St. Laurence's Church, West Challow

Ambrosden church

The church of St. James the Great in West Hanney consists of a chancel 38 ft. 9 in. by 17 ft., nave 68 ft. 6 in. by 20 ft. 3 in., south transept 18 ft. 6 in. by 15 ft. 6 in., south aisle 12 ft. 3 in. wide, and a north tower 15 ft. 6 in. square, and north porch. All the measurements are internal.

The north wall of the nave is of about 1150, when the building was probably aisleless. At the close of the same century the tower was added on the north of the nave. In the first half of the 13th century the chancel arch was built and perhaps the south transept added. Early in the 14th century the south arcade and aisle were built and the nave probably lengthened towards the west, though there is no evidence of the date of the west wall, all the existing features being modern. The chancel was rebuilt about the middle of the 15th century. The church was restored in the 19th century, when the nave walls were heightened and the clearstory built, various windows were inserted and the porch added.

The chancel has a 15th-century east window of five lights under a four-centred head, and in each side wall are two square-headed windows of similar date, each of three lights, with the sills carried down to form seats. Between the two north windows is a priest's doorway with a four-centred head. At the east end of the south wall is a square-headed piscina with a shelf. The 13th-century chancel arch is of two chamfered and acutely pointed orders on the east face and three on the west face; the inner order rests on good foliage corbels with short shafts below and head stops, that on the south is modern. The modern pine roof of the chancel rests on old moulded corbels with blank shields.

The nave has a wide arch of three chamfered orders at the east end of the north wall, opening into the tower. It is of late 12th-century date, and the jambs have each an attached semicircular shaft supporting the inner order with scalloped capitals and moulded abaci. Further west is a modern two-light window and a mid12th-century north doorway with a semicircular arch of two orders, the outer moulded and the inner plain, with a rich label of cheveron and other ornament; the jambs have spirally fluted shafts with foliage capitals and enriched abaci. Further west are two round-headed windows of similar date but entirely restored. The 14th-century south arcade of five bays has moulded arches and quatrefoil piers with moulded capitals and bases either rescraped or entirely modern. Over the second pier from the east is an old carved stop of two heads. The modern clearstory has quatrefoil windows. To the east of the first arch is a rood-loft doorway approached by a few steps in the thickness of the wall from a second doorway on the transept side, also at a considerable height from the ground. The western respond of the arcade consists of a number of clustered shafts with a common moulded capital and base of octagonal form. The west wall has five modern grouped lancets. The south transept is much restored and has a modern three-light south window and two trefoiled lancets in the east wall and one in the west with cinquefoiled rear arches, also largely modern. In the east respond of the arcade is a locker. The south aisle is of the 14th century and is finished with a rich parapet ornamented with cusped panelling. In the south wall are two square-headed 14th-century windows, each of two lights, with pointed rear arches; between is a moulded and pointed south doorway of the same date with a late external hood of stone slabs resting on shaped brackets. In the east wall is a half arch, entirely rescraped, to the transept and in the west wall a trefoiled lancet of the 14th century. The weathering of the original roof is visible on the south wall of the nave, with traces of an early porch.

The north tower is separated from the nave by a modern partition and is three stages high. The ground stage was formerly a chapel, and has a threelight 14th-century east window and an ogee-headed piscina of the same date in the east wall. In the north wall is a large lancet and in the west wall a second small one piercing the intermediate buttress on that side; the doorway to the north of it is pointed and of two orders, the outer moulded and resting on side shafts, of which only the capitals remain. The second stage has a lancet window on the east and west, and is approached by a 17th-century straight staircase of triangular balks of oak pegged to the supporting strings. The bell-chamber was largely pulled down and reconstructed in brick some forty years ago to lessen the weight; it has a two-light window in each face. The ground stage is supported by flat pilaster buttresses of late 12th-century date.

