AN INTRODUCTION TO
SHALFLEET CHURCH AND ITS PARISH
(Prepared by Brian Meade and published in 2002. Pictures taken by me)
We are glad that you are
visiting St Michael's Church People have been worshipping God here for well over
900 years of the 2000-year history (so far) of the Christian faith: an
would value your prayers for us and for all who live in the parish of
our Father, make the door of our church wide enough to receive all who need
human love and fellowship and a Father's care, and narrow enough to shut out all
envy, pride and lack of love; here may the tempted find help, the sorrowing
receive comfort, the careless be awakened to repentance, and the penitent be
assured of your mercy; and here may all you children renew theirs strength and
go on their way in hope and joy through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
The origins of the
church are not precisely known and its original dedication has been lost. It may
indeed have been dedicated to a Saxon saint.
It was founded
sometime in the years between 1070 and 1086. Peroy Stone was of the
opinion that it was built after the death of William Fitz Osbem (1071), who gave
six other Island churches to his Abbey of Lyre, and it was thus probably built
by his son, Roger de Breteuil, who was banished for rebellion in 1075.
Certainly it was
recorded in the great Domesday Survey which William the Conqueror ordered to be
compiled in 1085:-
also holds SHALFLEET. Edric held it before 1066. Then it answered for 6
hides; now for 3 hides and ½ virgate. Land for 14 ploughs. In lordship 2; 14 villagers
and 19 smallholders with 9½ ploughs. A mill at 11d; meadow, 4 acres. A church; woodland at 20 pigs.
2½ virgates of this land. 1 plough with 2 villagers and l smallholder. Thorgils
holds ½ hide and Leofa 1 hide. They how in lordship 2 ploughs;
villagers and 2 smallholders with ½ plough. The value of the whole before 1066
and later £20; now £15 between them all.
'hide' was a unit of tax assessment - about 120 acres - and a 'virgate'
½ of that)
being nameless for centuries the church was dedicated to St. Michael the
Archangel on September 29th, 1964 by the Bishop of Portsmouth, the
tower is the oldest part of the church and is remarkable for its massive
structure, the walls being over five feet thick. Built in the later eleventh
century, it may in fact have pre-dated the church and served from the start as a
stronghold for local inhabitants when threatened by Invaders or piratical
marauders. It must have been almost invulnerable as there were no openings at
all at ground level and access was gained only by climbing an
external ladder and scrambling over the parapet. The structure may occasion
comparisons with the strongly built tower keep of Chepstow Castle, the
stronghold of William Fitz Osbern who had responsibility for the Welsh border
need for such a stronghold is made clear by the vulnerability of the Newtown
River and the surrounding area and its attractiveness to
seaborne raiders over the centuries, in particular the Danes at the end
of the tenth century and culminating in the frequent French attacks of the
fourteenth century - especially in 1377 when Yarmouth, Newtown and Newport all
suffered much destruction. Defence of the Island against invaders remained a
constant preoccupation, hence the
of a 3-pounder gun, inscribed 'Schawflet', which was kept in the tower until
1779, and which must have been ready for use when the Spanish Armada threatened
the Island in 1588.
THE TWELFTH CENTURY
from the tower the only existing portions of the original church are the north
door and the foundations of the north wall of the Norman nave, built in 1150. The north wall was once lit by a fine Perpendicular
window in whose stained glass appeared the arms of William Montacute, Earl of
Salisbury, who gave the advowson to his Convent of Bisham in Berkshire in 1414.
Over the north door is the quaintly carved tympanum, whose subject of a bearded man apparently resting his hands on the heads of two affronted lions has exercised many scholarly minds: Adam naming the animals beneath the Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden; Daniel in the Lions' Den; StMark with lions; or David overcoming the lion and the bear ?
narrow south aisle may have been built in 1190 as there are some signs of
a widening in the west wall.
THE THIRTEENTH CENTURY
1270 a great remodelling, and therefore enlargement, of the church took place
when the present south aisle with its fine arcade of slender Purbeck piers
was added as a vicarial church - probably to accommodate the manorial tenants,
whereas the original nave would have been for the exclusive use of the lord of
the manor and his family.
aisle is remarkable for being the only one on the Island, apart from at Arreton
and the domestic chapel at Carisbrooke Castle, where Purbeck stone was used, and
for its south windows which have a possibly unique oval tracery in their heads.
