St Mary’s, Bramshott

Built in 1220 to serve the local community (with lots of work since). Well worth a visit!

The present church of St Mary’s in the centre of Bramshott was built in AD 1220 to serve the community which had settled on heathland to the south of Hindhead, alongside a sandy lane which was to become the London to Portsmouth road.

Later the development of the turnpike road and especially the London to Portsmouth railway led to the sister hamlet of Liphook outgrowing its parent, and eventually pushing Bramshott and its church to the sidelines.

The church building

From the swing gate entrance in the southeast corner of the churchyard, one has the impression of a small, single-aisled church capped by a low tower with a wooden steeple. Along the south side, notice the priest’s door which opens into the chancel. Entering the building by the west door, it is surprising to find a nave wide enough to have both north and south aisles, each supported by substantial round pillars and graceful arches.

Looking down from the chancel towards the nave, it is easy to feel physically separated from the eastern end of the church. The present nave was built in 1872. It blends in well with the 13th century chancel and tower, the lower stage of which was altered in 1400. There is a central crossing, unusual in a village church, because the tower, now in the centre, once marked the western end of a much smaller church.

The east walls of both transepts had side altars; the north still retains its altar and piscina. Each of the pillars fronting the chancel have ‘squints’ cut in them to give a view of the High Altar in the chancel. In the south transept pillar, above the ‘squint’, there is a large opening, presumably to give access to the roof loft above the screen, which separated the priest from the congregation. The west walls of both transepts show the positions of the former windows in the previous outside walls.

The High Altar in the sanctuary is flanked, on the north side wall, by an aumbry, which still retains its original door. In the south wall, opposite the aumbry, is the piscina for the washing of communion vessels. This is the oldest part of the building (AD 1220), and the three lancets of the east window are also of 13th century origin.

* Please click here to find out more about the St Mary’s roof fund

Canadian links

The pulpit is 20th century, and reminds us of the contribution to the community and church made by the Canadian Army here in two World Wars. Those of their forces who were stationed on nearby Bramshott Common formed a special attachment to the village and its church. There is a magnificently decorated wooden Priest’s Stall, which displays the present and former arms of the Dominion of Canada, and has a canopy decorated with carved beavers. It shows an expression of the deep and lasting friendship generated between Bramshott and its temporary guests. In the churchyard are the graves of 318 Canadian servicemen and nursing and medical personnel who died here during the First World War, many from the influenza epidemic in 1918.