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INSIDE THE MEDIEVAL MIND: THE WALL PAINTINGS OF NETHER WALLOP

In the small quaint Hampshire village of Nether Wallop, filming location for the BBC’s MISS MARPLE, stands St Andrew’s church, a medieval establishment built on Saxon foundations. From the exterior it looks rather ordinary (save for the strange funerary pyramid in its grounds!) but inside is a glory of wall-paintings dating from the Saxon era to the 15th century.

The Saxon paintings are of the Winchester School, usually only seen in illuminations, and are exceeding rare, unique in the country as being the only wall paintings of this date in situ. Angels frolic over the chancel arch, the survivors of a grander mural which culminated at the centre with Christ in Majesty. (Jesus has now vanished, unfortunately,  leaving just the angels on the sides of the arch.)

Along the rest of the church walls are further paintings from the early to mid-15th century, an eroded St Nicholas of Myrna and a wonderfully  vivid depicture of St George slaying a dragon to rescue the  Princess Cleodolinda. The dragon and George do battle below a tall tower, watched by a well preserved King and Queen, the King looking pleased at George’s prowess and the Queen slightly concerned!

Just down from them is a slightly patchy though very large  figure which gives an insight into medieval religious thought in the 1400’s. It depicts the legends of the Sabbath Breakers and the woes you will bring upon Christ and yourself if you do not rest on the Sabbath as God decreed! Christ’s leg is showed being wounded by an axe and a knife; there are also depictions of other tools of the trade from the 15thc including scales and a quern, among others less discernable.

All or some of the 15thc  wall paintings may have been comissioned by Mary or Maria Gore, an Abbess of Amesbury in Wiltshire. Her brass lies on the floor in the centre of the nave and is a rarity in itself–the only brass of an Abbess  still existing in England.

 

MISS MARPLE

 

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The ‘spook’ of Basing House barn….

I’m just home from a fleeting trip to Hampshire, to visit Basing House, near Basingstoke, which was host to Richard II and his retinue in the 14th century. The building started life as a Norman castle, became a great Tudor house that was reckoned the largest in England, and was finally blown to bits by Cromwell after a siege. The remains are on a hill above the valley of the River Loddon, and are quite exposed. English weather being what it is, my sister-in-law and I were treated to a sudden squall – belting rain, gusts of wind that blew my new umbrella inside out, and so on. But when we descended into the valley again, the air became still, warm and muggy. Such a difference. Quite odd really.

We saw the wall and site of a later house, the whereabouts of which were investigated by Time Team in 1999, and then returned to the gift shop/ticket office area, which is situated in one half of the great medieval barn that survived Cromwell’s attentions. The other half of the barn is shut off from the shop, and has been left in its original state. It’s huge, shadowy and atmospheric. Everything echoes inside, and what with the still air and mugginess outside, it made us feel quite unsettled.

To lighten the moment, my sister-in-law called out in best Most Haunted style. “Is there anyone here?”

There was a rumbling, crackling noise from the roof, then a man’s voice boomed out loudly. The sound echoed everywhere, and we couldn’t understand a word because we took to our heels, almost falling over each other! Neither of us knew we could still move that fast. We stopped outside to look back, and realised it was a recorded ‘guide’ from a loudspeaker set up by the rafters! The girl in the gift shop had switched it on for us.

When we told her what her timing had done, she said that there really was supposed to be a ghost in the barn…well, he/she visited annually, but I don’t know if the hauntings were in early September or not!

Well, it was a very funny moment, and we all laughed about it afterwards, but for a few seconds there, we thought we’d made contact with the ‘other side’!

https://www.visitengland.com/experience/hear-sounds-civil-war-echo-basing-house

https://hampshireculturaltrust.org.uk/basing-house

The aerial view is from https://www.adventureballoons.co.uk/photopage/north-hampshire/basingstoke-ruins  and the view of the barn interior is from the Hampshire Cultural Trust link above.

 

 

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