In 1939 Arthur Mee, writer, journalist and patriot published a series of books entitled The King’s England, a modern-day edition of the Domesday Book.
He visited hundreds of villages to record the buildings and churches. His easy reading style was brought on by his belief that if he did not understand a word’s meaning thousands of others might not either.
So, instead of saying that a tree had a circumference of 50ft, he would describe it as being ‘50ft around’.
I have an original 1939 edition of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight and will be walking in Mee’s footsteps visiting villages around The News circulation area.
Today I start with Warblington and the church dedicated to St Thomas-a-Becket.
The original part of the church is believed to have been built between 959-975AD. It has had three rebuilds and various additions since those times.
It was once called the Church of Our Lady of Warblington. The name change happened in 1796 as Emsworth’s Fair Day was held on the feast of St Thomas-a-Becket so the church was re-dedicated to him.
If you visited the Roman villa in Fishbourne near Chichester and started feeling your way about you would be told in no uncertain terms to keep your hands off. That is why I love to visit churches, not so much for the religious side of life, but to be able to touch walls and floors that are literally a thousand years old.
Mee tells us that the north porch was built in 1340 from 14th century ships’ timbers. Yes, 674 years ago when Edward III was on the throne and the same year he was declared King of France.
Mee tells us the porch would have had the shadow of Margaret Pole cast upon it at sometime. She was the Countess of Salisbury who lived close by at Warblington Castle and executed by order of Henry VIII in May 1541.
In the chancel is a brass of a 16th century vicar kneeling at prayer and either side of the aisles two women from the 18th century lie sleeping. One figurative sculpture is covered in carved graffiti.
Also in the chancel you will walk upon floor tiles made by 15th century artists and decorated with animals, birds and fleur-de-lys.
Look up at the roof and the tower. There are two rounded arches built with bricks and tiles made by the Romans.
If you hear the church bell toll you are listening to a bell cast in the 16th century. A yew tree in the churchyard was dated in 1988 as being 1,500 years old.
In the churchyard there are two Watch Huts. These were commissioned in 1828 and were used by watchmen whose job was to prevent newly-buried parishioners from being dug up and sold to vivisectionists.