The Church of St Mary of the Assumption
Froyle

The name Froyle (Frbli in Domesday Book) is thought to be derived from Froehyll or Frija's Hill. Frija was the Norse Goddess of Love and one of Odin's wives; the hill may well be that, now known as Saintbury, which lies to the north of the Church and divides Upper from Lower Froyle.

The Manor of Froyle was in the hands of the nuns of St. Mary's Abbey, Winchester, at the time of Domesday until the Dissolution, and it is likely that the unusual dedication of the Church, The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, stems from this.

The present Church was built in the early years of the 14th century; there was certainly a church here previous to that date, as Froyle is known to have had a Vicar in 1274. Unhappily, the only part now remaining of the 14th century Church is the chancel, built of local "clunch" - a form of hard chalk. The steeple of the original Church was pulled down in 1722, and the present brick tower built in its place. In 1812 the nave also was demolished, as it was cheaper to rebuild at a cost of 1,297 than to repair it; some of the old stone has been incorporated into the brickwork.

 

The Nave
You enter a Georgian nave of pleasant proportions, through somewhat spoiled by an unattractive gallery at the west end. On your right is the font which appears to be modern but is, in fact, an old font restored by the Reverend Astley Cooper in 1864 in memory of his wife.

The nave was at one time furnished with heavy box pews, but these were removed in the 19th century and were then replaced with chairs. The pews you now see were given in memory of Mrs. Hazel Sumner.

The Font


Much of the glass in the nave is by Charles Kempe, who was working in the latter years of the 19th century. The roundels in the window in the north wall under the gallery are probably 17th century Flemish. High upon the south-east side you will see fragments of mediaeval glass placed in the window in 1933 to commemorate the centenary of the Oxford Movement.

At the south-east corner of the nave is an altar dedicated to St. George, while on the opposite side there stands the pulpit, given in memory of the Reverend Astley Cooper, Vicar of Froyle from 1864 to 1876. Close by you will find a statue in wood of the Virgin Mary, a memorial to Sir Hubert Miller, the last active Lord of the Manor, who did much for the Church, and who died in 1941.

The pulpit


On the walls of the nave you will see a number of boards on which are painted coats of arms; these are known as "hatchments", and further details about them are given later in these notes.

The Chancel
This is the only part remaining of the 14th century Church and, as you pass through the original chancel arch, you will notice that the floor drops to a lower level. When the nave was rebuilt in 1812 the new level of this was higher than that of the chancel, which was accordingly raised. Subsequently, however, when a new organ was installed in 1906, the chancel floor had to be lowered again to its original level to accommodate the height of the pipes and casing, and to improve the tone. This organ is no longer used, a new Walker instrument having
been given to the Church in 1963.

The roof of the chancel is original, and the whole was only recently exposed when a late 19th century barrel roof was removed. In 1981 the modern choirstalls (given in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Gadban) were moved to the west end of the nave, leaving the chancel much as it would have been when the Church was first built. In the south-east corner is a 15th century piscina which is still used. The altar rail is late 17th century.

The statues in the chancel and sanctuary are - between the organ casings, St. Gregory wearing the Papal tiara; in the south-east corner, St. Anne, the Virgin and Child carved in wood; in the north-east corner, the Virgin and Child.

It is of interest to note that Sir Hubert Miller, who has previously been mentioned, owned a villa in Venice at the turn of the century, and each year when he returned to Froyle he would bring statues which he placed, not only in the Church, but also over the doors of a number of the cottages in Upper Froyle; these have given rise to the name "The Village of Saints".

Around the ledges of the roof above the sanctuary will be seen the words, on the north side - "Ave gratia plena Dominus Tecum benedicta Tu in muliaribus. Alleluia, Amen". (Hail thou that are full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou among women. Alleluia, Amen). And on the south side - "Ecce enim ex hoc beatum Me dicent omnes generationes, quia fecit Mihi magna qui potens est". (For behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed, for He that is mighty has done to me great things).

In the north wall of the sanctuary you will see one of the few examples in the country of an Easter Sepulchre. In the Middle Ages, during the last three days of Holy Week, the Sacrament was placed in the Sepulchre and was hidden by a curtain, symbolizing Christ's burial. Then, on Easter Day, the curtain would be drawn aside and the Sacrament removed, to represent the Resurrection.

