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St Mary, Crawley
Crawley is a particularly attractive village to the north-west of Winchester. It effectively consists of a long climbing street, starting from the large village pond at the east end, and passing a number of attractive cottages and other buildings until the church and Crawley Court are reached. It has few jarring or disappointing moments. A number of the cottages are of brick and flint, including several of thatch, and there are a few modern buildings built in a deliberately old fashioned style, including the neo-Jacobean Fox and Hounds pub. Orchard Cottage is memorable for its entertaining dormer windows and changing roof lines, and eventually the Gospel Hall is reached, the porch being dated 1901. The attractive former village school and then the war memorial are seen on the left, and eventually the rather exotic buildings of The Dower House can be seen opposite the church. The road side buildings use of variety of building materials, and have an odd mixture of windows and timber framed gables in an Elizabethan style. Behind is a large brick tower and the rest of the house. Further west the road becomes lined by walls, until the cemetery and entrance to Crawley Court are reached. The modern estate housing was well planned and kept separate, and yet creating its own character along Hacks Lane not far from the church. One of the village's biggest assets is that it is quiet and away from any main road.
The church is a curiosity, with its thin tower and large three light belfry windows outside, and the juxtaposition of a barn-like nave with humble timber arcade posts and the rather ornate Victorian chancel inside. Altogether it consists of nave, north and south aisles, chancel, north vestry/organ chamber, timber south porch, west tower and north-west church room. The aisles have roofs which are continuous from the nave, but are so narrow that the aisle roof retain a reasonable height. On the north side the roof has three triangular dormers at the point where the aisle starts. The churchyard is attractive, mostly open to the south and east, with many enjoyable 18th century gravestones, and a number of tomb chests. The chancel south wall is shrouded by a yew, and trees line the south edge of the churchyard and surround it to the west and east.
Chronology of the building
A church is mentioned in the Domesday book, but it would appear that the earliest evidence is mid-Norman, and this is rather scant. The main impression is that the church primarily dates from the late medieval period and the 19th century, although some parts are not easy to date with confidence.
Norman: It is unclear now much of the church's walling is Norman, but the nave east wall could date from this period. In any case, the chancel arch has the only Norman architectural feature in the church. The responds are Norman, perhaps mid 12th century, and are effectively square is section. The north respond is chamfered towards the east, and both have nook shafts to the west. These have round shallow moulded bases and capitals with leafy scallops above prominent roll moulded collars. The square abaci of the responds have a roll moulding and a hollow chamfered underside. The responds appear part original and part restored, although the church guide states that "the chancel arch incorporates abaci which are based on original Norman fragments discovered during restoration". So what was the chancel arch like before this restoration? Was it the same minus the abaci, or were the abaci simply covered up? On the south side the respond is almost flush with the chancel wall surface.
The original arch did not survive, but a section of it was incorporated into the wall to the north of the current chancel arch on the chancel side. It consists of five carved stones, with a pair of chevron mouldings finished with a beaded edge, and then a shallow hollow chamfer ending in another beaded edge. Some red paint remains on the chamfer of two stones. The lowest stone doesn't have an outer chamfer, but has a section of stone which cuts into the chevron moulding.
Early English: Both Moody and White refer to the church as in the Early English style, and it would appear that the chancel was 13th century before it was entirely rebuilt in 1887. The evidence for this is in the north window where a lancet was reused. It is chamfered and stepped, but while it is clearly older than the stonework of 1887, it doesn't for the most part look 13th century, and was probably renewed at an earlier restoration (see below). The current north vestry/organ chamber also reuses parts of two former lancets for the lower sections of the two north lancets of 1887. This consists of the lower jambs only, and may have originated from the former chancel.
The arch of the chancel arch is possibly late 13th century (1), and must have replaced a Norman original. it is of two chamfered orders, and pointed. It doesn't fit entirely comfortably on the responds, and dies into the south wall (apart from the inner chamfer). On the north side the outer order consists of a vertical piece before the arch begins, and the inner order dies into it apart from the chamfer.
The squint to the north of the chancel arch may be 13th or 14th century. It is fairly wide and aligned at an angle, and is chamfered with a pointed arch. It is entirely renewed on the east side apart from the south jamb, but looks mostly original on the west side with an unchamfered north jamb. Near the south-west jamb is a shallow and well preserved bowl of a piscina.
Perpendicular: The nave appears to have been rebuilt during this period with unusually narrow aisles. Externally this is apparent through the window designs which are the typical cusped two light designs with straight heads. Three also have moulded labels and rest of carved heads. The odd east window of the south aisle is entirely renewed and must be to a 19th century design. Did it replace an earlier window in this position, and if so what was its design? The side windows are detailed below.
