St Peter’s – a great loss to Hampshire

The sad sight of St Peter's Church, Ropley, on fire. Picture: Hampshire Fire and Rescue
The sad sight of St Peter's Church, Ropley, on fire. Picture: Hampshire Fire and Rescue
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You may have seen that St Peter’s Church, Ropley, six miles west of Alton, went up in flames last week.

The oldest parts of the church were built sometime in the middle of the 12th century – yes, 1150, more than 860 years ago.

Just imagine the history that has gone forever in this fire. You would have been walking in the footsteps of ancestors alive when Norman King Henry II was on the throne, or had your child christened in the same font used for baptisms long before the Battle of Trafalgar.

There is so much more to a church burning down, it’s far more distressing than the destruction of just about any other building. They are also, for the most part, free to enter.

One point of interest about St Peter’s. A son was born to the vicar, the Reverend Howley, and his wife in 1766. This son, William Howley, later became the Archbishop of Canterbury.

It was he, along with the Lord Chancellor, who had the 18-year-old Princess Alexandrina Victoria woken at 6am on June 21, 1837, to tell her that her uncle, King William IV, had died the previous evening and that she was now Queen.

A year later, on June 28, 1838, the same Ropley-born man crowned Victoria in Westminster Abbey. William died 10 years later in 1848.

In 1939 Arthur Mee travelled across southern England writing about each county. Each book was published under the title The King’s England with each county named under the title.

Over the coming months I will be travelling in the footsteps of Mee trying to find what is left of the southern part of Hampshire Mee wrote about 75 years ago.

I hope you’ll find it interesting.