Lepers gathered to hear service at Buriton

St Mary's Church, Buriton. PPP-140721-104933001
St Mary's Church, Buriton. PPP-140721-104933001
Lieutenant Colin Churcher

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In this, my third of six visits to Arthur Mee’s Hampshire, we visit Buriton a quiet village two miles south of Petersfield and a mile east of the A3.

The village digs its shoulders into the South Downs and is a place where evening shadows shroud the fields and houses and the long distance South Downs Way passes along the brow a few hundred yards to the south.

15th century artwork. PPP-140721-105007001

15th century artwork. PPP-140721-105007001

At one time this trail used to end here after the 70-mile hike from Eastbourne. It is now the end of the penultimate day as the walk now ends 20 miles farther on in Winchester.

There are still two old pubs at which the traveller can quench his or her thirst.

The London to Portsmouth railway line passes close by, climbing to or descending from Buriton tunnel.

In the days of steam it must have been a wonderful sound to hear a steam locomotive struggling up the bank from Petersfield with a long and heavy goods train in the middle of the night, the noise echoing over the rooftops while villagers slept in their beds.

The former plague light. PPP-140721-104948001

The former plague light. PPP-140721-104948001

In the centre is the village pond fed from springs in the surrounding downs. It is shadowed by tall trees that keep off the midday sun.

Families gather to feed the ducks on a Sunday and there is space for children although the park close by is a little safer perhaps.

Facing the pond in the shadows are the manor house, rectory and church.

Mee tells us the manor house was the home of the father of Edward Gibbon who gave us the world-famous Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. The 18th century Hebrew scholar Bishop Lowth was born in the rectory.

In the churchyard, in nameless graves, lie John Goodyer and his wife Anne. Goodyer was considered the best botanist in England in his lifetime from 1592 until 1664. In the church a stained glass window can be found in memory of him.

The Church of St Mary dates from the 12th century and is as impressive as any of that period.

In the south wall I was told on my visit, is a light that once allowed lepers to hear the service from the churchyard. The light has since been made into a window.

Another window has 15th century artwork which is still discernible.