Headley, All Saints (40K)

Return to indexReturn to versethe Village

Headley: All Saints — Information

The texts below are taken from:—

See work-in-progress during restoration of the tower in 1996

Headley 1066–1966

Much of the history of any community is centred round the Church, and Headley's Church is no exception. For more than 800 years—in one form or another—it has stood as a witness to the Christian way of life. Eustace of Boulogne and his household were French speaking. The Headley people were then Saxons. The services of the Church were in Latin. But from those days through all the changes the centuries have brought, the Faith taught in the church has provided the answer to the vital questions that successive generations have asked, and it has survived because in every age men have found that it supplied their needs. When we come through the door we are following the footsteps of the men of Headley who passed through during the Wars of the Roses, maybe to receive the blessing of the priest of those days and then to cut their bows from the yews planted in the Churchyard. When we kneel at the altar, our lips are touching the same chalice from which for 400 years (it was made in 1567) the men and women of Headley have received the Holy Communion of the Body and Blood of Christ. What stories this building could tell if it could speak—from the days of our Saxon forefathers who had to surrender to the Normans, to the men of yesterday who died rather than surrender in the last Great War, and whose names are inscribed in the beautifully illuminated Book near the west wall.

Many structural changes have, of course, taken place since the first days. In William Sewell's time the Church had a spire. In 1903 the following note appeared in the Parish Magazine written by a certain Archdeacon Norris.
"If I had not seen the sketch of your church as it was in 1842, I could not have divined the original plan of the building. Its present arrangement is altogether modern; no ancient church ever had a Western Tower occupying half the width of the Nave. Western Towers were almost always so placed as to form abutments to the walls, or to the arcades of the Nave. Your tower fulfils neither purpose: its south wall is in line with the axis of the wide modern Nave; its north wall is some 18 inches further north than the north wall of the Nave. Thus I was forced to the conclusion that the disproportionately wide Nave of 1859 occupied the area which originally had been occupied by a Nave and a side Aisle. But whether the Aisle had been on the north or the south side I could not have determined without the aid of your sketch.

Your sketch shows that in 1842 the slopes of the roof were not symmetrical, the southern slopes being shorter than the northern—the northern having been lengthened to cover a side aisle. This north-side aisle seems to have been separated from the Nave by an Arcade. For you will observe that after the removal of the Chancel two buttresses were erected against the Nave’s eastern gable; the southern buttress of smaller projection sufficed as abutment to the south wall of the Nave; the other buttress is of much greater dimensions, and is placed just where an Arcade between Nave and north Aisle would need abutment to counteract its Eastward thrust. Those who thus repaired the church would never have placed so large a buttress in this position, unless there had been standing an Arcade behind it, requiring something to lean against at this eastern end, as it leaned against the Tower at its western end. I take it, the demolition of the old Chancel (whose width is exactly shown by these two buttresses) had so weakened the Arcade that it would have become ruinous but for this buttress.

The Northern wall of the new Nave of 1859 seems to have been built a little to the South of the line on which the wall of the north side originally stood. The ancient arch of the Tower—of no great height, but high enough to show that the side Aisle must have had an independent roof of its own, not a "lean-to"—is internally the only indisputable relic of the ancient structure. The restorers spared the ancient Tower, which was built, I take it, in Richard II's reign. The pinnacles and parapet are of later date. There is one problem left which I cannot solve—how to account for the apparently ancient beams which now extend over the whole width of the modern Nave. That they are ancient appears from their being shaped with an adze, not with a saw. If they existed in the ancient church, they must have spanned the whole width of Nave and Aisle, resting upon the Arcade in some -way (as at Grasmere Church, in Westmoreland). But this is so unlikely that I prefer to suppose that they were brought from some neighbouring barn, or other ancient building."

The following note was written in 1935 by P. M. Johnston, F.S.A.
"There has been a Church on the present site since the 12th century at least—possibly succeeding to a Saxon Church of timber. Of this 12th century building only one feature remains—a plain Late Norman doorway, now built into the Vestry, which was probably the Priest's doorway in the N. wall of the Chancel, removed to its present position when the Vestry and Organ Chamber were built. With the exception of the picturesque 14th century Tower at the N.W. of the Nave, the walls of the Church were entirely re-built, with some modifications in the plan, in 1859, at a time when scant respect was shown for ancient things, and when our fathers were only too ready to exchange old lamps for new. It is pleasing, therefore, to record that in this case so many original features were preserved from the ancient fabric and re-built in the re-construction. First and foremost among these is the magnificent roof of wide span and massive timbers, which sits so grandly upon the Nave walls. It dates from the last quarter of the 14th century, and its great width (about 26 ft.) is quite exceptional in a Parish Church. Its tie-beams, king-posts and wall-plates are all heavily moulded, and the braced collar and rafter construction is very massive. On one king-post near the west end is carved the head of a man—possibly meant for the master-carpenter, who took an affectionate pride in his work.

The Chancel roof is modern and poor: the Chancel arch appears to date from 1859, but possibly some of the stones may be old ones re-worked. In the north-east window of the Chancel, however, almost completely hidden, is a magnificent panel of painted glass, of brilliant colouring, dating from about 1260. It represents the martyrdom of a Saint and is a very valuable relic of medieval art, of the same period and bearing marked resemblance to the world-famous glass in Chartres Cathedral.

