Church History

A Brief History of St. Nicholas

The Church, dedicated to St. Nicholas, is a very striking example of a church built upon a large mound almost circular in construction.  This particular mound had probably been sacred ground for centuries so what could have been more fitting than the building of a first Christina church upon the place hallowed by the people for untold generations?  In all probability St. Wilfrid dedicated a church here before 670AD.

 

 

 

The most significant features of the church as it is today are listed in brief below. 

INTERIOR

The aisleless nave, chancel and North Transept and South Chapel (now the Lady Chapel) are Early English style and significant 13th Century features are the North doorway in the chancel and the archway to the South Chapel. 

The church has a Victorian interior with several wall monuments of 18th and 19th Century.  The Chancel has remains of a 15th Century table tomb.

The pews are square ended, panelled with solid backs, all of Victorian design.

The pulpit is oak panelled and dates from the 1960s.  Carved heads are worked into the terminations of the arch between the nave and the chancel, immediately behind and above the pulpit and lectern.

 

Inner West Doors: panelled wood with 4 carvings depicting from left to right:

 

The South Transept dates from 17th Century and contains the notable alabaster tomb of 1615 (Sir William Uvedale) with classical details, arched canopy, male and female effigies and nine kneeling figures of their four sons and five daughters.  The octagonal Font, has a fine painted wooden canopy and a wooden figurine of the Virgin Mary, the latter only being displayed on special occasions.  Also in the South Transept is a chest, and a display relating to William of Wykeham.  In 2003 the church was given the J.L. Duysen upright piano which now stands here.

The oak screen to the vestry was given by a local family in thanksgiving for the safe return of four sons from the Second World War.

South Chapel/Lady Chapel:  The moving of the organ (see overleaf) made room for the creation of the Lady Chapel, which was dedicated in 1961 and the East Window depicts the Annunciation and was designed by Christopher Webb. To the right of this window is an ancient piscine in use in the 13th Century.  The south wall has a fine wall monument of 1569 (William Uvedale) with strap work and also a stone coffin lid, probably 13th century and from the grave of a child.  In 2004 the re-ordering of the Lady Chapel was completed with the installation a lighting corona and engraved glass panels and doors.  These latter were designed and engraved by Tracey Sheppard depicting references in Psalms 46, 27, 148 and 36. 

Windows: With the exception of those in the Lady Chapel, the cusped 2 and 3-light windows date largely from the Victorian period, the finest examples of Victorian Stained Glass work being the East Window, which depicts the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, and the North Window depicting in symbolic form the ascended Christ in glory with four panels below: The Epiphany; the Healing of blind Bartamaeus; the Blessing of the Children and the Last Supper.
 
The Floors:  the chancel and sanctuary are in stone flags, apparently dating from the 1940s, though the Chancel floor was restored and levelled with Portland stone in 1950.    The South Chapel floor appears to be of recent origin, and incorporates a number of ledger stones.  The South Transept has also been re-paved using ledger stones.  The nave is paved with clay tiles, some of which have worn slightly.

The Organ
 
Carved heads are worked into the terminations of the glazed archway between the organ loft and bell tower.

The Bells:  the original peal of five bells were cast by R. Wells of Aldbourne, Wiltshire, between 1767 and 1772.  They were re-hung and restored in 1890 by John Taylor and Co of Loughborough and augmented with a 6th bell, a new treble bell.  They were restored and re-hung again in 1973 by John Taylor & Co.  The bells are inscribed.

The Clock:  Mechanism by Gillett & Co of Croydon, dated 1888 drives clock faces on south and west faces of the Tower.

EXTERIOR

The West Door and round-headed arch with chevron frieze was re-set from the earlier building and dates back to Norman times, and a sculptured badge (Sagittarius) of King Stephen is on the left capitol.

The Walls of Hampshire flint and Bath stone dressings are a major characteristic of the outside of the church today, along with the tower and broached shingle spire, all of which were added in the period of virtual re-building in 1862 by F & H Francis.  There are stepped buttresses, lancets and Decorated tracery to the gables of the chancel and transepts.  In the 17th Century the South Transept was added and still consists of the old mellow bricks of that period.

 

The Roof is of clay peg tiles, except for the South Chapel which is of natural slate.

The Church Room: built by Jno Croad in 1974. It was designed by Brandt, Potter & Hare to blend into the ancient church and the octagonal roof matches the Victorian shingle spire.

The Churchyard is still in use and contains a number of old tombs, several of them box tombs.  Eight tombs are listed.

The Churchyard also contains a Garden of Remembrance created in 1993, and the Wickham War Memorial.

References:
M.C. Retallack: Wickham (S. Hampshire) and its Church.  Home Words, London. 1959
R.A.A. Hirst (Ed): The Parish Church of St. Nicholas, Wickham, 1990

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