It is likely that this Easter Sepulchre is contemporary with the building of the Church. It was certainly there before 1377, for in that year one John Mott of Froyle died, and left in his Will "Money for candles to burn before the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Church", and "Money for candles to burn at the Easter Sepulchre".

The majority of the memorial glass in the windows of the north and south walls of the chancel is also by Kempe; as is the very fine Tree of Jesse in the east window. This was erected by Sir Hubert Miller in memory of his mother who died in 1896.

However, perhaps the greatest treasure is the glass in the upper tracery of the east window. This is largely armorial and may well be unique for a small village church. It cannot be earlier than 1307 nor later than 1320, and the arms are almost certainly those of Edward II, his close relations and connections by marriage. More details of this may be found on the hand board on the table near the font.

Tombs and Heraldry
The oldest brass in the Church is that of John Lighe, marking his tomb on the south side of the altar. Unfortunately, that of his wife, which should be facing him, has disappeared. He died in 1575, and it is said that he built some of the older parts of Coldrey, a large house with a Georgian front, between Froyle and
Bentley. Of the arms above the brass only the first two coats have been identified, both of Lighe or Leigh.

Within the sanctuary are a number of tombs, with coats of arms, of the Gauden and Draper families. Lords of the Manor from 1666 to 1770.

Returning to the nave, you may like to note more closely the hatchments on the walls. It became the custom from late Tudor times until the second half of the 19th century to display such "achievements" outside the house in which had occurred the death of a man or woman entitled to bear arms. After the period of
mourning was over, the hatchment would be moved to the local church. At Froyle we are fortunate in having hatchments relating to the following families - Nicholas, Draper, Moody, Miller and Pepperell.

In addition to the hatchments, there is a large board on which are painted the arms of King George III. Such boards are frequently found in village churches, and were put up by the Lord of the Manor to show that he and his village were loyal subjects of the Crown.

In the floor of the nave are a number of tombs of the Burninghams, a family who lived in Froyle from about 1600 until early in the present century. There is also the tomb of Frances Loggin, who was probably related to Thomas Loggin, Vicar of Froyle in 1755.

The Tower
The original steeple was demolished in 1722 and the present brick tower was built of Crondall bricks. At this time the churchwardens were Henry Burningham and John Baldwin; Their names, or initials, were originally inscribed on the three stones (now much flaked) on the north side of the tower. On that above the clock you can still just see "John Baldwin 1722"; that below probably had the names of both churchwardens; while on the keystone of the door you may read "H. B." for Henry Burningham.

Many of the bricks are incised with initials, which were doubtless those of the men who built the tower.

There is a ring of six bells, five of which are inscribed "R. Phelps Fecit 1724", and one "Thos. Swain made me 1757". It is probable that all six bells were originally made in 1724, but one had to be re-cast in 1757 through becoming cracked.

The Churchyard
To the south-west of the nave stands the remains of what is known as the "Preaching Cross". A modern cross to the memory of Dorothy Mary Summers has been erected on the mediaeval base; this base is almost certainly that of "Froyle Cross" mentioned in "The Abbey of the Blessed Mary of Waverley" by Francis Baigent, 1882, where he states - "On the 25th July, 1310, the Abbot, Phillip de Bedwynde, and the Convent of Waverley, undertook certain obligations with regard to their late benefactor. Bishop Nicholas de Ely, (Bishop of Winchester 1268-1280)". Among these undertakings there occurs the following: - "Moreover we will maintain forever the marble cross, set up for the soul of the said Bishop by his executors at Froyle; and if it shall happen that the said cross, which God forbid! shall be injured, broken or entirely thrown down by lightning, thunder or other violent storms, we will erect another in its place." Sealed by the Bishop of Winchester, 25th July, 1310. In a footnote, Mr. Baigent states: "The base of the cross remains at Froyle to this day."

Near this cross, and standing against the wall of the Church, is a very old coffin lid, carved throughout with an engrailed cross.

 

Madonna and Child

 

Sculpture with a helmet above

Sculptured frieze above the doorway to the vestry
 
The Organ which has recently been moved from the nave to the balcony, the rear has been restored and new pipes have replaced the old ones   Sculpture of St Christopher