Upton Grey is situated in the north east corner of Hampshire, not far from Basingstoke. The journey there was lengthy compared to the distance travelled to previous churches, but it was fast, mostly along the M3 motorway. On the way we passed through the notorious chalk cutting at Twyford Down, the scene of running battles between protesters and workmen when the road was constructed in 1992. Over the years the deep walls of the cutting have gradually changed from dazzling white to shades of green as the memories of that bitter confrontation fade. We slipped off the motorway one exit early on noticing brake lights being hurriedly applied, a sure sign of trouble ahead. The contrast was immediate, busy motorway to quiet traffic free lanes so overgrown that they were little more than the width of the car. Soon we arrived at Upton Grey, one of the prettiest villages in Hampshire. We stepped out into the fierce heat of yet another day in this seemingly endless summer and quickly entered the cool interior of St. Mary’s Church.
St Mary’s Church dates from Saxon times and is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086. However the first stone structure wasn’t built until the early 12th century and since then the building has been altered on numerous occasions. A south aisle was built in the 13th century but fell, or was pulled down in the 16th century. The chancel was rebuilt in the 13th century and the nave shortened in the 15th century. The result is a church that today, seems to be a very odd shape with an unusually narrow chancel attached at a slight angle to a wide combined nave and north aisle.
The chancel, strangely narrow with a high roof but none-the-less is very pleasing
The North Aisle with its own altar. The 15th century font is of Caen stone and weirdly, carved on it’s north side, is a monkey with it’s tongue out. If any of our readers know the significance of this please let us know.
The walls of the nave and north aisle are adorned with memorials to the local great and good.
This 18th century memorial is interesting in that it shows the attitudes towards the importance of devotion to duty that were current at the time. One cannot imagine a present day widowed husband praising his departed wife for her perseverance in performing her conjugal duty under the discouragement of sorrow, sickness and pain. However, after a little research, it becomes more understandable. Apparently, in those days conjugal duty was not a duty to her husband, but to God.
This early 14th century inscription on the east wall of the nave has only recently been deciphered. The lettering is English and is believed to be the rather enigmatic warning ‘For God’s love beware by me’. It is thought that a modern translation might be ‘I was once as you are; take warning of how I have become’. Dead, presumably.
The Manor House Garden
Our fortunate meeting with Simon de Zoete during our last Dine and Divine outing led to the opportunity of visiting not only his wonderful garden but now another garden, equally attractive and with a fascinating history. Following our visit to Colemore , Simon kindly gave us an introduction to Rosamund Wallinger, a remarkable lady who has restored her garden at The Manor House in Upton Grey back to the original design created by Gertrude Jekyll over 100 years ago. Despite the recent arrival of a party of mostly American ladies, Rosamund found time to warmly welcome us and, with the help of the display of photos and plans in the Garden room, described the re-birth of her unique garden.
It was in 1908 that the renowned garden designer, Gertrude Jeykyll, was asked to design the garden of the then owner of Upton Grey Manor, Charles Holmes, an established figure in the Arts and Crafts movement. Gertrude’s formal design included many of her hallmarks, dry stone walls, a sunken garden with geometrically shaped beds plus flanking borders and lawns on separate levels. Over the years the garden became sadly neglected and by 1984, when Rosamund and her husband moved in, it had become a jungle of weeds and brambles, but although some of the Purbeck stone walls had collapsed, no constructive damage had been done.
As soon as copies of Gertrude’s original plans for the garden were found (6,000 miles away in California) Rosamund set about accurately restoring the garden back to its original design. The result is a triumph, featured in several TV programmes and given a variety of awards. BQ and I lingered for as long as time allowed, and like many before us, were hugely impressed. Others interested should consult:- gertrudejekyllgarden.co.uk/
The Hoddington Arms
Saved from falling into disrepair by four local businessmen, the Hoddington Arms is a true community pub, a real hub of village life. Our lunch was excellent and, to BQ’s approval, we had ‘proper napkins’.
Now for the braces.
Since my last two visits on Dine and Divine, my friends in the Waterloo Arms are becoming so fed up with my constant enthusiasm for gardens they have renamed me Monty Don.
As someone who in the past has never watched Gardeners World or listened to Gardeners Question Time on the radio my new name was a mystery. However my research showed that I was in urgent need of some well used clothing but most of all large dark braces, and a docile and loving dog.
My conversion to the joy of gardens was completed by this visit to the wonderful historic Upton Grey Manor House, whose restoration of the garden, based on the original plans prepared by Gertrude Jekyll, was as exquisite as any conversion of a medieval church.
Meeting the incredible Rosamund Wallinger was a real pleasure, and my impression was of an indefatigable character full of charm and energy.
After a lengthy inspection of the gardens whilst MW flew his drone, fortunately to the approval of all present, I found a shady corner and although I could manage the braces the dog was a step too far.
Thence a short step to the church which was close by and, yet again, entered into a wonderfully cool atmosphere on this hottest of days. The first impression is one of strangeness at the rather weird conjunction of a narrow small original nave connected to a large 17th century extension whose width destroyed all symmetry of the whole.
The Norman chancel arch leading to the altar in the narrow part of the church has a definite feel of the Anglo Saxon, although it dates from the 12th century and it would not surprise me if it did not cover the original, probably wooden, church. The sound in this area is dominated by the ticking of the large clock on the tower and the bottom of the pendulum can be seen at the top of the stairs. I found the almost dual personality of the church somewhat disturbing and retreated to the main altar stalls to collect my thoughts.
Nowadays I am grateful for the pews to rest and contemplate on but, before the reformation, everyone stood although there would probably be a shelf around the church to rest on. With the emphasis of services changing to the ‘word’ post reformation, Protestant clergy became fired up into giving long sermons, even the one at that recent royal wedding would have been regarded as a mere trifle. In some churches, pews were sold to members of the congregation and became their personal property registered by ‘pew deeds’. It is worth remembering that most of this activity took place when attendance at church was legally compulsory, so the internal layout would resemble a graphic plan of the hierarchy of the community.
Then on to the Hoddington Arms for lunch and, joy of joys, a laundered white full size napkin and an excellent meal, my soufflé fully deserving the four stars on its own.
However the trip had been dominated by yet another beautiful garden.
- Warm Salad of Tunworth Cheese, Crispy breaded Tunworth, baby gem lettuce, spiced apple chutney, celery, toasted walnuts and pickled apple BQ
- Crisp goujons of Cornish plaice, warm sauce tartare, peas, pea shoots and mint oil MW
- Twice baked Yellison Goats cheese soufflé, pea, mint and semi dried tomato salad BQ
- Slow roast belly of Wiltshire pork, English asparagus, sauté and fondant potato MW
- Vin de la Maison – Sauvignon Blanc BQ
- Vin de la Maison – Viognier MW
One thought on “Upton Grey – St. Mary’s Church”
With reference to the monkey with its tongue out, on one side of the font, were there two other monkeys on a further two sides of the font; one with its paws over its eyes and one with its paws over its ears depicting the proverb
“See no Evil, Hear no Evil, Speak no Evil”.
The garden looked amazing, they must do a huge amount of watering to keep it looking so green and alive.
Next year you will be doing a new D&D. Dine & Dig!!