Damerham is a village in W Hampshire, on the NW edge of the New Forest, 8 miles S of Salisbury and 3 miles NW of Fordingbridge. It has been a part of Hampshire only since 1895, when 8 parishes on the SE edge of Wiltshire (South Damerham, Martin, Melchet Park, Plaitford, West Wellow, Toyd Farm with Allenford, Whitsbury and East Bramshaw) were transferred. The village straggles along a network of roads following the line of a stream called Ashford Water. It has centres at its N and S ends, suggesting an assart from the woodland which still surrounds it, but the church, in the centre, is in an otherwise uninhabitated part.
St George’s has an aisled nave (a 3 bay aisle to the N and a 2 bay aisle to the S), with a doorway in the S aisle under a long 15thc porch, and a blocked N dooway. The tower is on the S side of the nave at the E end, and has a weatherboarded upper storey and a leaded pyramid roof. The chancel was originally 12thc , and has the remains of blocked arcades visible inside and out on the N and S sides. These do not match – the N arcade is of 2 pointed bays and the S of 2 round-headed wider bays extending further E. 12thc work is found on the N arch of the tower, on the N nave arcade, which has been clumsily reworked in the later Middle Ages, and on the N, and possibly also the S chancel arcade. More interesting than any of these is a tympanum depicting a horseman riding down a fallen enemy, reset over the S nave doorway. There is also a Christ in Majesty relief, possibly c.1200, reset in the gable of the S porch, and a large loose chevron voussoir.
South Damerham was royal demesne of the Saxon kings as early as the 9thc, and in 940-46 King Edmund granted land at Damerham, Martin and Pentridge to his queen Aethelflaeda on condition that she should bequeath it to the church of Glastonbury when she died. This she did, and the entire manor was thus held by the abbey in 1066 and 1086.
A small, approximately semicircular figural tympanum of Caen stone (Simon Alford’s opinion) is reset in the wall above the S nave doorway, protected by the porch. It is made up of two stones; a large lower block is a slightly depressed semicircle with the top segment missing. It is framed by a raised border except along the flat top. The semicircle is completed by an upper block with a frame along the upper curved edge only. The two pieces do not fit together accurately, nor is the curvature between them continuous, and the lower block is rather more eroded than the upper.
The subject is an armed and mounted knight shown in L profile. He carries a kite-shaped shield on his L arm and his R arm is raised and holds a sword that is broken off by the edge of the lower stone of the tympanum, and was probably lomger when carved. His legs, with feet, in stirrups, extend forwards, and he leans forward too, producing a sense of forward motion. He holds the reins of his horse, which has a bridle and a breast collar with circular trappings hanging from it. All its feet are on the ground apart from the R fore, which is raised to ride down a fallen knight shown lying on his R side with head to L of the tympanum, i.e facing the viewer. He wears armour and an open helmet, allowing his face to be seen, and he carries an axe in his R hand and with his L holds up a circular shield in a failed attempt to protect himself from the advancing rider. At the lower R corner of the tympanum, by the end of the horse’s tail but apparently not attached to it is a complex object clearly relevant to the iconography but difficult to identify with certainty. Various interpretations of the scene are given in the Comments section below.
The tympanum was discovered under the ivy on the Old Vicarage wall in 1916, and was returned to the church from which it was assumed to have originated.
|Diameter of tympanum||0.95m|
|Height of lower block||0.44m|
|Height of tympanum (both blocks)||0.57m|
Set in the gable of the S porch is a trapezoidal block, wider at the top, carved in relief with the figure of Christ in Majesty seated on a rainbow and enclosed by a mandorla. He is badly eroded, but the normal attributes are clearly seen: the R hand raised, a book supported by the L hand on the L knee, and a cross halo. No measurements could be taken.
Plain jambs largely of reddish brown blocks supporting quirked hollow chamfered imposts, decorated on their faces only: the E with a row of beading below a row of sawtooth; the W with a row of lozenges with drilled centres immediately above the quirk and flat above that, The arch is plain with voussoirs alternately white and green.
Plain unmoulded arch and jambs, but these are not continuous – the arch is wider than the jambs, and there is a step below the level of the 1st order impost. This is untidily cut back, and might originally have served both orders. The jambs are largely of reddish brown blocks, while the arch has alternate green and reddish brown voussoirs for the most part.
2 pointed bays to a chancel aisle or chapel, since removed and the arches blocked, presumably in the 15thc when Perpendicular windows were inserted in the blocking. The arcade is visible from the interior and exterior of the chancel. The arcade arches are best seen in the exterior E bay, where they appear to be of two orders with angle rolls on each face of both. Imposts are quirked hollow chamfered.
Compound respond, probably with three shafts. Both visible capitals have flat leaf volutes with crocket-like tips and plain chamfered neckings.
Cylindrical with a multi-trumpet scallop capital with recessed shields.
As W respond.
Two round headed bays to a chancel aisle or chapel, since removed, and the arches blocked, presumably in the 15thc when Perpendicular windows were inserted in the blocking. The arcade is visible from the interior and exterior of the chancel. The arcade arch profile is best seen on the interior over the central pier where the puter order with an angle roll is visible. Of the supports only the W respond survives, and although its interior and exterior capitals are visible they are too worn to identify beyond noting that they appear to have plain roll neckings.
Three bays with a compound respond of 3 shafts at the E end, and a semi-cylindrical W respond. The two piers are cylindrical but both they and their capitals are later replacements. The arches are all of two orders, but no two are the same.
A compound respond of 3 shafts, the central one wider. The three capitals are plain tapered blocks, but all have been remade in plaster with no separate imposts but a vertical abacus with a horizontal inscribed groove. The base is low and bulbous with the remains of a plain roll necking.
Engaged half-column respond on a base with a double roll, like two neckings one above the other, on a square block with its upper corners chamfered to form triangles. The capital is a plain tapered block with a roll necking, a row of beading at the bottom of the abacus and a quirked hollow chamfered impost that is clearly reset.
On the nave floor, W of the S arcade pier is a large oolitic limestone chevron voussoir of a size normally associated with a major arch or arcade rather than a doorway. The chevron is centripetal, with a single roll, double quirked lateral to the face. On the intrados is a hollow quadrant decorated with a row of bosses (two visible on this voussoir).
|Length of block||0.36m|
|Thickness of block||0.21m|
|Width at extrados||0.17m|
|Width at intrados||0.16m|
S. Alford, ‘Romanesque architectural sculpture in Dorset: a selective catalogue and commentary,’ Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society Proceedings 106 (1984), 1-22, especially 4-5, 19.
A. Borg, private communication.
English Heritage Listed Building 143909.
N. Pevsner and D. Lloyd, The Buildings of England. Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. Harmondsworth 1967, 188-89.
Victoria County History: Hampshire. IV (1911), 590-91.