There are several large 17th and 18th century monumental tablets on the walls deserving notice, but otherwise all the fittings and furnishings of the Church are modern, except, perhaps, the Font, of 15th century type, octagonal, with quatrefoil panels on the bowl. This, if old, has been re-worked.

Of the other ancient features incorporated in the re-built walls there are: a short 13th century lancet in the south wall of the Chancel; a good two-light window of about 1380 in the south wall of the Nave; and a fine three-light window, with somewhat elaborate super-tracery, in the west wall, of the same date, which, from the evidence of a water-colour drawing preserved in the Vestry, would appear to have been removed in 1859 from its original position as the east window of the Chancel.

The south doorway, like these windows, is of clunch, or Surrey ‘Fire-stone’ —not very suitable for external use, owing to its soft texture. It has a flat four-centred head and is of about 1500. The oak door was presented by a Miss Ballantine Dykes in memory of her sister.

The Tower of Headley Church is a beautiful little feature. Excepting the parapet, with its battlements and pinnacles, which replaces the spire, burnt in 1836, the tower is of about 1380. It has no buttresses, but the walls are solidly constructed of hard sandstone rubble, partly plaster-coated, with quoinings and string-course of sandstone ashlar, and charming tracery windows of two-lights in the white clunch, dug from under the chalk in the neighbouring hills. There are four of these pretty windows in the top or bell-stage, a single-light trefoiled opening in the middle storey; and another two-light window like those above, but with the addition of a hood-moulding in the west wall of the ground storey. Finally, there is an excellent 14th century arch leading from the Tower to the Nave."

Note: The above is a shortened version of Mr Johnston's report — see full report

The Communion vessels are among the oldest in the land. The official description of the chalice is as follows: The bowl is plain, slightly tapered, and has a round stem and small banded knop. There are vertical bands with stamped moulding above and below the stem, and the foot is domed.
The paten cover is domed with small foot. The height of the chalice is 7¼ inches and the weight is 8 oz. 15 dwts. The diameter of the cover is 43/8 inches and the weight 3 ozs, 3 dwts. Marks: London Assay for 1567 (small block letter K with dot below it) and RD linked letters for Robert Danbe.
The Flagon was given by Dr. Holme in 1734. The body is tankard-shaped, engraved with the sacred monogram within rays, and has a splayed foot. It has an S-handle, and a domed cover with thumb-piece. The height is 13½ ins. and the weight 50 ozs. 12 dwts. Marks: London Assay for 1734, and EV with crescent above and amulet below for Edward Vincent. Inscription :
S. Stae Trinitatis Honori, et in usum Ecclesiae de Hedley. Com. Southton. D.D.D. Georgius Holme, S.T.P. ejusdem Ecclesiae Rector A.D. 1734.

There are also two pewter Alms Plates, one of which has apparently been a paten, inscribed 'Hedly'.

The fire of 1836

Mr. Henry Knight told Mr. Laverty that he was on the roof assisting to extinguish the flames tho’ his friends tried to persuade him to come down. By-and-bye the shingle of the spire had all burnt away leaving only a solitary upright iron rod on which the vane was. So in order to prevent this from falling on the roof, the people below fired bullets (!) at the vane, but with no effect, for by and bye it fell into the old gallery and of course set it on fire. The fire broke out in a shed which was then close by the Church (the churchyard not being so big as now) owing to some straw catching alight from matches with which some children were playing. A drawing of the Church as it was according to the best of Mr. Knight’s recollection is to be found in Macmillan’s edition of White’s Selborne (1875), illustrated by Mrs. Laverty's father (Professor De la Motte).

From — Some Ancient Churches in North East Hampshire

Possibly this dedication indicates either that the original one has been lost in the records or was unknown.
The church today stands on a hill above the Ar stream. It may have had a Saxon origin, though this is no more than an intelligent guess. The present church is of 14th century origin, the Norman doorway now built into the north wall of the Vestry being the only remaining evidence of the earlier foundation, which was probably commissioned by Count Eustace of Boulogne, the Norman nobleman who held 5 hides in Hallege (Headley) at the time of the Domesday Survey of 1086.
Of the church as we see it today, much remains of the 1380 building despite a major restoration in 1859 by Flockton of Sheffield. The floor of the nave was raised then, the chancel and Vestry added, and the Norman door resited. The magnificent nave roof of wide span and massive timbers dates from the last quarter of the 14th century, and its great width of 26 feet is quite exceptional in a Parish Church. It is remarkably all of a piece, and moreover of unusually fine quality. On one king post near the west end is carved the head of a man, possible meant to be the master carpenter who performed the work.
The walls may be old too, being merely refaced in 1859, and the two-light windows are also probably of 1380. They are all exactly related to the roof in a unified overall architectural design. The nave also is largely of 1380 restored. The window in the north wall of the chancel contains rare glass of 1260. The brasses by the font are from 1510. The pulpit, lectern, choir screen and all other stained glass are 19th century. The paintings of Moses and Aaron are of unusually good quality for a village church.
In 1836 a disastrous fire destroyed first the porch, then the wooden steeple and roof, and also the gallery at the west end. More damage was done by the escaping congregation, the only route being through the east window.