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

O L D      B A S I N G
Tudor Grandeur and Civil War Destruction still in evident
in this Ancient Church

Interior of St. Mary's Church, Old Basing looking East

Church Interior.

The Church is entered through the doors of the church rooms, a modern extension sympathetically erected on the north side of the building and hidden from photographic views by the closeness of the trees. This brings you into the church via the north door to the north aisle. There are handy church guides and postcards available here. The door itself is the only survivor of additions made the building in the 13th century. It has a curious wooden bar built into the church wall. The door appears to have been moved to this position in the early 16th century when this aisle, probably along with the nave and south aisle were all rebuilt by Sir John Paulet, Lord of the Manor and resident at nearby Basing Castle (later House). A Latin Lation Inscription 1519inscription records his beneficence high up over the eastern arcade of this aisle: "To praise Christ and Mary, his mother, by John Paulet, Knight, this work was completed AD 1519". This area of the church is highly decorated. The corbels, supporting the original high-pitched Tudor roofing timberwork, are carved in the shape of angels holding blank shields. Originally they would, no doubt, have been brightly painted. The north wall here is covered with memorials to the Booth family. The name of Booth was added to that of Sclater, by their legal heirs, the Lords Basing of Hoddington House (Upton Grey), in 1856. Other memorials are to the Russells, Apletrees and Burleys. High above are two hatchments to the latter two families. These armorial boards were carried before the funerary cortege of the deceased before being displayed over the entrance to their home. They were often later removed to the local church.

Jacobean PulpitStepping between massive octagonal columns, you reach the nave, from where you can appreciate the full effect of this spacious and dignified building. The architecture immediately draws you forward towards the chancel, but stop a while to examine the beautifully decorated Jacobean pulpit. It was carved in 1622 for St. Michael's Church in Basingtsoke and records of its commissioning are still extant in the Basingstoke Churchwardens' Accounts. Basing's original pulpit was destroyed during the Civil War, but this replacement was not acquired until the 1840s. Passing the pulpit, you step below the tower crossing. The arches on either side are Norman and betray the fact that Basing Church has a history stretching back many centuries. The northern arch frames the elegant church organ, built in situ at a cost of 405 and unveiled by the Bishop of Ely in 1878. In his childhood, the Bishop had been a pupil of Basing's curate, Mr. Appleton. A previous smaller organ stood on a singing gallery at the west end of the nave. Prior to the installation of such instruments, the church would have echoed to the sound of medieval wind instruments. The minstrels would have sat upon the old rood-loft across the eastern tower arch. The entrance stairs can be seen in the south chapel. It would have surmounted a ornate and highly coloured rood-screen featuring a huge crucifixion flanked by St. Mary and St. John. It was probably destroyed by Puritan Reformers in the reign of King Edward VI, though it may possibly have survived until the Civil War.

There is a blocked squint, of uncertain date, in the north wall just as you enter the chancel around which careful searching will reveal some Civil War graffiti. The squint gave a view of the altar to parishioners sitting in the lost north transept. The former must have once been much further forward than at present and may possibly have stood before an eastern apse. The beautiful east window is of 15th century date, though the glass commemorates Canon Hessey who died in 1911. His memorial is on the wall adjoining.

Tombs of the Sirs John Paulets and their WivesTombs of the 1st and 2nd Marquises of Winchester