As late as 1796 the arms of Isabella de Fortibus appeared in one of these
windows; Lord of the Island from 1283 to 1293, she may well have
commissioned the work herself.
later, in 1290, the chancel was built, apparently by the same architect
who shaped the chancel to the church of St George at Arreton. The great arch
was also opened at this time in the east wall of the tower, but because of the
lack of foundations for the latter, built as it was on clay, serious subsidence
was caused in the wall above the arch.
THE FOURTEENTH AND FIFTEENTH CENTURIES
are few traces of fourteenth century work but a western buttress was
added at the south angle of the tower and the original round-headed windows in
its massive walls were filled in with Transitional Decorated perpendicular
the fifteenth century, probably during the tenure of the manor by Thomas, Earl
of Salisbury, the south porch was added, as also the south buttress
to the east of it, while the church was re-roofed
THE EIGHTEENTH AND NINETEENTH CENTURIES
north porch was built in 1754 and the door has that date roughly cut on
the inside of it; in the same year a cupola was added to the tower.
a meeting in June 1796 a committee of five gentlemen was appointed to 'Get an
estimate of the Expense of Building a Singing Gallery and to proceed to
raise a subscription for Building the Same'. The bill for its erection was paid
between Easter 1798 and 1800. However, this may have created too
much strain on the west wall and it was later removed.
In 1800 the cupola was replaced by a wooden, tile-hung steeple, the subject of a well-known rhyme about Shalfleet people:-
Shalfleet poor and simple people
their bells to build a steeple
strengthening of the tower was carried out at this time to help bear its weight
and this was to lead to later troubles.
1812 the north wall was rebuilt, on its original
foundations, the work unfortunately being shoddily effected using a mixture of
brick and stone and its windows being given makeshift wooden tracery, some of it
subsequently replaced by stone mullions.
1889 a general restoration of the church was carried out. The
tower arch - closed up since its medieval construction - was, perhaps mistakenly,
unblocked; a door was out in the north-east corner of the tower; the east window
of the south aisle was re-headed; the plaster and the whitewash were removed and
the fifteenth century roof timber were exposed.
1912 the steeple was removed because of the obvious strain imposed on the tower
structure beneath it. In 1914 the north-east comer of the tower in fact
collapsed and so in 1916 a certain amount of underpinning work was carried out,
while the ivy was now stripped from the tower walls.
saw further restoration of the roof, woodwork and the columns. In 1952 the
chancel roof was restored and in 1964 woodwork in the nave and tower was treated
altar rails are of the eighteenth century and the reredos,
installed in 1908, incorporates the Elizabethan communion table with its
inscription and the panelling includes oak from Arreton church, St Nicholas
Chapel at Carisbrooke Castle and HMS Nettle.
box pews with their H-hinges are of the eighteenth century.
rood screen was erected as a memorial to Thomas Hollis, the sexton from 1854 to
three years £197.19s.5d had been collected to pay for the two-manual organ,
built by Mr Sims of Southampton, and for its carriage from Cowes. The 'Opening
of the New Organ Service' was held on February 4th 1886 - "a red
letter day in the annals of this Parish", as the Parish Magazine recorded
it. It was first placed at the east
end of the
nave, where the pulpit is now, and only later moved to the west end.
bells are hung: the Tenor is 35¾" diameter and 9 cwt in weight; its
note is B flat; cast In 1815 at the foundry of Thomas Mears in
Whitechapel, London; inscribed -'May all whom I shall summon to the grave the
blessings of a well spent life receive'. Thos.Way
Jas.Street Churchwardens 1815. The Treble was cast in 1807 by
Mears; J.Jolllffe C.W 2.0.3 J.Cooper
in the early years of Edward VI (1547-53) much church plate was sold off in
accordance with the beliefs of the Protestant Reformers - and Shalfleet's sale
of this raised £3.ls.4d - the church still possesses two patens dated 1594
end 1705 and a chalice of 1798.
