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External Tour of St. Mary's Church, Old Basing, Hampshire
by David Nash Ford

O L D      B A S I N G
Tudor Magnificence in a Peaceful Setting

St. Mary's Chruch, Old Basing from the Churchyard

Churchyard.

St. Mary's Church sits upon a small rise in the centre of the village of Old Basing. It is surrounded by a large churchyard now mostly cleared of gravestones. Supposedly being illegible, they were carted away in the 1960s to be used as paving at Romsey Abbey. The grass is always neatly mown and there are several benches - one made from old gravestones - on which to sit and sun yourself on summer days. The parish war memorial cross sits nearby. It is a very pleasant spot, recently enhanced by the 'Conservation Area' created in the once wildly overgrown southern portion of the churchyard. Here the gravestones of local yeoman farming families such as the Mays, the Paynes and the Huttons survive. Neatly laid out footpaths wind their way between them and the accompanying flora and fauna. To the east of the church is a modern memorial garden of crematory plaques. It is always full of flowers.

Church Exterior.

Basing was once an important place in North-East Hampshire and this is reflected by the size of its church: a huge great triple-gabled building with a strong central tower. The building was originally built of 'Hampshire Diamond' Flints, but rebuildings have largely replaced this with local Tudor brickwork.

Busts of Sir William and Lady Eliazabeth Paulet

The tower has a clock dated 1839, made by B.L. Vulliamy, Clockmaker to the Queen. Inside are two bells. The tenor, dated 1676, replaced those dispersed during the Civil War, but is now rarely used. The second bell, made in London in 1838, still calls parishioners to church as well as striking the hour.

Armorial DripstoneThe windows of Basing Church are mostly penpendicular in style and are notable for the coats of arms which adorn the corbels at the end of their dripstones. These proudly display the shields born by the ancestors of the Marquises of Winchester, the Paulet family, who lived in nearby Basing House and patronised the church for many centuries. The three swords are the arms of the Paulets. Also notable is the corded key, the badge of the Poynings family from whom they inherited their Basing estates. High up on the south side of the church, either side of the fourth buttress from the east, are carved busts thought to be the first Marquis of Winchester, William Paulet, and his first wife, Elizabeth Capel (above). They had this part of the church built in the 1530s. Alongside them, around most of the church, are a fascinating collection of grotesques and gargoyles.

Pre-Reformation Statue of the Virgin MaryAt the west end of the church, high up on the central gable is a pre-reformation statue of the Virgin and Child, denoting the building's patron saint. It is supported by an angel holding the arms of the Marquis of Winchester's parents, Sir John Paulet and his wife (and cousin), Alice. Together they rebuilt the gabled nave and north and south aisles in this area in the early 1500s. The statue is said to have been hidden by a covering of ivy for many years. It was therefore missed by the disapproving gaze of the Protestant Roundhead soldiers who stabled their horses in the church during the Civil War. Presumably a similar blanket protected it from the Puritan reformers in the previous century too. Below the west window of the south aisle here can be seen a large breech in the church wall, whether caused by the horses or an explosion of some kind is unclear. Perhaps it was deliberately dismantled to give the artillery greater coverage of the main street. At any rate the damage caused during the Civil War was repaired in the 1660s using bricks from the great Hampton Court-esque Basing House, which was by that time in ruins. Adjoining is the controversial west door. Local tradition assigns its design to Inigo Jones' West DoorInigo Jones, Surveyor-General of Royal Buildings, during a stay at the Paulet hunting lodge in Hackwood Park after the Restoration. During the Civil War, he had been granted refuge at Basing House, so knew the village well. Unfortunately, Inigo died some years prior to the Restoration and architectural historians usually date the door's style to around 1615. Still, Inigo had no doubt visited Basing on many previous occasions.

Intenal Tour of Old Basing Church
Old Basing Church: A Description in 1843
History of Old Basing Church
Where is Old Basing Church?

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Bio:
David Ford grew up in North-East Hampshire and has always been fascinated by the history of the local area. Old Basing Church holds a special interest as many of his ancestors are buried in the adjoining churchyard.



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