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St Mildred, Whippingham, Isle of Wight

(50°44′23″N, 1°16′37″W)
SZ 511 936
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Hampshire
now Isle of Wight
  • John Margham
  • John Margham
1 June 2016, 10 July 2017

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Feature Sets

St Mildred’s is situated in a relatively isolated position in the N of the Isle of Wight to the east of the Medina estuary. Whippingham church was entirely rebuilt between 1854 and 1862, replacing a structure which had been modified by John Nash in 1804-06, but which was essentially a medieval building (Lloyd and Pevsner 2006, 293). This church was illustrated by Tomkins in 1794 (reproduced in Cox 1911, 157). This view of the church from the S shows a nave with a blocked-up round headed arcade arch to the left of the porch and a rectangular three light window under a drip moulding below a small gable to the right, a long chancel lit by a triangular headed window and with what appears to be lancet window, the chancel being accessed by a square headed doorway, an un-buttressed western tower with a saddle-back roof, and a gabled south porch. Three remaining Romanesque features are built into the external walls of the Victorian S porch, a lintel, a chevron voussoir and a billet voussoir. Further Romanesque features are the two short lenghts of chevron reset in the external east elevation of the Victorian church: a voussoir above the window of the S chapel flanking the chancel, and a voussoir above the window of the N flanking chapel.


The church was amongst the churches of the Isle of Wight given to Lyre Abbey by William FitzOsbern between 1067 and 1071 (Hockey 1981, no. 4). Whippingham had been the centre of a substantial Anglo-Saxon estate of twenty-two hides, apparently granted by King Cuthred of Wessex to the church of Winchester 740x756, although the charter is now lost (Finberg 1964, no. 4). This estate had become fragmented by 1066. Domesday Book does not record the presence of a church here despite the later evidence relating to William FitzOsbern.


Exterior Features



The lintel would appear to have formed the lower part of a tympanum. This arrangement can be seen in the reset doorway at Binstead, where the lintel is of similar proportions but is not decorated. An early Norman date can be suggested for the lintel (Margham 2014, 10-11, fig. 8). Tomkins’ view of the medieval church from the S in 1794 shows no external billet string course. The curved short length of billet and the tapered chevron moulding now reset in the external E face of the porch may have formed part of the 12thc chancel arch. Three other pieces of sculptural stonework built into the fabric of the church have recently been identified. These have been confirmed as being Anglo-Saxon stone sculpture (personal communication, Dr Derek Craig).

In addition to the lintel, an inscription is also built into the W wall of the porch. This is on a stone of 0.235m long and 0.025 high. It is an incomplete Latin text with a mixture of upper and lower case letters. It has been read as INAT:D:V[S] which can be expanded to -i natus deus A possible context is of a text describing a scene, possibly a nativity, complementing an adjoining, now lost, stone. The inscription is unlikely to post-date 1250 AD. The nature of the serifs incline opinion towards a post-Conquest date (personal communication, Elisabeth Okasha).


J.C. Cox, Isle of Wight: its Churches and Religious Houses, Allen, London, 1911

H.P.R. Finberg, The Early Charters of Wessex, Leicester, 1964

S.F. Hockey, The Cartulary of Carisbrooke Priory, Isle of Wight Records Series 2, Isle of Wight County Council, 1981

C.E. Keyser, A list of Norman tympana and lintels with figure or symbolic sculpture still or till recently existing in the churches of Great Britain, second edition, Elliot Stock, London, 1927

D. Lloyd and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Isle of Wight, Yale, 2006

J. Margham, ‘New Churches for Old: St George, Arreton and the Rebuilding of Island Churches’, Proceedings of the Isle of Wight Natural History and Archaeological Society 28, 2014, 5-29

C. Tomkins, A Tour to the Isle of Wight, volume 2, Kearsley, London, 1796