Weeke local History - Parish Church


The Church

St Matthews Cghurch Weeke
St Matthews Church 2007 © Barrie Brinkman

The oldest church in Weeke is the church of St Matthews, which has a complex history. The earliest church in Weeke was probably one of the churches recorded in the Doomsday Book for FALMER Hundred (Doomsday). It is not clear if one of these churches subsequently became one of the two parish churches in Weeke. It could have been a fore runner to the church of St Anastasius. Before the Doomsday Book was written the population of Weeke was beginning to rise mainly close to the Winchester city wall (Biddle, 1983). This led to the development of two churches to meet the needs of the community.

The two churches in Weeke were St Anastasius and St Mary of the Valley with a chapel of Wyke as a chapel of ease for the area furthest from the City. Many Commentators have thought that the locations of these two churches have been lost in time and there was no evidence to establish their locations.

Keene (Keene, 1985 p134(Table 1)) has established locations based on evidence from early Winchester church documents. St Mary of the Valley was located near the modern Eagle Court (previously the Eagle Pub) at the start of the Andover Road. This had been the site of one of the large Roman cemeteries outside the city walls around Winchester. We can probably assume that this was still considered hallowed ground when the church was built. St Anastasius is thought to have been on the site of the modern St Pauls church. It probably extended at the back of the St Pauls site into the railway cutting. During excavation for the railway line skeletons were found including a burial that appeared to be a member of the clergy with crucifix, chalice and patten (Hants Chronicle 17/06/1871). Keene states that St Anastasius had a burial ground that dates back to the twelfth century and that the earliest evidence of the church is probably 1172 (HRO TOP343/3/59).

The dedication of St Anastasius is unusual and it is thought that it is the only church in England with this dedication. It is unclear which saint Anastasius is the basis for the dedication. One possibility is a seventh century Persian convert and martyr (Arnold-Foster, 1899 p528-532). Keene found that in many references to the church it was spelt St Anastasia which was a third century virgin martyr saint. It is even possible that it refers to Anastasis, the Resurrection (HRO 98M72/Z2).

Baigent (Baigent, 1865) and Keene (Keene 1985) mention the list of churches in the time of Bishop John de Pontisarra from 1282 to 1304 which mentions both churches and the chapel of Wyke. The two churches were thriving as reported in 1290 in the Ecclesiastical Taxation of Pope Nicholas the Fourth, (Baigent 1865) St Mary of the Valley was valued at 16 marks and St Anastasius at 8 marks. Only churches with a value over 6 marks were included in the valuation.

This situation continued through a period of population growth until the Black Death arrived in Winchester in 1348. This had a devastating effect on all of the churches in Winchester. Before the Black Death there were at least 55 (Keene, 1985) churches in and around Winchester but this was reduced by 22 in the century following the Black Death first arriving. There is some conjecture whether this was due solely to the reduction in population caused by the Black Death. Some rationalisation was taking place within the Church, some of the churches in the city were no more than private chapels possibly only used by one family (Keene, 1985).

The list of rectors for Weeke includes separate rectors up to 1408. The list has a note that in 1408 the church of St Anastasius was ‘runious’ and the Rector was non-resident. The Bishop at the time, Bishop Henry Beaufort, sequestered the Rectory and joined it to that of St Mary in the valleys. There is then a single list of Rectors for the parish. Initially St Anastasius was abandoned and St Marys in the Valley became the church with the chapel of Wyke. Sometime in the fifteenth century there must have been a change in that work was done on the St Anastastius ruin and St Mary in the Valley moved into this church. This is reported by Keene (Keene, 1985) and explains that early Ordance Survey maps show the ruin on the St Pauls site as St Mary in the Valley. Presumably the original site of St Mary in the Valley was too attractive as a site close to the city wall that could be developed for housing or business use. The church was demolished and no contemporary evidence remains.

The recurring Black Death waves were still preventing any recovery of the population in Weeke. Between 1475 and 1493 St Mary in the Valley became ruinous and so in the time of Dr Thomas Langton it was decided that with the lack of parishioners the church should be abandoned and that the chapel of Wyke should be converted into a rectory. From then it was referred to as the parish church of Wyke. Baigent (Baigent, 1865) thought the original chapel was replaced with the present Church, however there is a possibility that the Chapel was simply modified to take on its new role.

