The History of our Church
There has been a Church in Hampton since before 1086 A.D.
The present building was started in about 1130 A.D.
The chancel of the church of St Mary and St Bartholomew dates from 1130, with the nave being added in the 13th century, the north aisle in the 14th century and the south aisle and west tower in the 15th century. The spire fell "by the extraordinary violence of lightning and thunder happening on St.Andrew's Day, in the night, in the year 1643" (Dugdale, History and antiquities of Warwickshire). In the south wall of the chapel is a tomb reputed to contain the heart of a Knight Templar who died on a crusade with Richard the Lionheart. The 19th-century restoration of the church was overseen by the architect W. E. Nesfield.
The main south door is at least 400 years old. This part of the building, the nave, was built over several centuries. . It is comparatively long and narrow for the period, in a church of this size, and it has an unusual north doorway near the west end; it is possible that it represented the complete church, at least for a short time. To the right you can see the original Normal pillars. On the nearest one are the carved heads of some 14th century Hamptonians.
Most of the rest of the nave was built in the 13th century, but the highest part, with the small rectangular windows, was added in the 16th century. Over the arches you can see the shields of the families who have been Lords of the Manor. In medieval times there were no pews as there are today. During services (which would be in Latin), only the old and infirm would be able to sit on the stone seats along the walls. That’s where we get the saying “weakest to the wall”.
As you look towards the choir you will see the carved wooden screen which was given in memory of Sir Frederick Peel, the son of the Prime Minister, Robert Peel who founded the Police Force
The tower was added to the nave in the 15th century. It used to have a spire until it was blown down in a storm in 1643. We know that there were 3 bells in 1553 and that there were re-castings and additions to them in 1629 and 1643. These bells were probably destroyed when the spire blew down in 1643 and were replaced by a ring of 6 in 1725. The tower now contains 8 bells which were brought here from the church of St. John, Miles Platting, Manchester, in 1976. In the 19th century there was a gallery across the west end of the church which was used for the village band. This is where the first organ was installed in 1839. At the foot of the tower on the left is the original clock escapement which was made in the first quarter of the18th century by Nicholas Paris of Warwick.
The north aisle was rebuilt late in the 14th century on the old foundations of the narrow aisle. Here you will find another window that depicts the death and resurrection of Christ. It also shows the bombing of Coventry Cathedral in 1940. The Resurrection window depicts Sir Jacob Epstein’s sculpture of St. Michael overcoming the devil, which is outside the new cathedral that was built in the 1960’s. Both are symbols of God’s victory over the power of evil.
To the right of the Coventry window is a memorial to the villagers who gave their lives in the first and second world wars. A stained glass window in memory of a young girl was replaced by a new doorway, with stained glass window above, leading into a link area connecting the new vestry accommodation to the north aisle.
A plaque in the link area records the opening of the extension by the Duchess of Gloucester on 5th March 2003.
The original stained glass window has been re-sited in the west end wall of the north aisle. It illustrates the canticle called the “Benedicite” – “O all ye works of the Lord, bless ye the Lord.” It shows some of the many facets of God’s creation and is one of the several fine modern windows made by Miss Yoxall and Miss Whitford, who were both graduates of Bournville College of Art.
On entering the choir through the rood screen, you are entering the oldest part of the building. The massive walls on either side of the organ were part of the Norman church that was built around the year 1130. You can still see the small Norman windows and the remains of a Norman door that has been blocked up. You can see the other side of the same door outside. The window above the choir stalls is in memory of a former verger and sexton, who is seen cutting the grass in the churchyard. The space where the organ now stands was originally part of a medieval chantry chapel. The organ was installed here in 1894 and was rebuilt in the 1960’s. The large window at the east end of the church was given in memory of Sir Frederick Peel’s first wife in 1904. The theme is Christ in glory. He is surrounded by angels and the sun, moon, stars, fire and water. Beneath are representatives of the generations of men and women who have worshipped God in song and verse. From top left they are:
1. Moses, Deborah, Barak, Daniel and his three
companions and King Hezekiah;
Job, King David, King Solomon, Micah and Hannah;
The Blessed Virgin Mary, Elizabeth, Zechariah, Simeon, St. Ambrose, St. Augustine and the poet Dante;
English writers – Langland, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Dryden, Cowper and Shelley who was Lady Peel’s uncle.
Opposite the organ is a rare heart tomb, where the heart of a medieval knight, possibly a crusader, is buried.
The window to the right of the heart tomb contains some of the oldest surviving fragments of glass in the church, which have been put together in the tracery at the top. Below this there are some delightful sketches of birds, copied in the 1920’s from some 15th century windows in the Commandery at Worcester.
The south aisle was also rebuilt early in the 15th century, again without widening it. About the same time the west tower was begun, but carried up only a short way, the completion being delayed until late in the century.
The last medieval alteration was the building of the clearstory in the 16th century in place of the old steeply pitched roof indicated by the lines on the tower.