THE HISTORY OF ST DENYS CHURCH
CHILWORTH

Origins
The Church at Chilworth is of Saxon origin and is mentioned in the Domesday Book. It came under the control of the Priory of Saint Denys in Southampton about the year  1224 and bears the name of that saint although it has no known dedication. After the  dissolution of the Priory, the church came into the possession of the Lord of the Manor  who held the right of appointing the vicar, until 1975 when Chilworth parish became again a plurality with North Baddesley, and their Patron became ours also. A historian tells us  that one of the first vicars was "An old castaway monk, who can scarcely say his Matins,  hired for twenty or thirty shillings a year, meat and drink, or for meat and drink alone." 

Disrepair
After the year 1700 the church fell into disrepair and in 1801 it was described as 'an ivy-clad  ruin standing upon rising ground: a small building apparently of great age, without a ceiling  and little better than a hovel, a belfry in front somewhat resembling a pigeon-house. The ivy  claims property in the walls and admonishes the parishioners to bestow a little expense upon  what they profess to esteem as the house of God.' 


The Church today
Peter Searle, the Lord of the Manor, whose body is interred in the chancel. rebuilt the church  at his own expense in 1812, and shortly before 1820 the new building was consecrated by the Bishop of Winchester. It had a steeple, and a choir gallery over the west door. These were  removed in the latter part of the nineteenth century. 

Two ancient graves level with the ground on the south side of the church are said to date from about 1200. 

The two bells in the tower also date from about 1200. They are of great historical interest  (although no dates are inscribed on them), and when examined by Taylor's Bell Foundry, Loughborough in 1924, they found them particularly interesting on account of their antiquity  and that they were believed to be French bells cast either in the 12th or 13th Century.  The original clappers are in the glass case near the font. Near them are two pastel sketches  of the church as it was in 1853, showing the stocks and pillory near the gate, and a two decker pulpit in the interior. 

The bowl of the font is of Saxon work, and bears the notches in the corners where iron clamps were fixed to retain a lid which was kept locked to prevent witches from stealing the holy water. 

The roof of the church is said to be inspired by that of Sherborne Abbey. It is of interest to note the corbels in which we see the recurring theme of the "Bear and Ragged Staff," the "Owl" and  the "Dove." 

The East Window, which was destroyed by a parachute mine in 1941, came from the Nonsuch  Palace of Henry VIII at Sheen, and represented the four Evangelists. The present window shows  a crown of glory, and the shields of the Dioceses of Winchester and Canterbury, and also of  Saint Denys. The four lancets represent the Incarnation, the Resurrection, the Return to  Judgement, and the Holy Communion. They are linked by a Cross which rises out of the wooded  hills of this county. The parish records go back to 1703. 

The Crucifix above the pulpit is made of dark oak from the original 1200 foundations of Winchester  Cathedral, and the light oak is from the 14th Century Wool House (now the Maritime Museum) in Southampton. It is signed M. R. FURNEAUX, Dean of Winchester. 

The Garden of Rest on the south side of the church as shown on the cover picture of the  information leaflet is the result of a generous gift from an anonymous donor, and the planning  of the layout as a Garden to receive the internment of ashes, was the work of a small but  faithful group of parishioners. The Garden was dedicated and opened on the 9th July. 1967. 

With grateful acknowledgement to the late Mr A. V. Dibble, local historian Revised by Alistair 
McKay and Alfred Clements, Churchwardens.

VISIT ST DENYS CHURCH AT CHILWORTH CHURCH WEBSITE