The history of St Andrew’s Church and the Medieval wall murals
For this introduction to the history of our church, we’re indebted to Richard Sawyer for his definitive guide book on St Andrew’s Church, and Dorothy Beresford for her wonderful booklet on the history of Nether Wallop (both available on request).
It’s hard to do concise justice to a thousand years of history, but in a nutshell the original Anglo-Saxon church of St Andrew’s was built in the 11th century, on a hillside spot which had probably been a site of pagan worship. The oldest part of the building is the crossing, now the choirstalls, which was the original chancel. Significant architectural features reveal St Andrew’s earliest heritage, including an extraordinary fragment of a Saxon tomb, with a floriated cross, now resting on the floor near the vestry. This remarkable artefact was found in 1978 during restoration of a Norman column on the south arcade, where it had been used as a foundation stone.
In 1133 King Henry I granted his great nephew William Fitzherbert St Andrew’s in support of his appointment as Treasurer to York Minster. This shaped four centuries of York influence on the architectural development which is unusual in the Diocese of Winchester. The church was enlarged and considerable alterations were made including to the north door, the south aisle and the chancel arch. In the early 13th century a north aisle was added and by account, a very lofty tower with a steeple. Although various developments occurred during the next 300 years, the footprint of the church remained broadly the same.
In the late 14th century, in a period of revival following the Black Death, and at a time when Bishop William of Wykeham was remodelling Winchester Cathedral, St Andrew’s underwent a major change of style and internal layout. It would have been a very dark church with low walls to the aisles. Remodelling changed it into one with lofty walls, clerestory windows and large light-giving windows.
In 1704 it is recorded “the Tower of Wallop church fell down”. This was subsequently rebuilt, omitting the steeple, and there followed alterations to the aisles. In 1845, 18th century gallery and box pews were removed and replaced with Victorian pew boxes and the chancel was reconstructed.
It was the reformation however which was responsible for both hiding and preserving St Andrew’s most significant treasures. Between 1547 and 1552, Henry VIII and Edward VI decreed that churches throughout the kingdom were cleared of traces of 500 years of Catholic religion and tradition. For the majority of churches in England, paintings, saint’s images, statues, rich hangings, altars, plate and screen were removed and sold. The vibrancy of medieval churches was gone. At St Andrew’s a unique set of circumstances meant that the wall murals, one of which had decorated the church from the time before the Norman Conquest, were in part preserved, covered in a thick white lime wash. By chance in 1930 fragments of the wall murals were revealed. Professor Robert Tristan and his team of helpers from the Royal College of Art began a part restoration tapping away at many coatings of whitewash, treating what was discovered with wax in the hope of preserving the fragments exposed. In 1957 E Clive Rouse was invited to inspect and report on the deteriorating condition of the paintings, but it was not until 1971 that finance became available for extensive and exciting conservation work….
The Nether Wallop Angels: Christ in Majesty
The wall mural over the late Norman chancel arch is of international significance. From careful study of the paintings, and with the help of details expert advice, a reconstruction of the the subject was built up to show a series of flying angels. Their form and dress, of special mural in the church the painting in the style of the “Winchester School” of illuminators, is of “Christ in Majesty” enclosed in a mandoria, supported by angels.
- St Christopher
- St George
- The Warning to the Sabbath Breakers
- The graveyard and church garden
Mill rinds appear on crest and tombstones and indicate the importance of the village’s mills.
For more information including booklets please contact the church warden at firstname.lastname@example.org