Nether Wallop – St. Andrews Church

There are three Wallops in Hampshire, Over Wallop, Middle Wallop and today’s destination, Nether Wallop.

It was a perfect warm, sunny day and, once we had negotiated the convoluted route through Romsey, it was empty roads and autumn colours all the way.  St Andrews Church in Nether Wallop is not mentioned in any of our reference books – we came across it quite by chance on the internet. This seems an odd omission as it turned out to be one of our most interesting visits
For the first time we had some difficulty in finding a pub or restaurant nearby.  All three Wallops are situated in close proximity, and each had a pub, but one was shut on a Monday, one was chef’s day off and the famous Five Bells in Nether Wallop, at one time the hub of the community, was closed down with little likelihood of an early reopening despite the residents having had it listed as a Community Asset and having raised sufficient finance to purchase it at its current market value from an owner who refuses to sell.  A great pity and all very mysterious! A case for Miss Marple perhaps.
So, the nearest option for food after our visit to St. Andrews was in the town of Stockbridge, about 4 miles away.  However, fortuitously as a result, we enjoyed one of the best lunches thus far. MW

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Nether Wallop has been called the prettiest village in England and has been featured in several TV programmes. In particular, Dane Cottage in Five Bells Lane was used as Miss Marple’s home in the fictitious village of St Mary Mead for the BBC adaptations of the Agatha Christie novels. The house and many of the surrounding lanes within the village were used as the setting and are commonly seen throughout many of the Miss Marple films.
Before that, its main claim to fame was that is was the scene of the Dark Age battle of Guoloppum in AD436.

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St Andrews Church dates from the first decade of the 11th century at a time when Nether Wallop was the property of Earl Godwin but, following Norman the Conquerer’s victory in 1066, the manor was confiscated and retained by the crown until Henry II gave the church to York Minster – 250 miles away – in whose hands it remains to this day.
From a simple building it has been extended over the centuries, with the addition of a south aisle in the 12th century then, In the 13th century, a north aisle.

In the mid 1500’s the chancel was lengthened and both aisles widened. The present tower was constructed in 1704 following the collapse of an earlier tower and steeple as a result of rotted timbers.
All of these separate elements didn’t seem to me to sit very well together looking at it from the outside but, once we entered the spacious interior it was a different matter.

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The nave with 17th century pews. The north aisle is in the foreground.
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The south aisle and organ
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The present chancel is unremarkable and retains no old detail. The date of its building is doubtful, probably not earlier than the 15th century.

The Wall Paintings

Many who visit St Andrew’s do so to see a series of Saxon and Medieval wall paintings. The earlier paintings are thought to be the only Anglo-Saxon paintings in situ in any English parish church. They are completely unique, and a remarkable historic treasure.

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The later images are clearer and perhaps the more interesting. This painting from 1430, together with a modern explanation, is a morality picture. It is the story of the Sabbath Breakers, and was intended to be a moral lesson not to work on the Sabbath. The painting shows work tools inflicting a wound on Christ’s leg. It is fascinating to see the array of tools that were being used in the early 15th century. You can make out a set of scales, a quern for grinding corn, an axe, a knife, and many more.

 

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This painting shows St George slaying the dragon to rescue Princess Cleodolinda, the king’s daughter. The dragon figure is worn, but you can see the coils of his tail. St George is watched by the king and queen. Each has a different expression; the king looks on in admiration at the knight’s skill in vanquishing the dragon, while the queen is alarmed for her daughter’s safety.

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Set into the nave floor under a carpet is a memorial brass to Mary Gore, abbess of Amesbury, dated 1437. This is thought to be the only brass of an abbess in England.
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The most striking monument is outside the west end of the church. It is a peculiar memorial in the shape of a large pyramid, commemorating Francis and Anne Dowse, who died in 1760 and 1757 respectively.

 

Stockbridge and our lunch venue – The Greyhound on the Test

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The town of Stockbridge, formerly known as Le Street, is basically a single row of buildings on either side of a wide Street which crosses the test valley on a causeway of compressed chalk laid down in the remote past. The river is shallow and divides here into five streams which thread their way through the marshy meadows and under the main road. The bridges are built so low that it is joked that the ducks have to bend their heads when passing under them.  The town grew in importance and prosperity when Welsh drovers rested here with their flocks on their way to various sheep fairs and markets in the South East. Sadly the plague of 1666 devastated the town which became almost deserted and the poverty of the remaining inhabitants was so great that the market which had been confirmed to the town by Henry V was discontinued.

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The ‘Greyhound on the Test’ is a classy boutique hotel and restaurant dating from the early 1800s.  Its name refers to the local popularity of using greyhounds for hare coursing.
The food was as good as any we have so far tasted, the occasion made all the more enjoyable by our delightfully vivacious waitress, Rebecca.

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Welcome to The House of Fun

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When preparing myself spiritually to enter this ancient seat of worship nothing prepared me for the shock. For there, illuminated by the glorious winter sun, was a scene which was as memorable as it was amusing. The wall painting depicted St George slaying the dragon watched by a crowned couple in a pantomime castle both of whom bore a striking resemblance to the “Chuckle Brothers”.
With a sudden urge to laugh I sought a pew in which to recover my composure, but on reflection, I was a little ashamed of being guilty of transplanting sophisticated modern values to the 14th century and jumping to judgement. One can imagine the pleasure the congregation found in being able to trace in bright colours scenes from the bible.
The initial shock of this first scene was quickly followed by another 15th century figure surrounded by working tools of the period which was labelled “Sabbath Breakers”.
This is a vivid caricature warning people against Sunday work and, to my mind, has little spiritual significance. For the first time I had some sympathy with the puritans who had whitewashed these paintings over.
However, I was soon made to regret these heretical thoughts when faced the chancel arch with its magnificent painted and warmly coloured angels.
Thought to be the bottom half of “Christ in Majesty” and painted by the Winchester School in Saxon times these magnificent figures restored my faith in the art of church decoration.
Thence off to the racy and infamous Stockbridge where, in the days of its racecourse, Edwardian society behaved very badly and The Prince of Wales and Lilly Langtree became  national celebrities.
The present diners at The Greyhound for lunch behaved impeccably and the serving girls were suitably attentive and cheeky, presumably in keeping with the past.
Faced with a menu of amazing diversity and price MW retreated to his old habit of having two starters. I meanwhile relished the thought of monkfish with bouillabaisse which did not disappoint.
The meal was sumptuous and the sauce which can be variable, as good as I have tasted, indeed further bread was ordered in order to wipe the plate clean.
My first five star award and well deserved.    BQ

Our lunch
* Marinated pitted olives with freshly baked bread  BQ
* Jerusalem artichokes and truffle veloute, slow cooked ducks egg and chive oil  MW
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* Monkfish bouillabaisse, fennel puree, bok choi, cayenne, mussel emulsion and saffron oil BQ
* Tunworth rarebit MW
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* Cuvee Jean-Paul – Vaucluse, France BQ
* Mt. Beautiful Pinot Noir – Canterbury, New Zealand MW

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