East Worldham St Mary the Virgin, Hampshire

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Location: East Worldham, Hampshire, Englandmap
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East Worldham St Mary, Hampshire

The church of St Mary the Virgin, East Worldham, Hampshire

St Mary the Virgin church at East Worldham stands at the top of Worldham Hill. It is positioned just off the cross roads of a forest track, which led north to Alton.An even older road made by the Romans, connecting Silchester in the north west with Chichester and Fishbourne on the south coast, which passed through East Worldham. Evidence of Roman occupation here is still being found. The present church is of early 13th century origin, but almost certainly replaced an earlier Saxon church on the same site. The south porch was added in the 19th century and shields an early English doorway. On the left hand jamb are crosses carved by early travellers, possibly pilgrims on their way to Canterbury. On both sides of this doorway are scratch dials, which indicated the times of the masses. The left hand dial was shaded by the sun, when a buttress was built to support the south wall, therefore another was carved on the right hand side. The gnomon from the central hole has long since disappeared. On the east wall there is evidence of the original Norman apse, later replaced by the present square east end, with triple lancet windows. On the north wall of the chancel the Victorian vestry conceals the stairway, which would have lead to the rood loft. On the north and south sides of the nave are early English doorways, the north door being the priest’s entrance. The tower was reconstructed in 1864 – 5 by David Brandon, when the church was completely re-roofed and refurnished. It is a short, square structure surmounted by a wooden bell cote, typical of many Hampshire churches. The bell cote was added to an earlier tower in 1660 and is recorded in a watercolour view of the church from the south west painted by Richard Ubsdell in the 1840′s and now on view in the Portsmouth city museum and art gallery. In the south wall of the nave is a 14th century effigy believed to be of Phillippa, wife of Geoffry Chaucer. This was found under the floor during the restoration of the church in 1865. Their connection was to Lord of the Manor from 1418 to 1434 and also the ranger of Woolmer and Alice Holt forests.

Phillippa Chaucer

It is believed that the effigy is that of Phillipa Chaucer is based on the wheel symbol, which rests up on her chest. Phillippa came from a Flemish family and her maiden name was Roet, which is the Flemish word for heel. It was the main constituent of the family’s coat of arms. Phillippa and Geoffrey Chaucer were part of the John of Gaunt Household and were married in the 1366. The last historical record of Phillippa places her in Lincoln in 1388. Those who would dispute the authenticity of the Worldham tomb, contend that she ended her life in Spain, a victim of the plague. Were she a sufficient importance for her body to be returned to England for burial, a more prestigious location might have been found. Geoffrey lies in Westminster abbey. Nevertheless, a very strong connection between the Chaucer family and East Worldham is not disputed.

The Arnott Window

The window, in memory of Veronica Amott depicts St.Luke with his symbols of the winged ox and a book; a reference to his gospel.The patron saint of physicians and of artists recalls Veronica’s devotion to medicine and the arts. Her ecumenical faith and her Russian forefathers are represented by the Russian orthodox cross and the rose petals are for the message of the Indian guru, Sai Baba – to help all, serve all and love all. Three interlocking rings containing the ecumenical prayer, UT UNUM SINT (may they be one in spirit and body) occupy the point of the window. The metaphor of the divine presence, the eye in the triangle, echoes Veronica’s and her husband Eric’s lifelong dedication.

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