St Mary of the Assumption, Froyle, Hampshire

Froyle is a lovely little town not far from Alton. We visited it to look at the gardens (see ngs) but also took in the church.

Froyle is said to derive from Frija, the Norse goddess of love and one of Odin's wives. The manor of Froyle was in the hands of the nuns of St Mary's abbey, Winchester at the time of the Domesday Book (1086) until the Dissolution and it is thought that the strange name may stem from this.

The present church was built in the early 14th century though, as usual, there was an earlier church on the site. Unfortunately a lot of the church, actually nearly all of it, has been rebuilt or replaced so the only original bit left is the chancel. The steeple was pulled down in 1722 and the present brick tower built instead. In 1812 the nave was demolished as it was cheaper to build a new one than repair the old. Though some of the old stone was incorporated into the brickwork.

Inside is quite light and airy. The day we visited there was an exhibition of bishops garments from France and Italy - there's one on the right of the picture above. There is some fabulous stained glass. The majority of it is by Charles Kempe who was working in the late 19th century, however the glass in the upper tracery of the east window is dated from somewhere between 1307 and 1320.

The statues in the church were gifted by Sir Hubert Miller, last active Lord of the Manor and who died in 1941. He owned a villa in Venice and each year when he returned to Froyle, he would bring statues with him which he would place in the church and also above the doors of the village houses as well. It is for this reason that Froyle is also called The Village of Saints.

The churchyard is all very neat and tidy. The remains of The Preaching Cross are in the grounds. This consists of just the base with a modern cross to Dorothy May Summers. The original cross was erected in 1310 and the guy who put it there made this rather rash assertion: Moreover we will maintain forever the marble cross. So much for the sanctity of the church! Can't find out what happened to it but by 1882, Francis Baigent wrote in The Abbey of the Blessed Mary of Waverley that the base was all that remained. Maybe someone pinched it!

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