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All Saints, Freshwater, Isle of Wight

(50°41′3″N, 1°30′36″W)
SZ 347 873
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Hampshire
now Isle of Wight
  • John Margham

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The church is situated overlooking the W bank of the Yar estuary within the ‘Freshwater Isle’. It is to the E of the core of the substantial modern settlement of Freshwater. The church site and its associated settlement formed a component of the historical polyfocal settlement within the parish. Prior to 1874 the church consisted of a W tower, nave, N aisle and porch, S aisle and porch, chancel, and N and S chapels flanking the chancel. The restoration by Stratton in 1874-75 extended the N and S aisles outwards with the provision of a S porch and shallow N porch, and lengthened the chancel eastwards with an organ chamber to the N. Three long-and-short quoins of Anglo-Saxon workmanship define the nave before it was extended westwards by one bay in the 13thc. The N and S arcades of three bays were inserted into this nave in the later 12thc. The N and S chapels and the present chancel appear to have originated at the same time as the nave arcades. The W tower has a giant arch of the 13thc rising through two storeys and a late medieval upper stage (Lloyd and Pevsner 2006, 138-140).

The Romanesque features are the round-headed doorway now reset as the N doorway of the church, three bays of the N and S arcades, and the N and S arches leading from the chancel into the flanking chapels.


This was one of the Island churches given by William fitzOsbern to Lyre Abbey in the period 1067 to 1071 (Hockey 1981, no 4). In 1066 Freshwater was a substantial estate of fifteen hides which had been held by Earl Tostig up until 1065. The church was not mentioned in Domesday Book despite it being a church given to Lyre Abbey before 1086, although it records that ‘Of these 15 hides the Abbey of Lyre holds 3 virgates’ (Williams and Erskine 1989, 52). The church was the mother church to Brook which achieved parochial status by the 17th c (Hockey 1982, 26).


Exterior Features


Interior Features






Stone (1891, fig. LXXXI) published a watercolour of the doorway painted during demolition. The form of the doorway was essentially as it has been reconstructed but with the extension outwards of the imposts. The doorway would appear to have been constructed at the same time as the insertion of the nave arcades and the construction of the two chapels flanking the chancel as it gave access to the S chapel from the S aisle.

The E responds of the N and S arcade, and the two W responds of the openings from the chancel into the flanking N and S chapels have the only bases in the church which are water-holding. This implies that the N and S arcades and the openings into the chapels are contemporary, with a date of construction in the late 12thc.

The font in its present form dates from 1894 by F. L. Pearson, but it incorporates earlier elements and was been described by Pevsner as ‘c. 1190-1200, of polished Purbeck marble. Plain square bowl, round stem with shafts’ (Lloyd and Pevsner 2006, 140). Examination of the font reveals that the only components of the font which were not re-cut or replaced are the rather worn top of its base and possibly the central stem. The font, on its stepped base, is 0.94 m high with the upper surface 0.75 m square and the lower part of the base 0 .825 m square. Stone (1891) published a drawing of the font before its ‘restoration’. This confirms that much of the present font dates from 1894 but was probably originally constructed in the 12thc. At that time it consisted of a central stem; four engaged columns with plain roll-moulded bases; a simple plinth, square in plan; a plain tub also square in plan, with the four angles and the underside chamfered. Sir Stephen Glynne visited the church in 1844 and recorded that ‘The font has a large octagonal bowl, upon a large block in the centre having four shafts, without capitals, attached to its angles, the whole on a square plinth’.


S.F. Hockey (ed.), The Cartulary of Carisbrooke Priory, Isle of Wight Record Series 2, Isle of Wight 1981.

S.F. Hockey, Insula Vecta: The Isle of Wight in the Middle Ages, Chichester 1982.

P. Stone, The Architectural Antiquities of the Isle of Wight, vol. 2, The West Medine, privately published, 1891.

A. Williams and R.W.H. Erskine, The Hampshire Domesday, London 1989.