The Chancel is dominated by the massive tombs of the Paulet family, some of whom were Marquises of Winchester. They form enormous stone screens on either side of the altar, with doorways between leading to the north and south chapels. Each has beautiful arcading above and all are adorned with richly carved armorial bearings, though there are no effigies or brasses (and almost certainly never were). The first tomb monument on your left as you enter the chancel is to Sir John Paulet and his wife (and 2nd cousin), Alice, the rebuilders of the nave and western aisles. Their memorial has the added feature of an angelic boss holding their arms within the arcade above the tomb. Sir John died in 1519. At the time, plans were in place for the erection of his monument with the adjoining north chapel as a chantry with a priest to pray for his soul, but they were not actually constructed until a few years Angel on Sir John Paulet's Monumentlater. The arrangement included a memorial to Sir John's parents, Sir John and Lady Eleanor (Roos), whose tomb monument lies alongside (nearest the altar). There are niches for lost saintly statues between the two, but these were almost certainly destroyed during or before the Civil War. Through the passage beneath - note the squint - is the North Chapel. Now largely used as a vestry and robing room, and half taken up by the Victorian organ, this area still has a few notable gems. The Latin inscriptions above the Paulet tombs can be seen from here. The four windows along the north wall are particularly unusual for having tracery of chestnut wood instead of stone. The angel corbels high up on the north wall hold shields featuring badges of the Paulet ancestry: the Peacock of Roos and the key of the Poynings. The crowned Poynings' key gained a circular cord in the time of the Paulets, possibly through William, the first Marquis of Winchester, with whom it was particularly popular as he held the office of Lord High Treasurer of England. There are also a few medieval tiles to be sought out: a hunting scene, a bishop and William's crowned initials. Across the chancel are two further matching tomb monuments to Sir John Paulet's son, the first Marquis of Winchester and, it is presumed, his grandson, John, the second Marquis (though the western tomb is lacking in armorial evidence). Sir William Paulet had them erected in the early 1530s, within his own lifetime, some twenty years before he became Marquis of Winchester. Coloured Paulet Arms on the 1st Marquis of Winchester's MonumentHis own monument (nearest the altar) is the most elaborate of the four. It includes coats of arms within the Royal Garter to whose order he belonged and a delicate renaissance floral frieze. Over the doorway between the two monuments are highly carved arms supported by the Paulet Pantheons (purple antelope with stella markings). They are particularly impressive and, though faded, their colouring is still clearly visible. Attempts by Roundhead soldiers to destroy them during the Civil War were only partially successful. The family motto, Aymes Loyaulte meaning 'Love Loyalty' is also displayed here. It was resoundingly confirmed during the Royalist 5th Marquis' three year defence of Basing House during the Civil War.

Through to the other side, you enter the South or Bolton Chapel. It was constructed at the same time as the adjoining Paulet tombs as a chantry Funerary Helm and Gauntletschapel for the whole family. It covers a huge area for such a chapel and its light open space is an ideal setting for village exhibitions. The vast Paulet burial vault lies below where numerous members of the clan are buried. Its entrance was discovered in 1977 inscribed "Sealed by Order of Lord Bolton, January 1903". The names of thirty-six of those interred there since the Civil War are recorded on a large brass plaque on the chapel's south wall. Alongside are further Paulet memorials and imitation gauntlets and helms, some with crests, which were carried in various family funerary processions. The fine alabaster monument is to Harry Paulet, the 6th and last Duke of Bolton. Charles, the 6th Marquis of Winchester, was created Duke of Bolton in 1689. Hence the chapel's name. Though Basing House Monument to the 6th Duke of Boltonhad been destroyed after the Civil War, the family continued to live on in the parish at Hackwood Park, a hunting lodge which was transformed into a grand mansion. Charles was also resident at his wife's family home at Bolton Castle in Yorkshire and was buried in the parish church of Wensley nearby. Harry was his great great grandson. No expense was spared for his memorial when he died in 1784. His widow employed the greatest sculptor of the day, Flaxman, to design and execute the work: a bust of the Duke above a grieving maiden. He also produced Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson's monument in St. Paul's Cathedral. Harry died without a male heir and the title of Duke of Bolton died with him. The Marquisate of Winchester passed to a distant cousin, but the Bolton title did survive in Basing. It was invested, as Lord Bolton, on the husband of the illegitimate daughter of Harry's elder brother, Charles the 5th Duke. The hatchment of the latter is displayed to the Hatchment to the 2nd Lord Boltonleft of the last Duke's memorial. The first Lord Bolton's is to the right, with that of the second Lord Bolton opposite, above the entrance to the blocked rood-loft stairway. Before leaving the chapel, note the carved wooden panelling at the east end. It is said to have originally come from Abingdon Abbey (Berkshire) after the Dissolution: via a round about route it ended up at the Vicarage in Basing.

Down the steps, you enter the south aisle of the main church. There are further angelic corbels here, not all holding shields. One has a musical Modern 'Angel of Peace' Windowinstrument, another a book. The purbeck marble font is 15th century in date, but may have been acquired during a nineteenth century restoration. On the wall above are the Royal Arms symbolising the union of the church and state in England. These began to appear in parish churches during the reign of King Henry VIII. However, Tudor Arms are rare as it was not until the Restoration that the display of the Royal Arms was made compulsory. Royalist Basing was, of course, one of the first to comply and these arms are clearly dated 1660. At the west end of the aisle is a bright and beautiful window, designed in 1970 by John Hayward in memory of the local Vickery family. It depicts the Angel of Peace and brings a tour of Basing Curch full circle from ancient to modern.

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


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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