The purpose of this web site is to introduce more people to the fact that in Hampshire’s Test Valley village of Nether Wallop, just half an hour’s drive from the more obvious attractions of Stonehenge, Salisbury Cathedral and Romsey Abbey, lies one of the handful of English Churches which reflects the development of Christianity in England throughout the whole of the second Millennium. Nether Wallop’s Parish Church, dedicated to St Andrew, is the setting for the ONLY Anglo Saxon Wall Painting to survive in situ – the precious legacy of artists of the Winchester School who worked here around the year 1020. In the late Norman period the painting was cut through as the choir arch was raised. However, an altar frontal given in 1998 seeks to reproduce through contemporary embroidery techniques, the probable design of the Saxon “Christ in Majesty”wall painting. The enlargement of the Saxon arch was one aspect of a gradual and almost continuous process of alterations, adaptations and restorations, each of which has contributed to the fabric of the Church as we see it today. Each century’s contribution to the Church building from the 10th to the 19th is there for us to enjoy, as well as art work from both the very first and very last years of the second millennium.
And so start the third millennium. In St Andrew’s, two of our millennium projects have already come to fruition — the re-decoration of the north aisle and tower arch, and the arrival of a splendid piece of end-of-millennium artwork in the shape of the new altar frontal referred to above. We no longer feel the need to apologise to visitors for the state of the lime wash and explain that we really do care for the state of the fabric and that £150,000 has been spent since 1980 on “invisible” repairs. The frontal and kneelers proclaim that the church is still alive and well as a place of worship 1,000 years after its construction. We are exploring the possible re-lighting of the chancel – the warmest part of the church in winter but also the darkest!
St Andrew’s Church, built in flint, stone and brick, nestles into a terraced side of a steep chalk hill and overlooks the Wallop Brook on its north and east sides. From the Churchyard the visitor can look out across the valley to Danebury Hill, site of an archaeologically important Iron Age Hill Fort, or walk down to the peaceful mill pond which adjoins the burial ground. The BBC‘s choice of St Andrew’s to serve as the Parish Church of the fictional St Mary Mead in the setting of some of Agatha Christie’s “Miss Marple” stories which featured the actress Joan Hickson (1906-1998) in the title role, has served to bring the Church to the attention of visitors from around the world. The Church’s simple but everlasting beauty weaves its own spell on those who come to engage in quiet contemplation. This should not surprise us, for the Church has been hallowed by the prayers of village people for 1,000 years, and continues to be a venue for Christian worship every Sunday.