The aisles have timber arcades which are for the most part clearly old but are stylistically difficult to date. It is likely, however, that they are 15th century and therefore probably date from the same period as the side windows. Perhaps due to cost, or the fact that the aisles are so narrow, it was considered not worth erecting stone arcades. They are of three bays with octagonal piers or posts which meet a thick beam like an oversized purlin, which spans the entire length of the nave. Slightly arched braces connect the posts and these beams and braces also link to four cambered tie beams. Much of the timber is original, but some parts, including all the braces apart from the two easternmost, are new.
The tower is considered to be 16th century by the Victoria County History, and does indeed look late Perpendicular. It is thin and unbuttressed apart from a low buttress at the north-west corner which is apparently original. It has one tall stage, above which are two shorter and diminishing stages. It is of flint and probably mostly original in the lower stage, with must more closely set flints than the south aisle wall. The second stage looks mostly renewed with many large stone blocks, and there is a new upper stage with battlemented parapet. The belfry windows consist of cusped three light cusped openings under a straight head. Since the tower is unusually narrow, and the belfry windows are unusually wide, it makes the tower look odd and distinctive. Did the rebuilding of 1901 remain faithful to the original design? In the west wall at the ground stage is a fairly wide chamfered lancet, some of the stones original, but many others renewed. This is an odd choice for a late medieval tower, and may not represent the original design.
The tower arch is also odd, and the Victoria County History provide a plausible explanation for it. Prior to the tower being built this was "the head and jambs of a window whose sill has been cut down to the ground level. The window is apparently not older than the fifteenth century, giving a limit of date to the tower". It is indeed widely splayed with a chamfered rere-arch and a chamfered outer arch. The jambs also become noticeably rougher and no longer cleanly chamfered or dressed in their lower section (approximately the first metre from the ground). However, no break in the splays can be detected and there is apparently little other evidence to support the theory, although certain patching on the arch may suggest where mullions may have once existed. But whether the arch ever did service as a window remains unclear. The stonework appears to be virtually entirely original.
19th Century: There appear to have been several periods of 19th century activity on the church, though no applications to the Incorporated Church Building Society are recorded in their archive. According to White's directories of 1859 and 1878 the church was repaired in 1831 "a the cost of £300". The 1878 directory also reports another in 1875 "at a somewhat larger expense". It is not clear what took place during these repairs but the earlier work may have included renewal of stonework which may therefore explain why the chancel north lancet looks older than the rest of the chancel without looking medieval.
The main restoration took place in 1887 and was quite far reaching. It included the rebuilding of the chancel and the building of a vestry/organ chamber to the north of the chancel, and is recorded by a brass plate on the chancel's north wall. According to the church guide the architect was Thomas Edgar Williams and was built "at the expense of the then Rector, Revd E M Mee, and his family". Externally their 19th century origin is quite apparent, but the Victorian effect is significantly enhanced inside the chancel. The chancel walls are of knapped flints, with a large number of randomly but evenly spaced blocks of old masonry, but the dressings are mainly of smooth yellow stone. In the east wall is a triplet of connected lancets each with a chamfer and hollow chamfer, the whole with a continuously moulded label. The rere-arch also encompasses all three lancets. Below it is a stone cross in stone, and below that is a line of bricks near the bottom which continues along the north and south walls. On the south side are three chamfered lancets with a trefoil moulding in the head and a stepped profile. The west lancet is longer than the other two. Between the central and eastern lancets is a priest's doorway which is chamfered with stop chamfers at the bottom and is similarly stepped in profile. Just east of it, near the ground, is a recess to clean the bottoms of shoes. The north wall has the reused lancet (see above). Inside, the wall surface is mostly of open flint (as is the vestry), but significant use of stone is also used, including most of the wall surface below the windows. The east triplet has stone splays with foliage panels with continue along the east wall. There are large rectangular stone panels either side of the east triplet containing lozenge shapes with undistinguished carvings of angels, the one to the north with a crown and the one to the south with a cross. The work Alleluya appears in stone above each panel. Below the panels the wall surface is diapered with a fleur-de-lis style decoration, and just below the triplet is a small stone carved altar piece with the initials of Christ amongst foliage. At the east end of the south wall is a Victorian piscina with a moulded bowl and arch, the latter with a moulded label and curious split cusping below which is filled with foliage. Above is a stone ledge. On the opposite wall is an arched moulded recess with a seat and a moulded ledge above. The label finishes short on the west side with a carving of a wyvern turning back on its foliage sprouting tail.
To the east of the north aisle, and to the north-west of the chancel, is the vestry/organ chamber, with the same wall textures as the chancel. To the west is a chamfered trefoiled lancet, to the north are two chamfered lancets without trefoils, the lower parts of their jambs being older and reused. The arches have been emphasised above by a stone and flint pattern in the wall surface. The east wall has a chamfered and cusped Y tracery window, all in yellow stone like the rest of the stonework dressings in the vestry and chancel. The vestry is oriented north-south, and is connected to the chancel via a wide un-walled opening with a moulded timber top resting on timber carvings of angels holding scrolls. This opening is for the organ, and to the east of it is a chamfered and segmental headed doorway to the vestry. At the point where the north wall of the chancel starts, the angles have elaborately chamfered sections with a wave moulding, a moulded lower stop and a foliage upper stop.
