I suppose it’s hardly surprising that so many churches nowadays are locked. My experience recently gave one good reason: the theft of small donations. No doubt mindless vandalism is an ever more telling reason.
So it was hardly surprising, though quite disappointing, that my visits today to two local churches were thwarted by locked doors.
St Nicholas, North Stoneham
My first port of call was St Nicholas at North Stoneham, on the southern fringe of Eastleigh. The church is well-known for its one-handed clock, though a lesser known reason for interest might be lead war memorials by Eric Gill.
The south door has been linked by a corridor to a modern detached vestry. There is also a shiny steel boiler flue running up the outside of the angle between the tower and the west face. Both are acts of architectural vandalism. But then what would you expect of a church that paints in gilt on its clock face, “One hand clock”? Have we no eyes?
More photographs here.
St John the Baptist, North Baddesley
Off, then, to St John the Baptist at North Baddesley, a very small country church well removed from most of the buildings it serves. This little church is distinguished in my memory by the fact that my daughter, at the age of about seven, absolutely refused to enter it. We’ve always wondered why, mindful of the possibility that her tiny self discerned something we could not.
Today, the church looked lovely (which is how Pevsner describes it) in sunlight. But locked. So I spent three-quarters of an hour taking photographs outside the church, which has marvellous views to the north.
It has some interesting graves, ancient and modern. There are two headstones near the entrance gate that commemorate the same man, which is unusual. The story is that in 1822 Robert Snelgrove, an assistant keeper on the Broadlands Estate, then belonging to the Lord Palmerston, found two men poaching in Hough Coppice, near North Baddesley. Snelgrove was only a boy and unarmed. One of the men, Charles Smith, a man of 29, discharged his piece at Snelgrove, who was only wounded and did not die. Smith was apprehended, and stood his trial at Winchester; he was condemned to death by Mr Justice Burroughs, and was hanged. It was a time when the game laws were very severe, and Cobbett alludes to the ‘judicial murder’ several times. He may also have written the inscription on the first stone which alludes to ‘pursuit of what is called game.’ But he could not know that Palmerston, whom he attacks, had written to Judge Burroughs asking for a reprieve. Colonel Evelyn Ashley, grandfather of the Late Countess Mountbatten, felt that Palmerston, as a landowner, had been unduly maligned by Cobbett. He therefore erected the second stone in 1906 giving the true facts of the case.
But to end on a positive note, here is the view from the graveyard of North Baddesley.
More photographs here.