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St Nicholas, Brockenhurst, Hampshire

(50°48′53″N, 1°34′6″W)
SU 305 018
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Hampshire
now Hampshire
  • Ron Baxter
05 April 2006

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Brockenhurst is in the New Forest, 3½ miles S of Lyndhurst on the road to Lymington. The village is now a large one of around 4,000 people, and practically all of it is to the W of the railway line from Southampton that opened in 1848. The original village of Brockenhurst lay to the E of the line, and of the present A337 road to the coast, and was centred around the church and Brockenhurst Park. The development of the village on the opposite side of the tracks was due largely to the influence of the Morant family, owners of the manor and Brockenhurst Park and much of the land in the village, who wished to preserve the rural nature of the historic centre. There is little farming here now; the New Forest and the coastal resorts providing tourist attractions and the railway allowing easy commuter access to Southampton and Bournemouth.

St Nicholas is on high ground to the E of the village; cut off by the railway line (which still has a level crossing) and sited on the edge of Brockenhurst Park. The church has a nave with a N aisle and a S porch, a chancel with a N vestry, and a W tower with a spire and a small N vestry alongside it. The nave has a 12thc S doorway under a simple stone 13thc porch. It is lit by a two-light square headed S window, dated by heraldry to the mid-16thc, and a modern dormer at theW end of the S wall. The N aisle is of 1832, of brick and separated from the nave by well-spaced, slender shafts, presumably of iron. Inside, a wooden W gallery runs continuously across the nave and aisle. The organ stands on the nave gallery, while the section above the aisle has seating. The chancel arch is plain and round-headed, and may be 12thc too, although there is some doubt about this. The chancel is of c1300 or slightly earlier, with Y-tracery windows and a late-13thc piscina. Both nave and chancel are of rough stone blocks covered with flaking render, but it is clear from their junction on the S that they were not built together, and there is some herringbone masonry in the nave only. The N vestry is apparently contemporary with the aisle. The tower, dated to 1761, is of brick and its spire rises from a curious domed base. The spire and its base are clad in mathematical tiles. The small vestry N of the tower was added in 1908. The church also contains a Purbeck marble font.


William I created the New Forest in 1079, and seven years later the Domesday Survey recorded four pre-Conquest manors in this area; Hinchelsea, Brochelie, Mapleham and Broceste (which became Brockenhurst). In 1086 Brockenhurst was held by Aelfric, whose father and uncle had shared it before him. Before the Conquest it was assessed at 1 hide, and in 1086 at half a hide of ploughland. There was also woodland for 20 pigs and a church.

By c1140-50 the church was a chapelry of Boldre, and it was granted along with Boldre and its other chapel of Lymington to the Priory of Austin Canons at Christchurch Twyneham by Baldwin de Redvers. It remained in the hands of Christchurch Priory until the Dissolution in 1539. The manor passed to John FitzAlan, Earl of Arundel, and in 1709 was acquired by Edward Morant. It remains in the Morant family today.


Exterior Features


Interior Features


Chancel arch/Apse arches




There is some doubt about the dating of the chancel arch. Although it appears to be a simple arch typical of the 12thc, it has no imposts or other diagnostic features that would confirm that. The segmental form is unusual, and the arch is abnormally wide for a 12thc date. Finally, it is uncommon to find such a plain arch in combination with a decorated S doorway, as here. Thackwell and Jenkins report the suggestion that it may be much later, possibly 17thc.

The font was carved with various motifs including the ubiquitous arcading and the less common saltire-shaped acanthus quatrefoils, also seen, for example, at West Tytherley.


K and P. Donaldson, A brief history of Brockenhurst. 1986.

N. Pevsner and D. Lloyd, The Buildings of England. Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. Harmondsworth 1967, 146.

D. E. O. Thackwell and H. M. Jenkins, The Parish Church of St Nicholas, Brockenhurst. 1970, revised 1999.

Victoria County History: Hampshire. IV (1911), 626-29.

Victoria County History: Hampshire. II (1973), 152-60.