The first rector of the Wyke church was Sir Matthew Fox and Baigent suggests that it was he who dedicated the church to St Matthew. The church has often been referred to as ‘St Marys’ or ‘the church of our lady’. This must refer back to the church of St Marys in the Valley which was the basis for St Matthews. The population of Weeke was still very small and even in 1801 the census total was only 65. By 1851 the population was 446 but this included the workhouse so the actual parishioners were only 305. But this began pressure on the small church and moves were started to build a chapel of ease for the expanding population close to the city in Fulflood. An interesting point was the site of St Anastasius had remained the property of the church and was referred to as glebe land and so no tithes were payable. This was an obvious site on which to build a new church. It was consecrated in 1873 and was subsequently expanded in 1910 (Carpenter Turner, 1986 p150).

St Matthews continued as the main church for a while but eventually the parish became called 'St Matthews with St Pauls'. The burial ground at Weeke became full and very few burials took place there after 1863. The final major development did not occur until the building of Weeke Manor Estate when a new church St Barnabus was built in the 1950s. Other denomination churches have also been established in Weeke.

The church of St Matthews consists of a chancel and nave, with a bell turret to the nave. The Chancel has a vestry and porch. The roofs are red tiles and the walls covered with a rough cast. The chancel is only 14 ft 6 in and the nave 32 ft 7 in. The Victoria County History (URL 5) believes the chancel was rebuilt probably when the chapel was upgraded to be the main church when a wider chancel was built outside of the original chancel walls. In the Astoft collection of English Buildings there are photographs of the church (URL 9). There are three bells and a small ‘sanctus’ bell in the belfry of the church. The largest bell is inscribed ‘ELLIS AND HENRY KNIGHT MADE ME 1673’ . The next bell is inscribed ‘1673’ and the third ‘Sancte Laurenti Ora Pro Nobis’. The ‘sanctus’ bell has no inscription (Baigent, 1865).

On the north wall of the nave, opposite the south doorway, is a slab of Purbeck marble with an inscription plate and a figure of St. Christopher in latten above it. On the plate is the inscription:-

On the north wall of the nave, opposite the south doorway, is a slab of Purbeck marble with an inscription plate and a figure of St. Christopher in latten above it. On the plate is the inscription:-

Here lieth Willm Compton & Annes his wife ye whiche Willm decessid ye xxi day of mayi ye yere of oure lord mcccclxxxxviij. Also this be 3e dedis yt 3e said Willm hath down to this Church of Wike yt is to say frest dedycacion of ye church xls & to make new bellis to ye sam church xli also gave to ye halloyeng of ye grettest bell vjs yiijd & for ye testimonyall of the dedicacion of ye sam church yjs yiijd on whos soules Ihu have mercy Amen.>

This tablet indicates that William Complin made a major contribution to the upgrade of the church when it became the parish church in the 1490s. The Complin family were active as the major family in the parish through to the 1640s. The St Christopher above the inscription is suggested by the VCH to be a susbstitute for the usual painting on the wall oppopsite the principal doorway, so often found in medieval churches (URL 4).

Another plaque in the church has an inscription that was difficult to interpret. Baigent (Baigent, 1865) produced probably the correct inscription:-


This stone is deemed by Baigent to be quite unusual for the sixteenth century. It commerates a rector of the church Dr Nicholas the elder who was for many years an important dignitary in the diocese of Winchester. He was born in 1473-4 at Sherborne Priors and went to Winchester College and Oxford University. His first role in the diocese of Winchester was the rectory of East Tisted in 1509. In 1524 he was given his first appointment in the archdeaconry of Winchester and then progressed through the ranks. In 1542 he became the rector of Weeke resigning the other various rectories he had taken. In 1546 he resigned his various official appointments and retired to Weeke and died in 1549-50. there is no record of his burial since the parish registers do not start until 1577.

On the north wall of the church is a memorial that has the following inscription:-

Sacred to the Memory of William Burnett Esqr. Of Weeke who departed this life On the 3rd JULY 1843 in the 62nd year of his age. And also of Martha, his wife who departed this life on the 11/09/1836 in the 50th year of her age. Their remains are deposited on the south side of the chancel of this church. This tablet was erected as a tribute of affection by their sorrowing daughters.

There are various inscriptions in the church to members of the Godwin family who became the senior family in Weeke during the 1640s , replacing the Complin family who had been established in the parish for several hundred years. In the 1820s the final member of the Godwin family sold a major part of the land and the Manor House to William Burnett. He had been a successful businessman in Winchester. His wife, Martha died in 1836 and he died in 1844. He had no sons but two daughters who arranged for the memorial to be placed on the church wall. His daughter Mary married Thomas Hitchcock and they and their descendants lived at Weeke Manor until the twentieth century.

Release 1.0 last update 11/12/07

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