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BREAMORE, St. Mary  (SU 153 189),


(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Upper Chalk.)


Hampshire's most important Saxon church.

St. Mary’s, Breamore, is the most significant surviving Saxon church in Hampshire, although its architectural interest today is greater outside than in.  Constructed chiefly of flint rubble with roofs of red tile, it consists of a chancel, a square central tower with a recessed wooden upper stage surmounted by a pyramidal roof, a S. porticus (a better description than 'transept' in view of its small size), a nave and a S. porch, but at one time, the building was cruciform, when a N. porticus existed too.  All that remains of that is the weathering line of the roof, although the S. porticus probably preserves the style and dimensions of them both.  The porch has a Norman lower storey and a Tudor upper storey, albeit the glazed, double-flat-chamfered arch above the outer doorway is Early English work, re-set.  The upper storey floor was removed in 1897 by Charles Edwin Ponting (sic), who doubtless did some necessary restoration work while also removing or concealing much of historical value.  


To consider the important Saxon work in more detail then, the tower has massive long-and-short work at all four angles and there are quoins laid in similar fashion at the corners of the transept and forming vertical lines running down the N. and S. walls of the nave, a couple of feet east of the porch (as seen, left, in the view from the south), presumably indicating the original length of the nave before its subsequent extension to the west, perhaps over the site of a former W. porticus.   The interior of the church interior adds little information for the only telling feature from this period to be seen inside is the round arch from the crossing to the S. porticus (shown below), composed of a single unmoulded order supported on heavy abaci with primitive cable decoration on the upper edge.  An inscription around it, written in Anglo-Saxon, reads 'HER ZPU ELAD SEO GECPYDRĘDNES DE', which Pevsner translated as 'Here the covenant is explained to thee'  (Nikolaus Pevsner & David Lloyd, The Buildings of England: Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, New Haven & London, Yale University Press, 2002, p. 143).  Other than this, the three double-splayed Saxon windows - one in the E. wall of the S. porticus and two the N. wall of the nave - can be examined outside or in.  A very late date for this work, scarcely before c. 1050, is suggested by the few masonry courses set herringbone-wise - for example, around the base of the S. porticus - which Sir Arthur Clapham considered to be 'commonly distinctive of  late eleventh century building (English Romanesque Architecture After the Conquest, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1934, p. 115).


Norman alterations and additions to the building include the outer and inner doorways to the porch (shown left and below right, respectively), the former carrying rolls on its two orders and hood-mould, and the latter with a roll on its outer order and a flat-chamfered inner order, above a partially renewed order of shafts with scalloped capitals.  The doorway in the E. wall of the S. porticus, with large abaci with chamfered under-edges, may be a little earlier than these, but it appears to have been the thirteenth century that was responsible for blocking the Saxon S. window to the porticus and replacing it with a diminutive lancet.  The E. window to the chancel has Decorated reticulated tracery characteristic of the period c. 1320-50, suggesting that, by this date at the latest, the length of the chancel was the same as it is today.


The low and very broad arches from the nave to the crossing and from the crossing to the chancel (seen left, viewed from the nave), are now Perpendicular and difficult to date more closely.  Essentially identical after allowance is made for insouciant workmanship, they are composed of four-centred arches carrying a wave moulding and a hollow chamfer on the inner order and a flat chamfer on the outer order, separated by a deep casement (a broad, shallow hollow), supported on keeled corbel shafts rising from corbel heads.  Most of the church’s windows also derive from around the same period (albeit that many have subsequently been restored or renewed), but their assorted forms and positions suggest the programme of insertions and replacements was haphazard to say the least.


Finally, the church is not rich in furnishings except in the matter of hatchments.  A defaced Saxon sculpture re-set over the porch inner doorway displays the Agnus Dei motif (a cross carried on the back of  a lamb), but the wooden furnishings are Victorian, including the gallery - an unusual addition in a period when most Georgian examples were being torn down.  The crossing and nave roofs are of uncertain vintage, the former being notable for its heavy tie beams in both directions (stretching east/west beneath and north/south above) and the latter framed in seven cants to collars.  The door in the east end of the nave S. wall, with a handsome and very domestic-looking doorframe complete with wooden pediment, was constructed during in the 1760s in order to give Sir Edward Hulse, Lord of the Manor, and his family, access to their private pew (Anthony Light & Gerald Ponting, The Saxon Church of St. Mary's, Breamore, Fordingbridge, Charlewood Press, 2011, p. 10).  The many wall tablets found in all parts of the building, do not warrant particularization.