Established in 1215, the year of the signing of Magna Carta, St Margaret’s has been a place of worship and pilgrimage for over 800 years. A Grade 1 listed building with highly distinctive decoration – and the burial place of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing – the Church receives many visitors every year. It is also, however, home to a lively congregation, of all ages, and is an active participant in its community of Wellow, in rural Hampshire.
St. Margaret of Antioch
In 1251 Henry III of England granted a charter to Wellow to hold an annual fair on the eve of St Margaret’s Day. From 1251 until the Dissolution of the monasteries, the Church was controlled by the monks of Netley Abbey, to the East of Southampton. Its dedication to St. Margaret of Antioch, a patron favoured by Crusaders returning from the Holy Land, is a feature of its time of consecration.
The Church is rich in architectural interest
It consists of chancel, nave (both C13), side aisle (C15), with a wooden belfry of the dovecote type. The porch is 15th century, but the supporting timbers date to the 13th century and are the oldest in the church. Look for the numerous small holes, or pits, in the surface of the oak door. These show where rat-catchers pinned dead rats and other vermin until the churchwardens had paid them for their work.
The main historic feature inside the church are several excellent medieval wall paintings
These were discovered hidden under layers of plaster in 1891. Most of the wall paintings date to the 13th century, though there are some even earlier examples. Throughout the church is a repeating pattern of squares decorated with flowers, painted around 1270. On the north wall is the figure of St Christopher carrying the infant Christ over a river and a woman – presumably, St Margaret herself, sitting on a hillock, spinning. A knight is arriving to her rescue, holding two keys. The martyrdom of St Thomas of Canterbury is portrayed on the Chancel south wall, a fresco dating from 1250.
The Church has three bells, one dating from about 1450, the other two cast in 1710 and 1720
The west end of the nave is a timber bell cote, supported by three large wooden posts. There are three bells. The oldest dates to the 15th century, the other two to 1703 and 1725. Against the west wall is a floriated stone coffin lid dating to the 14th century. It was obviously made for someone of importance. but there is nothing to suggest who this was.
The Ten Commandments
The oak altar table and communion rails are 17th century and were brought here from St Leonard’s church in Sherfield English when it was rebuilt in 1860. The Ten Commandment boards over the chancel arch also come from Sherfield English.
Florence Nightingale 1820-1910
Often called “the Lady with the Lamp,” Florence Nightingale was a caring nurse and a leader. In addition to writing over 150 books, pamphlets and reports on health-related issues, she is also credited with creating one of the first versions of the pie chart.
However, she is mostly known for making hospitals a cleaner and safer place to be.Read more…