At the west end
of the south aisle there lie two sepulchral slabs. One of these was originally
thought to have covered the remains of Pagan Trenchard, the twelfth century lord
of the manor, but it seems more likely to be the resting-place of a thirteenth
century Trenchard. Carved in low relief on the upper surface are a pot-shaped
helmet, lance and pointed shield. These slabs were, probably in Georgian days,
put out in the churchyard but were later rescued, though with some damage
incurred during their movement.
In the east
wall of the vicarial church is set a nameless mural tablet, dated 1630, possibly
to member of the Worsley family.
the east end of the north wall is set the parish War Memorial window.
This stained-glass window, featuring St
Nicholas and St George and the inscription 'I am the light of the world'
commemorates those who gave their lives in the Great War and was dedicated on
August 3rd 1920. (Can you see the aeroplane and the submarine in the design ?)
fine stained-glass east window of the chancel is a memorial to Dr Wyndham
Cottle of Ningwood House, who died in June 1919.
the chancel are also several tablets in memory of members
of the Wilkinson family who occupied Parsonage
Farm on the site of what is now
the New Burial Ground.
the north door is the Coat-of-arms of George
IV (1820-1830) and the names "Jas. Whittington
and Thos. Way", who were Churchwardens from
1824 to 1833.
parish consists of the village of Shalfleet
and the outlying hamlets of Ningwood, Newbridge,
Wellow, Cranmore and Hamstead. It stretches
from the Solent in the north to near
Chessell in the south and as far
west as Bouldnor, on the edge of Yarmouth. It has a population of about
1300, much the same as the 1245 recorded
in the 1851 Census, but the village of
Shalfleet has grown considerably since
the Second World War. It is in the
main, as it has always been, an
agricultural area with many farmsteads and forestry
in Bouldnor and at Hamstead, but in
the 19th Century It spawned some industrial
activity, notably brickworks on the clays of Hamstead,
Bouldnor, Ningwood and Newbridge, and
quarries near Chessell producing quantities of limestone.
There were extensive salt-pans at Lower Hamstead,
while Shalfleet Quay, on the Newtown
River, was used in the l8th and 19th
Centuries by vessels of up to 500
tons to land coal and some slate and
carry sway Island corn - part of the original
stone warehouse survives. Shalfleet Mill,
July 1889 the Freshwater, Yamouth and Newport
Railway Company opened to passengers with a
station at Ningwood and a viaduct over the
Caul Bourne at Cooke's Farm; taken over
later by the
three manors are recorded in the Domesday
Book. Shalfleet Manor House is part Elizabethan
and part Jacobean; the manor itself, valued
at £20 in the time of Edward the
Confessor and held through much of the
Middle Ages by the Trenchard family, later
passed successively to the Worsley, Barrington
and Simeon families.
acquired by Thomas Hopson after the
Dissolution of the Monasteries and a later
member of this Catholic family was Vice-Admiral
Sir Thomas Hopson, who distinguished
medieval lands of Hamstead Manor were given to
Christchurch Priory and Quarr Abbey, but after
the Dissolution of the Monasteries it was acquired
by the Hopson family of Ningwood. In
the nineteenth century the Hamstead farmhouse
had the distinction of being redesigned and
rebuilt by John Nash, the famous architect
of Regent Street and East Cowes Castle;
the estate was taken over by his
wife's relatives, the Pennethornes, who lived
there until 1923, and several of the family
are buried in Shalfleet churchyard. Nothing
of Nash's house remains and the present
day Grange was built only in the
later nineteenth century.
only other place of worship is Wellow
Baptist Church, home to the oldest Baptist
fellowship on the Island (founded 1801).
Sadly, several Methodist chapels have closed.
the church and manor house cluster in
traditional manner some
of the older village buildings: the
18th Century New Inn, the old
Malthouse and the Old Clergy House, a former vicarage which
retains some 14th Century roofing. Another former vicarage
from the New Inn one other old hostelry survives - the Horse and Groom - on the
main road at Ningwood.
Church of England Primary School, which serves the area and is situated at
Ningwood, was first built in 1850 and still retains the original schoolhouse.
List of Rectors/Vicars
22 August 2005