The communion table is Jacobean with turned legs, and the rails are of the same date with turned balusters. The 18th-century wood reredos is now at the end of the south aisle. The Jacobean pulpit is hexagonal and has carved panels with geometrical and foliage designs and conventional lions in the top panels. What is perhaps the stem and octagonal base is now in the tower, and the present font cover is probably the incised soffit of the sounding-board. Under the chancel arch is a poor 15th-century screen with a central door and three bays on either side with traceried heads and a moulded beam; the base is filled with modern carved panels. The font is a massive and slightly tapering cylinder probably of the late 12th century, and round it at intervals are upright rows of small rosettes.

In the chancel are a number of brasses; the earliest is a large figure of a priest in mass vestments, formerly standing on a bracket, with two lost shields and a mutilated marginal inscription to Seys, rector of—, who died in 13—. Another brass with two figures in civil dress and a group of children is to Oliver Ashcombe of Lyford and Martha his wife; both died in 1611. It bears two shields of Ashcombe and the same coat impaling Yate. A brass to John Ashcombe (d. 1592) and his second wife Margery (Wellesbourne) has large figures of a man and his two wives with groups of children and two shields of Ashcombe and the same with a blank impalement. John Cheney, 1557, has an armed figure with foot and marginal inscriptions, the latter with evangelistic symbols. Another brass to Sir Christopher Lytcot (d. 1599), second Sheriff of Berkshire, has an armed figure and a shield of Lytcot quartering Burley; he was knighted by Henry IV of France at Rouen. The brass of Francis Wellesbourne of East Hanney (d. 1602) and his two wives has three figures, foot and marginal inscriptions and three shields, the middle one of Wellesbourne and the two others Wellesbourne, with a blank impalement and the same coat impaling Stafford. There are also in the chancel two floor slabs to John Ashcombe of Lyford, 1655, with the family arms, and to John Ashcombe, 1662, with the same arms impaling Baringer. On the east wall of the nave is an enriched tablet with a cleft pediment to John Yate of Lyford, 1671, with the arms Yate impaling Browne, with a crescent for difference. On the north nave wall is a tablet to Edward Bowles, 1685, and in the transept are two stone coffins. Under the communion table is a marble slab, possibly the old altar. In the south aisle windows are several fragments of 14th-century glass, and in the second window are two window heads probably from the south transept, with grisaille glass and a small female figure. Under the tower arch are portions of an old oak screen formerly used for a gallery.

There are six bells: the treble inscribed 'God save Queen Anne 1702'; the second recast by C. & G. Mears, 1856; the third inscribed 'Abra. Rudhall made us all 1702'; the fourth, 'Prosperity to all our Benefactors A. R. 1702'; the fifth, 'William Wicksteed, vicar 1702'; the tenor with the names of the churchwardens and the same date. A ting tang is inscribed, 'Come away make no delay R. Wells fecit.' The bell frame is inscribed, 'The 4 churchwardens, Whillyam Godere, John Felde, Richard Dastene, John Brocke, Marthew Chancler Carpintir made this frame 1605.'

The plate includes a shaped paten with feet (London, 1730); a large cup (London, 1758) with a cover paten of 1757; and a large flagon of 1758.

The registers previous to 1812 are as follows: (i) baptisms 1582 to 1654, marriages and burials 1564 to 1654; (ii) all entries 1666 to 1699; (iii) baptisms 1666 to 1766, marriages 1699 to 1753, burials 1678 to 1783; (iv) baptisms 1766 to 1812; (v) marriages 1758 to 1793; (vi) burials 1783 to 1812; (vii) marriages 1792 to 1812.

Historical information about St. James' Church is provided by 'Parishes: Hanney', in A History of the County of Berkshire: Volume 4, ed. William Page and P H Ditchfield (London, 1924), pp. 285-294. British History Online [accessed 13 March 2023].

St. James' Church is a Grade II* listed building. For more information about the listing see CHURCH OF ST JAMES, West Hanney - 1300859 | Historic England.

For more information about St. James' Church see Parishes: Hanney | British History Online (