Hamble-le-Rice – The Priory Church of St Andrew, the Apostle

Our visit to St Andrew’s Church was a delight mainly because it was unexpecteod and unplanned. We had originally arranged a full day excursion to one of the more outlying Hampshire churches, but this had to be cancelled at short notice following an unwelcome dental emergency.  By the time this had been dealt with we were left with just a half day.  St Andrew’s Church was chosen purely because it was close by, but once we had been there it was clear that it more than justified a visit on its own merits.  Quite why it is not included in our various reference books is hard to understand.

Our visit was made all the more enjoyable as we had the pleasure of meeting David Winsor who happened to be there at the time helping with the preparations for the Sunday services.  David, a licensed lay minister, has been associated with the church for 20 years.  He has an impressive knowledge of the building and gave us a fascinating guided tour of the church including a visit into the inner sanctum of the vestry.  To cap it all we had coffee with him in the adjacent Priory Centre before we left.  Altogether a most enjoyable and memorable visit.  MW



The Priory Church of St Andrew the Apostle is of ancient origin with evidence of Roman occupation and the remains of a Saxon Church.  Christianity arrived in Hamble as long ago as 720 thanks to the missionary, St Willibald, and by the 9th century a stone parish church had been erected on the site of the present building.

During the early 12th century a cell of six Benedictine monks became established having arrived from the Abbey of Tiron in France.  The Saxon church was considerably enlarged with the addition of a specially designed monastic choir and a tower. The monks enjoyed a close association with the great Benedictine Cathedral Priory in Winchester with an arrangement that in exchange for 20,000 oysters every mid-lent, the monks would receive six gowns, six pairs of shoes and six pairs of boots per annum plus a supply of  21 loaves and 43 flagons of ale provided every week. This seems to be an awful  lot of ale for just six monks, so one would hope that it was shared with their retainers.


The nave and tower dates from the 12th century, the chancel and porch from the 13th and the Lady Chapel from the 19th. The magnificent pipe organ shown here was presented to the parish by the Countess of Hardwicke in 1880 in remembrance of her son Eliot, who had been an equerry to the then Duke of Edinburgh.   In 1760 a gallery was constructed at the west end of the nave to seat just eleven parishioners. They were apportioned by casting lots after a price on each seat had been set.  The gallery remained in place for over a century before being taken down in 1879 when the tower area was opened up.


Here, David points out a stone in the interior south wall that was recently found to have become loose.  On its removal, a hiding place was discovered where the church valuables had been hidden in the 16th century to protect them from confiscation by the English Reformed Protestants who sought to “purify” the Church of England of its Catholic practices.

The walls of the nave adorned with a wonderful array of memorials and monuments and enhanced by the 18th century brass chandeliers


7aThe small Lady Chapel is a more recent addition having been completed in 1880.  There is a poignant wooden memorial on the south wall for the US Tanker Y17 which sailed from Hamble and went down with all hands. The incident was particularly sad as it occurred just before peace was declared. The captain and crew had been worshippers in the chapel during 1944. David mentioned that he had recently met a visitor to the church who had travelled from the United States to see his grandfather’s name memorialised on the plaque and was quite moved when it was found.

The earliest stained glass window and the earliest banner in the church, both lovingly made with exquisite detail



We were privileged to be admitted to the vestry where David showed us the wonderful collection of church vestments – truly impressive.  There were perhaps a dozen or so drawers in a special cabinet each with a dazzling garment.  I was surprised to discover that BQ knew the significance of the colours of these various vestments.  He never ceases to surprise.

The main entrance on the north side is through a fine Norman arch with chevron mouldings protected by a porch from 1402.  On the arch and the outer door there are numerous crosses made centuries ago by local fishermen.  As they went out to sea they would make a mark on the door.  When they returned safely they would cross the previous mark.





Now generally known locally as just Hamble, the village name has varied considerably over the centuries, from Hamelea in 730, to Hammel in 1496 and Ham-en-le-Rice in 1846.  Its geographical position has contributed greatly to its history and importance.  The many old wells in the area indicate that it has always had a good supply of fresh water and the fine mud of the river bed proved to be an excellent breeding ground for oysters and, as well, good for laying up wooden boats.  The area must have been settled for a very long time indeed as Neolithic implements and iron age earthworks have been discovered nearby.   Nowadays Hamble-le-Rice is mainly a boating mecca and the nearby River Hamble is frequently packed with marine traffic.  During the summer the village is crowded with yachties who come to the area to sail in the protected waters of the Solent.


The Bugle


The Inn has been in the heart of village life for many centuries, the original building dating from around 1600. At one time it was called The Bull, then later The Ferry House and now The Bugle.   At one time auctions and inquests were held there and it also featured in some court cases, such as when the landlord was convicted for permitting drunkenness, involving five invalid soldiers from the nearby Netley Hospital!   A plan to demolish the inn and replace it with housing in 2003 was fortunately scuppered when it was realised the the building had a listed status; as indeed do most structures built before 1840.



They built it up then burnt it down

Strange people the French, for after having set up the Benedictine Priory in Hamble, they raided the area 200  years later and burnt it down.    The original monastery was set up by Benedictine monks at St Tiron near Chartres in France along with another 260 priories of which only 6 are left – half of them are in Hampshire, namely Hyde Priory (now a ruin),  Bursledon, now St Leonards church (the subject of one of our very early visits) and here at Hamble.

The most striking feature of the present church is an ancient building which had been cherished and maintained to a very high standard over the millennia without any loss of its original features.  As a Catholic I felt very much at home in its inherent Anglo/Catholic atmosphere, including a lit sanctuary lamp – a sure sign of the living Christ’s presence at the altar.

After MW’s amazement at my knowledge of vestments I promised to set out this simplistic guide to the colours relating to the principal church services:  White – Easter & Christmas seasons;  Red – Martyrs’ days; Violet – Advent and Lent; Rose – individual days in Lent and Advent and finally Green – Masses in ordinary time

After this good spiritual experience it was off to the Bugle to sample the ways of the flesh.  The serving staff were disappointingly male but nonetheless courteous and efficient.  A half pint glass of badge beer brewed by the Itchen Valley brewery was excellent and the dining room was adequately furnished and welcoming.

Then, my heart gladdened, for at long last I was presented with a proper man-size napkin, by far the best in our travels.  Therefore to celebrate this fine ample cloth, I was able to order the parsnip soup in the knowledge that no spillage would drip onto my clothing.  MW had whitebait and trout which he enjoyed, but I am sad to report that my fish and chips (yes it was yet another Friday) was very disappointing with an old style thick batter and very greasy hand made chips. Still on the basis of the napkin and the excellent soup it gained two stars from me.  MW, more generously awarded three, that apparently could easily have been a four had it not been for an extremely stodgy dessert.  BQ


Our lunch

Parsnip Soup  BQ
Cajun Whitebait, mint creme fraiche    MW

Fish and chips  BQ
Marinated chalk stream trout and avocado tartare, mango puree, poached egg and coriander shoots.  MW

Autumn spiced fruit crumble and custard   

Bugle own beer BQ
Cabernet Sauvignon  MW




One thought on “Hamble-le-Rice – The Priory Church of St Andrew, the Apostle

  1. Another very interesting visit and glad to hear the dental upset didn’t deter from the enjoyment of the visit or lunch. I must say the amount of ale consumed per week does indeed sound impressive and I assume the large quantity of bread that accompanied the ale would have offset the effects of so much alcohol. As ever the photography was very good and your ‘guide’ made it all the more enjoyable


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