The east wall of the south aisle has an odd two light window which also appears to be of 1887 since it is of the same yellow stone. It has cusped Y tracery with a large roll moulding, and the apex of the arch is cut short so that it becomes a horizontal section. What did this window replace? Internally it has a chamfered rere-arch which reflects the window in that the apex is similarly cut short.
The nave and chancel roofs are both nineteenth century, and both are the simple trussed rafter variety. The chancel also has two tie beams with King posts. Tiles are black and red in the nave, and a more complicated pattern of black and white squares in the chancel, including three 18th century memorial stones along the aisle.
In 1895 the dark timber south porch was added. It rests on a stone and flint base and is enclosed below with simply arched opening above- four to the sides and one either side of the south entrance arch. The arch is four centred in the Tudor style, and above is the date in Roman numerals attractively and informally carved amongst foliage. There is foliage on the flat bargeboards as well. All this is in a picturesque Gothic typical of the late Victorian period. I do not currently know the architect for this porch.
20th Century: A brass inscription inside the tower states that "To the honour and glory of God this tower was partially rebuilt and the bells rehung by public subscription September 1901". It seems that the top two stages were rebuilt (see above for a detailed description of the tower) but it remains unclear how faithfully this adhered to the former design.
The church room of 1999 is the newest addition to the church, and is situated on the north-west side. The architect was David J Trussler. While in a modern style, it does not cause offence since it is low and hidden away, filling the north-west space between the church and the churchyard wall. It is entered from the nave via a doorway to the north of the tower. It is slightly chamfered with an ugly pointed and prominently protruding head. The external entrance is of glass and is to the west of the tower. It continues around the north side of the tower to the west end of the north aisle. From outside the north aisle it has a brick base, a rendered wall surface and prominent quoins, and the shallow pitched roof is covered with lead.
Near the pulpit is a thin and highly polished wooden carving of the Madonna and Child, by Ron Lane in 1973 (2). It has a graceful and attractively swaying shape on a marble plinth.
The font is typical Perpendicular and of stone. Octagonal bowl with quatrefoils within circles and a moulded underside. Octagonal stem and moulded base. The font looks entirely original.
In front of the pulpit is a large and impressive Jacobean chest, with panelled sides, fat turned shafts at the angles, and simple Jacobean carved ornament above. Next to it is a safe dated 1813 with the initials of the church wardens.
The rest of the furnishings are 19th-20th century, including the Victorian pine pews, choir pews and reading desk, simple lectern with attached shafts, octagonal pulpit with trefoil arches on attached shafts, and altar rails with broken arches also on attached shafts. Large organ by Wood Wordsworth (3), originally given in 1887 and rebuilt in 1995.
The north aisle has two marble tablets †1915 and †1951. The chancel has a small stone tablet †1831 and a brass consisting of two plates †1609. This is particularly interesting since the Latin inscription relates how Michael Renniger, archdeacon of Winchester and rector of Crawley, was exiled under Mary and returned to England to become Rector in 1560.
In the vestry is a small tablet of †1836 and a big tablet with a drapery of a large arrow †1809 signed by Henry Westmancott. Also a tablet with an urn †1814 by T Franceys & Spence of Liverpool.
1. Pevsner calls it 13th century, but the Victoria County History considers it "perhaps of fourteenth-century date".
2. According to the church guide.
3. According to the church guide.
- [Anon]. St Mary's Church, Crawley in the Diocese of Winchester [church guide]. Parochial Church Council of St Mary's Church, Crawley, c.2000
- Moody, H. Antiquarian and Topographical Sketches of Hampshire, 1846
- Page, W. (ed). The Victoria History of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight: Vol.???. Constable, 19??
- Pevsner, N & Lloyd, D. Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. Penguin, 1967
- White, W. History, Gazetteer and Directory of Hampshire, 1859
- White, W. History, Gazetteer, and Directory of the County of Hampshire including the Isle of Wight, 1878
Questions for further research
1. How much of the chancel arch responds, specifically the abaci, reconstructed after the restoration?
2. Did the east window of the south aisle replace an earlier window and if so what was its design?
3. Did the rebuilding of the upper part of the tower in 1901 remain faithful to the original design, e.g. battlements and three light belfry windows?
4. What took place during the 1831 and 1875 repairs?
5. Who was the architect of the south porch of 1895?
6. Is there a picture or photo of the church before the tower was partly rebuilt in 1901 and the chancel was rebuilt in 1887, and if so where?
7. Are the chancel sanctuary windows by Hardman?
8. Who is the artist/firm responsible for the north aisle north-east window?
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© Copyright 2004, Barry Meehan