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St Mary, Breamore, Hampshire

(50°58′9″N, 1°47′0″W)
SU 153 189
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Hampshire
now Hampshire
medieval St Mary and St Michael
now St Mary
  • Ron Baxter
02 July 2014

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Feature Sets

Breamore is a village on the NW edge of the New Forest, 3 miles N of Fordingbridge and 7 miles S of Salisbury. It stands on the E bank of the River Avon. The village extends from a centre on the main road from Salisbury to Fordingbridge, NW for half a mile to Breamore House (site of the former Augustinian Priory of Breamore, founded by Baldwin de Redvers and his uncle Hugh towards the end of Henry I’s reign), and the church stands in the grounds of the house. St Mary’s is best known as Hampshire’s most important Anglo-Saxon church, with a spectacular rood reset high above the S nave dooway. The church is basically cruciform, having a big Anglo-Saxon central tower with a S transept or porticus (the N has gone) that is narrower than the crossing. The S crossing arch is Anglo-Saxon but those to the E and W are 14thc, as is the chancel in the main. The nave is tall with a W gallery. Romanesque features are the S nave doorway, a medallion with an Agnus Dei above it, the S porch entrance (which is reset) and the E doorway of the S porticus.


The manor of Breamore belonged to that of Rockbourne in 1066 and 1086, held by the king at both dates. 2½ hides and certain woodland from Breamore were put into the forest, but the church presumably remained as a priest is mentioned in 1086. By a grant of Henry I, Breamore passed to the Earls of Devon, Lords of the Isle of Wight, and it was later (in the 13thc) annexed to the honor of Albemarle. At the Dissolution the church belonged to the Priory of Breamore.


Exterior Features


Exterior Decoration


The S nave doorway dates to around or before the mid-12thc. The porticus doorway appears earlier but it should be noted that its imposts are treated in the same fashion as the plinths of the nave doorway. The S porch is a 13thc structure into which Anglo-Saxon and Norman features have been incorporated, and the aggressive restoration has not helped those in want of diagnostic dating. The Agnus Dei cannot really be dated more closely than the 12thc, but it is worth noting that there seems no general agreement on whether the lamb should be shown in L or R profile. Rodwell (1984) includes a useful account of the setting of the roundel.


E. A. Fisher, The Greater Anglo-Saxon Churches, London 1962, 389-93.

A. R. and P. M. Green, Saxon Architecture and Sculpture in Hampshire, Winchester, 1951, 5-10, 37-39.

A. Du B. Hill, 'A Saxon church at Breamore, Hants', Archaeological Journal, 55 (1898), 84-87.

N. Pevsner and D. Lloyd, The Buildings of England. Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. Harmondsworth 1967, 142-43.

W. Rodwell and E. C. Rouse, ‘The Anglo-Saxon Rood and other Features in the South Porch of St. Mary's Church, Breamore, Hampshire’, Antiquaries Journal 64 (2), 1984, 298-325.

H. M. and J. Taylor, Anglo-Saxon Architecture, 1 Cambridge 1965, 94-96.

Victoria County History: Hampshire. II (1903), 168-72 (on Breamore Priory).

Victoria County History: Hampshire. IV (1911), 596-602.