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English Church Architecture.


ROCKBOURNE, St. Andrew  (SU 115 184),


(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Upper Chalk.)


A former psuedo-cruciform church, much altered in the thirteenth century.

The building consists today of chancel with a S. chapel and a nave with a S. aisle, with the additions of a N. vestry adjoining the nave, a S. porch adjoining the aisle, and a wooden belfry above the west end of the aisle (sic).  (See the photograph above, taken  from the southeast.)  However, the church was originally pseudo-cruciform in plan (i.e. it had transepts but no crossing tower), as witnessed by the higher floor level of the easternmost and longest of the nave’s four unequal bays, and by the surviving arch to the former N. transept (illustrated below left), now the vestry.  This is surviving Norman work, and perhaps from early in the period at that (although it is unlikely to be Saxon, as suggested by Andrew Winser, A Short History of St. Andrew's Church, Rockbourne, 1980, p. 1), for which one piece of evidence is the two masonry courses in the vestry E. wall (as seen below right), formed of Roman tile set herringbone-wise, 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).



The thirteenth century was responsible for the three western bays of the arcade, which are composed of octagonal piers and double-flat-chamfered arches each of a slightly different length, whose insouciant appearance was much exacerbated shortly after  they were first constructed, when the W. crossing arch and the W. wall of the transept were demolished in order to incorporate the crossing into the nave and the S. transept into the aisle.   The S. crossing arch was then replaced with a wide arch in the style of the arcade to render the latter as 'three bays plus one' with a wall piece between (as illustrated in the photograph below, which shows the arcade viewed from the chancel), the E. crossing arch was rebuilt to open up the chancel to the nave, and a one-bay chapel was constructed, east of the newly-extended aisle.  The double-flat-chamfered, lancet-pointed S. doorway inside the porch is probably also of this time, which may have seen, in addition, some of the internal faces of the doors and windows provided with carved shafts and decorative capitals - a possibility suggested today by the fragments the Victorians have re-set around the internal face of the nave W. window.



However, although the thirteenth century witnessed the principal phase of reconstruction undertaken at the church, many later alterations were also carried out subsequently, even if they appear relatively minor by comparison.  Thirteenth century lancet windows survive in the vestry and the aisle, but all other windows are now Perpendicular, the most interesting of these being the two, two-light windows with straightened reticulation units in their heads (in the E. wall of the chapel and immediately east of the S. porch in the aisle) of probable late fourteenth century origin.  The chancel windows are believed to date from the late 1820s (A Short History of St. Andrew's Church, p. 11), but the really thorough-going Victorian restoration of the church was only finally undertaken in 1893 under the supervision of C.E. Ponting (ibid. p. 12), who, in particular, was responsible for the S. porch and for cutting down the eighteenth century box pews and three-decker pulpit to leave behind the perfectly respectable but historically largely valueless furniture the church holds today.  The nave and chancel roofs comprise barrel vaults supported by thin parallel ribs at the ridge and one-third and two-thirds of the way up the pitch.  The chancel roof is pointed.  The belfry, which is faced with shingles and surmounted by a short pyramidal spire, 'carries the date 1613' according to Pevsner (Nikolaus Pevsner & David Lloyd, The Buildings of England: Hampshire, New Haven & London, Yale University Press, 2002, p. 476), but Andrew Winser declares an earlier turret 'certainly existed by the middle [of the] 16th century [for] there were [then] three bells in the steeple', recorded in inventories dated 1549 and 1552 (opus cit., p. 2).



Finally, the church contains two wall monuments worthy of mention, which face each other across the sanctuary and commemorate General Sir Eyre Coote (S. side) and his son of the same name (N. side), yet whereas the former is the work of William Theed the Younger (1804-91) and depicts Sir Eyre (d. 1823, aged 63) in bas-relief, lying on his deathbed, attended by his weeping family and a hovering angel (as shown above left), the latter (shown above right), by John Gibson (1790-1866) is actually the better work and notable for the absence of the figure of the deceased (who was only  28 when he died in 1834) and portrays instead an angel trying unsuccessfully to comfort his widow and children, in a scene thoroughly concordant with the age of sensibility.