Headbourne Worthy Church

Headbourne Worthy was another vill held by the Mortimers of Wigmore probably from 1075. The church is another early site, in this case dedicated to St Swithun, the bishop of Winchester who died in 682.  It was certainly completed before the reign of King Edgar (d.975). The Mortimers of Wigmore held the vill tenaciously despite the fact that Hugh Mortimer (d.1181) legally should have returned the church to St Swithun's of Winchester according to a charter of the reign of Edward the Confessor (d.1066). In 1300 Edmund Mortimer (d.1304) sold the vill to the Genevilles, but it reverted to the Mortimers with the marriage of Roger Mortimer (d.1330) to Joan Geneville (d.1356) in 1301.

The church consists of another early nave and chancel with the later addition of a south-west tower. There is also an early 'western chamber' of Saxon date which is where the tower would normally be expected. Despite thirteenth century rebuilding the north and west side of the nave and the western chamber still appear to be original as can be seen by the typical 'long and short work'.  The west door is a fine piece of Saxon stonework and there are traces of an early low relief stone rood, which was unfortunately nearly obliterated during the Reformation.

The peculiarly postitioned south-west tower and the rebuildings of the nave almost certainly took place under Mortimer lordship. It has been stated that the three bells in the tower all date back to the time of Mortimer lordship and are remarkable survivals. They are claimed to be a 4½ cwt treble dated 1380 and two further bells weighing 6cwt and 8cwt inscribed St Gabriel - 1420 and Sancte Nicolae -1420 respectively. However they all exhibit makers' marks which show them to be of early seventeenth century origin in Roger Landon's Reading Foundary. 

VCH article on Headbourne Worthy

Copyright©2013 Paul Martin Remfry

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