St Nicholas Church To-Day:
St Nicholas is the Parish church of Boarhunt, though it is situated more than two miles away by road from the centre of its village, North Boarhunt. The church is, like its sister church, St James without the Priory Gate in Southwick, wholly owned and administered by the Southwick Estate under the care of the Squire, Mr Thistlethwayte. Both churches are Donative Lay Peculiars. ‘Donative’ describes the legal ability of the owner, to gift or will property, in this case a church. ‘Peculiar’ is the state of a church exempt from the jurisdiction of the Ordinary (the Bishop), in whose Diocese the churches are. The term ‘Lay’ is used to distinguish the fact that a church is not ‘Royal’. The Squire acts as a ‘Lay Bishop’ with the intrinsic authority to appoint a Vicar/Chaplain, a Verger and a Church Warden.
St Nicholas’ has a core stable congregation that comes primarily from outlying districts such as Fareham, Portchester, Denmead and some even further afield, with only very few regular members of the congregation from North Boarhunt.
St Nicholas Church in History:
On the North West edge of Portsdown Hill, lies, almost hidden from view, a small Church dedicated to St Nicholas. Its origins and exact age are unknown in that a Saxon Charter to build and dedicate the church has yet to be discovered. What is known is that it is probably one of the best and most complete Saxon churches in the Country. It is certainly more than nine hundred and fifty years old and has been, so far as can be judged, in almost constant use (apart from a period in the early 1800s) as a place of worship throughout its history.
The church existed at Boarhunt when the Domesday Survey was prepared and was one of the earliest churches in the United Kingdom to be proposed as being of Anglo Saxon origin.
Without firm evidence for the date of the church, most published dates must be, to a great extent, conjecture. Certainly the date of AD 1027, is no more than an assumption and the church may well have been built at any time between the early 8thC. and mid 11thC. St Nicholas’ was undoubtedly built for a Saxon owner of a Manor, which at the time of the Domesday Survey appears to be the one owned by Earl Roger on as Estate recorded as Borhunte.
An unattributed booklet, which is for sale in the church, describes St Nicholas in some detail. The plan, drawings, and descriptions are all taken directly from an article published by J.T.Irvine in 1877.
Saxon: The building, apart from the west wall and buttresses, which are of Bath stone, is constructed of Quarr stone from the Isle of Wight. There is a font believed to be of Saxon origin and other features are attributed to this period, including a double splayed window, which can be seen from the North wall of the Chancel
Early Decorated: Two Chapels on the East walls of the Nave are from this period. Because these chapels reduced the public space, it is likely that the internal Saxon wall, which originally divided the church into a nave and western chamber, was removed at this time.
17th Century: The Henslow Monumentis on the North wall of the Chancel. They were the first recorded armigers of Boarhunt in 1412.
18th Century: The Eddows Monumenton the South wall of the Nave commemorates Robert Eddows, Storekeeper of the ordinance of Prostsmouth, Rector of Hannington, and Vicar of Twyford.
19th Century: Victorian restoration, apart from the rebuilding of the West wall, included a three-decker pulpitthe Squires pew and a gallery.
20th Century: A memorial window on the north wall of the nave within the Squires pew dedicated to Hugh and Eva Borthwick Norton. Memorials to Flt Sgt A.J. Wing, son of a Southwick gamekeeper, became a fighter pilot and died in the First World War and to Sgt Henry Webb also killed in the First World War. There is another Memorial to Private Edwin Austin killed in Action 1917. All these gentlemen are commemorated for their ultimate sacrifice, by laying wreaths on the Sunday closest to Remembrance Day.
You can’t leave without a glance at the old yew, recently measured, and dated to be approximately 1,850 years old. A legend has it that a family lived in the hollow bole for a winter.