regulated and restricted to manorial gardens and churchyards.  Permission was first granted in 1341 for one to be built in Broughton but it was rebuilt as we we see it today in 1684.  The round shaped dovecote was evolved in the Middle Ages because the onerous task of tending to the nesting boxes could be made easier by the use of a revolving mechanism known as a potence.  A massive central post with an attached ladder could be turned easily by a man high on the ladder as he tended to the 482 nesting boxes.  482 pairs of pigeons feeding on the crops of tenants and neighbours could produce 3½ tons of meat a year at no cost to the owners.   The potence was generally replaced once a century as the unpleasant environment tended to rot the woodwork.  In 1984 the local history group decided to mark National Heritage Year by reconstructing the mechanism although only traces of the previous one remained. 



Surrounded by glorious Hampshire countryside Broughton is a pretty village that exudes a sense of peace and tranquility.  It has a population of around 1,000, a figure that has remained constant throughout the past 900 years.  But it was not always peaceful.  We first learned of the swing riots that affected much of the south of England during our visit to Selborne in June. These insurrections followed the mechanisation of farms in the early 19th century that caused so much unemployment and hardship to the many farm labourers who were made redundant.

In Broughton threshing machines were destroyed in two farms on 22nd November 1830.  Six men were arrested but because there was considerable sympathy for the plight of farm workers only the ringleader, John Lush,  was found guilty. The sentence was seven years transportation, but in reality he spent just one year languishing in various prison hulks in Portsmouth harbour before being pardoned.


The Tally Ho!

At one time there were four pubs in Broughton, now there are just two, The Greyhound, called The Dog in the 19th century, and a few doors down, the Tally Ho!  We chose the Tally Ho!


In fairness, I have to say that we probably arrived for our lunch at a difficult time. The staff were busy clearing up from a three day beer and music festival that had been held in the garden until the small hours of the previous night and as the chef in charge of the barbecue confided, there was very little food left to offer.  But what we had was very tasty and we had the good fortune that the delightful Kerry was on duty.   Good fortune because as she passed our table she overheard us discussing what on earth a mechanical potence inside the churchyard dovecote could possibly be.  She stopped to explain and, after I said that it was a pity that we had found the dovecote door locked, she said that was no problem she could get us a key as one was kept behind the bar. I was most thankful and went to investigate while BQ relaxed with a coffee. On my return Kerry mentioned that both the Pork and the Water Buffalo that we had enjoyed for our lunch came from the nearby farm which was worth a visit.
The delightful Kerry
The Water Buffalo

The Party’s Over

So sung Ella and it was so true of our visit to the Tally Ho, three days of carousing at the Broughton Beer Festival had depleted the regulars of their usual high spirits.

The roadies were busy packing up the electronic equipment on a stage that would not have looked out of place at Glastonbury.     A noticeboard listing the multiple acts that had entertained over the previous three days stood by the side of the stage.

The helpful Kerry was busy picking up rubbish in her plastic gloves complete with a black dustbin and the few customers who came in spoke in glowing terms of the previous night.    In the immortal words of my father yet again in life ;-     “I had missed the boat”.

The Honey Buzzard beer could not be faulted in any way;   any comment on a pulled pork sub (a new word to me) is beneath my dignity.

MW in his usual way has covered the church and the village very well, and being unable to totter too far for the risk of setting off any alarm I sat and prayed on the most uncomfortable pews I have ever come across.     The local congregation must have very small bottoms!

Also please don’t mention the buffalo in the room.     BQ

Our lunch

  • Pulled Pork Sub with all the trimmings    BQ
  • Water Buffalo Burger  MW
  • Honey Buzzard ale    BQ
  • Tally Ho! ale MW




3 thoughts on “Broughton – St Mary’s Church

  1. Thank you for your delightful descriptions of the church and village. I have just discovered ancestry from Broughton but have never visited so it was a treat to read your blog. What a brilliant idea for a blog: church visiting and dining!


    1. Thank you so much for your kind words. I am delighted that you found it of interest. We certainly enjoy the visits particularly as it all started as just an excuse to meet up every now and again for a decent lunch!


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