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St James, Hunton
Hunton is a pretty little hamlet to the east of Sutton Scotney, near the River Dever. It consists of farms, several substantial brick and timber cottages, Hunton Manor, and the church. What is particularly memorable is the fact that it is situated away from any major traffic.
The church lies to the south in a fenced off area within a large field. It is a wonderfully tranquil spot, feeling open and yet also enclosed by the trees which line the field. Despite renewals, the church is attractive and simple, consisting of nave, a very small and intimate chancel, thin west tower with wooden bell turret above, and a south porch. The churchyard is pleasant, with yews to the east, and a group of low table-top tombs and old gravestones immediately south . There are also some old gravestones to the north, and a tablet on the nave east wall (on the north side) which is dated †1728.
Chronology of the building
The church is medieval, but much is renewed and altered so that few original features remain, and dating of the church's architectural features is difficult. However, there exists an undated early illustration of the church, a copy of which can be seen inside the nave, which assists in making sense of the church's development . It was originally a chapel attached to the church at Crawley, and hence explains a reference in 1291 to the church of Crawley "cum capella" (1).
The nave south doorway has an arch with a simple hollow chamfer which looks original, and may date from any time from the 13th to the 15th centuries . The imposts are mostly of later brick, but below they are of stone and look original. They both have a plain chamfer.
Decorated: There are no remaining decorated features, but an illustration of the church, which probably dates from the late 18th or early 19th centuries, shows the building from the south east with what appears to be two Y tracery windows in the nave south wall, where straight headed Perpendicular style windows now exist . If this is correct, they would date from c.1300.
Perpendicular: Although renewed, the chancel east window is of three lights with panel tracery , and is shown in the illustration. Similarly, the chancel south window, which is of two lights with a straight head, is also shown in the illustration, so they appear to be faithfully renewed . Both windows contain very few mouldings. The crudeness of the piscina suggests that these windows were probably inserted into earlier walling.
The chancel arch, which is small and four-centred, contains a continuous chamfer for approximately two thirds of its height . It is plastered, and may or may not represent a late medieval alteration. Such features as these make the church a prime candidate for detailed archaeological investigation.
18th Century: The nave was remodelled in brick and this can be seen on the south side . The bricks were laid in Flemish bond, and some of the ends were burnt to produce a haphazard chequer pattern. The brick walling lies on a chalky stone base of approximately two visible layers, which could represent the original medieval walling. The west jamb of the nave south doorway has the date 1785 incised into one of the bricks .
The illustration of the church shows a small stumpy west tower with a low pyramid cap, so the base may date from the 18th century or earlier. The drawing shows the tower in the same position as it is now, half within the nave and half without. The west wall is of flint with brick quoins, and the tower also starts off in flint with brick at the angles. Near the top, where it meets the nave roof, the tower is entirely of brick. On the south and north faces the bricks are generally, like the nave, laid in Flemish bond (using burnt ends), although this is less consistently applied. The west face is not so much Flemish bond as a haphazard mix of long and short brick work. The Victoria County History says that it is topped with a battlemented parapet, but the later double pitched wooden cap now obscures this.
19th-20th Centuries: The porch appears to be 19th century and later than the nave walling. It may date from 1865 (see below). The bricks look lighter and newer and are no longer laid in Flemish bond. There is also a joint where the porch meets the nave wall, and the layers do not generally correspond. The porch has a collar beamed roof and an open timber framed front. The nave also posses a collar beamed roof, and the chancel roof is scissor beamed.
White's directories of 1859 and 1878 report that repairs took place in 1834, at the cost of £150. The 1878 directory also reports repair work in 1865 "at an expense of £700". According to the book Dever and Down. A History of the Parish of Wonston the church was "substantially rebuilt in 1865 at the expense of Robert Pitter of Hunton Manor..." (2). Restoration is obvious, particularly concerning the windows. They were all renewed in smooth, clinically exact stone. The nave has three straight headed two-light windows in both north and south walls, and were apparently restyled to match the chancel south window. This is suggested by the illustration, although only two nave windows are shown.
Other stonework was renewed, including the chancel east quoins, and the flint walling was probably tidied up as well. The internal walls are smooth and plastered, including the window splays, which all point to substantial renewal. The nave north wall is rendered , the render having been mixed with small flint chips . No floor tiles were laid, so the church retains its stone flooring.
The wooden bell turret on top of the tower is probably early 20th century, and architectural drawings detailing its design are shown on a board inside the church. It has a double-pitched roof and two louvre windows in its east and west faces. The drawings show the turret capped with a prominent cross, which is now simply a stump.
They are virtually all 19th-20th century, and are for the most part not particularly attractive. Simple pulpit , simple open chancel screen , and nice wooden reredos which also adds to the church's simplicity . The chancel screen was erected in 1919 "as a thanksgiving offering for victory and peace after the First World War" (3).
In the north wall of the nave, below the north-east window, is a recess with a flat four-centred arch, and what appears to be a low, partially submerged tomb chest, all apparently dating from the late 15th or early 16th century . The Victoria County History says that it is by tradition part of the tomb of Thomas Hunton, prior of St Swithun, Winchester (from 1470-1498), but Pevsner suggests that it couldn't have been part of a tomb chest, though it may have belonged to a cresting. Although the detail is no longer sharp, the front still exhibits a frieze consisting of quatrefoils, foliage, and the initials of Jesus and Mary.
1. This information is given in the Victoria County History, which gives the following reference: Pope Nich. Tax. (Rec. Com.), 210. Back to "Chronology of the building"
2. From Dever and Down. A History of the Parish of Wonston by Peter Clarke. Back to "Chronology of the building"
3. From Dever and Down. A History of the Parish of Wonston by Peter Clarke. Back to "Furnishings"
- Clarke, P L. Dever and Down. A History of the Parish of Wonston. Dever Publications, 2002
- Page, W. (ed). The Victoria History of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight: Vol.3. Constable, 1908
- Pevsner, N & Lloyd, D. Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. Penguin, 1967
- White, W. History, Gazetteer, and Directory of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, 1859
- White, W. History, Gazetteer, and Directory of the County of Hampshire including the Isle of Wight, 1878
Questions for further research
1. What is the date of the tower's wooden bell turret?
2. What is the date of the south porch?
3. What is the date of the font?
4. Where is the original illustration of the church, and can it be viewed?
© Copyright 2004, Barry Meehan