church of St Mary
The earliest documentary evidence of a church in
Amport comes from a charter dated 1217 whereby the advowson of Amport
was given by its Norman overlord, William de St John, son and heir of
Adam Port, to the canons of Chichester cathedral. By this gift the
canons ofChichester became Amport's permanent patron with the right to
fill the living with someone of their choice. No trace
of this church remains. The present building dates from the early 14th
century, probably between 1320 and 1330.
The church is cruciform in plan, with nave and chancel, two
transepts and a central tower containing the bell chamber. Its walls are
constructed of knapped flint, a material copiously available in this
chalk country. Flint construction cannot be used for comers; dressed
stone has been used for windows, comers and the chancel arches.
The roof was originally thatched. Traces of the
old roof-line, more steeply pitched than the present roof can be seen on
the east and west faces of the tower. Below the projecting stone parapet
of the tower a hollow moulding is enriched with alternating four-leaf
flowers and ball flowers.
By 1866 parish records indicate that the church was in a poor state of
repair and that major alterations both to the building and its access
took place. The fourteenth Marquis of Winchester, having pulled down his
father's Regency house and replaced it with the Victorian grey brick
house which stands today, was anxious to create a more imposing drive
and to extend the boundary of his
park. The entrance on the south wall was blocked up and access to the
church from the former village street was closed.
new entrance and porch were built on the north side and a new approach
was made from Furzedown Lane. The north transept was rebuilt, a vestry
was added and the nave was extended with a circular window in its gable
From the outside the 14th century walls can be distinguished from the
19th century additions by their plaster rendering. The soft lime mortar
in which the flints were embedded weathered over the centuries and
needed protection. The 19th century flintwork has not yet required a
Interior of the church
Inside the church only the chancel has
survived the nineteenth century alterations
intact. The 14th century east window with its flowing tracery is typical
of the Decorated style of that time. Above its three trefoiled lights,
with smaller foils to the central one, are two trefoiled spandrels and a
circle containing three mouchettes.
Below the window and partly obscured by the
altar lie five
black marble tomb slabs with armorial
cartouches of 18th
century Paulets and their wives.
Beneath the first window of the south wall of the
chancel is a piscina with octagonal basin and moulded trefoiled ogee
head, its drain-hole in the form of a rose. The ogee heads of the
sedillia beside it are enriched with foliage.
Also on this wall arc memorial tablets to Mary,
wife of Robert Swayne, d. 1635, and to her niece Katherine Young, d.
1638. The Swaynes held Sarson, a manor in Amport, in the seventeenth
century. Three handsome 18th century memorial tablets also adorn the
chancel walls, those of two former vicars, Richard Bouchier, d. 1723,
and John Parke, d. 1753, and of John Duke ofSarson.
This was formerly the Marquis of Winchester's private pew complete with
fireplace and chimney and a wooden partition with a door separating it
from the tower. These have since all been removed. The white marble
tablet commemorates the fifteenth Marquis who was killed during the Boer
War at Magersfontein in 1899. There is a little 17th century Flemish
the south window of the transept and, at the bottom of the lights, the
Paulet motto, "Aymez Loyaulte".
The thirteenth Marquis of Winchester and his Marchioness are
here in the stained glass window with coronets and the Paulet arms:
sable three swords argent set pilewise with hilts or. The three swords
are said by the College of Arms to be an allusion to the sword of St
Paul. m the same transept is a tablet to the brother and four younger
sons of the thirteenth Marquis: Vice Admiral Lord Henry Paulet, KCB, d
1832, Lord Charles Paulet, d. 1870,
Lt General Lord Frederick Paulet CB, d. 1871, Admiral Lord George Paulet
CB, d. 1879, Field Marshal Lord William Paulet CCB, d. 1893.
St John's Head
Hanging on the north wall of the chancel arch is a small mediaeval
alabaster carving. Now framed, it is one of a collection of
miniature altar pieces made during the 14th and 15th centuries.
Carved at Nottingham of Chellaston alabaster, it shows in the
centre the head of St John the Baptist upon a round dish.
Above the head are two angels
bearing his soul to heaven, while the figures of four saints stand
at the base. Little remains of its original colouring.
The carving was found in a
blocked-up chimney recess in a cottage in East Cholderton where it
may have been placed, either in Edward VTs days or in Puritan
times when people took their cherished church treasures into their
own homes for safe keeping.
It is believed that the two oldest bells in the tower, cast in 1662,
were commissioned to celebrate the Restoration of King Charles n. About
this time developments in the method of hanging bells, and the addition
of extra bells tuned to scale, enabled them to be rung in sequence
instead of tolled singly and bell-ringing became increasingly popular.
Church bells rang out for every local and national occasion. Over the
next two hundred years, St Mary's gradually acquired
its ring of six.
Here very little remains of the 14th century building; new windows,
new floor, new pews were installed during the 1866 alterations. The
gallery at the west end of the nave was taken down when the church was
extended. Above the lectern is a memorial to Sophia Sheppard who built
and endowed the school and alms-houses in Amport, as well as many other
schools and charitable foundations. Translated it reads:
Sophia, widow of Thomas
Sheppard DD, died July 31st 1848, aged 79
Rest from thy length of days with mercies blest
God give thee peace; in peace Sophia rest.
Mourned by the helpless poor, for thee shall flow
From home and friend, streams of perpetual woe.
So that we may not pour forth endless tears
For them who live with Christ through endless years
Yet of our love shall this pale marble tell
Farewell thou most beloved, farewell! farewell!
On the west wall of the nave is a photograph of a
section of the Test Valley tapestry depicting scenes from the four
parishes in the present benefice: Amport, Monxton, Grateley and Quarley.
MORE MEMORIALS INSIDE THE CHURCH