NOV
15

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The following is taken from Rushmoor Borough Council Website

The first reference to St Michaels is in 1121 and mentions wax for candles and again in 1171 when it refers to an annual payment made by Aldershot to the Priory of St Swithun for the maintenance of three Lights to burn continually before the High Altar there.

Much that we meet in old churches throws an interesting light on the everyday life of our forefathers and explains many things which have lingered through the centuries down to our time. Old, our church certainly is. St Michael was a favourite name given to Saxon churches, and, never a great earth-worker, the pagan Saxon preferred to use for a place of burial a ready made mound, natural or otherwise. Dr Gibson, an archaeologist records a burial mound lying to the south of the tower. The suggestion of a tumulus in the churchyard is extremely interesting for St Michael, the Archangel is the patron of 'High Places', certainly the church site could be of great antiquity.

The Tower is a delightful place of Jacobean Gothic in local 'galleted' iron stone with mortar and flints and dressings of narrow red bricks. Dr Gibson states that when the 1911 extension of the modern nave took place to the north of the tower, many large stones that might have belonged to an earlier structure were laid bare and removed from the lower part of the north wall of the tower.

Upon entering the church in those far off days, the first sight which greeted the villager was a wall painting. It must be remembered that the mediaeval builder never whitewashed or colour washed the walls but covered them with pictures. Few villagers could read, instruction therefore, had to be given through the eye by pictures, statuary, or by stained glass. Usually a giant St Christopher carrying the child Christ on his shoulders over a stream, or St Michael adorned the north wall. During the enlargements of the church during 1859, a painting was uncovered and a brief description was made by the vicar suggesting its origin to be of the 13 century but sadly this could not be retained and was lost along with the Saxon Font.

There was a special plan for these settlement churches. The ground plan is a long narrow right-angled parallelogram, 46 feet by 20 feet, with north and south walls in straight, parallel lines from west to east and with no difference in width and height of nave and chancel and with these dimensions the sister chapels of Yateley, Long Sutton and Aldershot were built and is contained, but much changed in the centre portion of our church today.

The Parish Church is some little distance from the town proper, away to the south east, and is a pre-Reformation building of brick and rubble stone in the perpendicular style, with a fine old embattled western tower. There is a chancel, a nave of five bays, north aisle, and south porch. The nave was restored and the north aisle added in 1868, so that the tower, the chancel and the lady chapel extension of 1380 are the only ancient portions as they now stand. In recent years the seating capacity has become very taxed, and a scheme to provide a complete new aisle was launched and carried out. The extension work has also been crowned with a complete ring of eight bells, one of which, the tenor, serves as a memorial of fifty years' work of the former parish clerk, William Fludder. The two trebles are the 'Soldier Bells' having been provided to complete the octave by collections in many regiments by Mr James Mann and old R.E. and a tablet in the belfry records this fact. In the chancel there are monuments dedicated to The Whyte and Tichborne families. There are stained glass windows to the memory of members of the Newcome family and to the Rev J. H. West, former vicar and missionary founder of the church in Canada. There is also a beautiful memorial bearing the names of all the men of the parish who laid down their lives in the Great War. Of World War Two, there is a 'book of the stones' of the bombed cities and towns of the United Kingdom....

In 1399, an attack was made on a priest named John Bertone whist officiating in the church. He was wounded so severely 'that his life was despaired of'. By 1400 the church was in a ruinous state and Bishop Wykeham sequestrated the Rectory of Crondall to pay for its repair. The money withheld from Crondall cannot have gone far for the church was still in a dilapidated state 80 years later. An early benefactor of the church was John Awbrey who pledged 'My Manor at Aldershot' for a loan from the London Charterhouse of £126 - the Rector of Farnham being a witness. It is fairly certain that this was to complete the restoration of the Parish Church. This deed is dated 1481. His will dated 24 April 1511, requests that he and his wife be buried in the Parish church at Aldershot.

In about 1380, the little church was extended eastwards and the small structure being completed before knocking down the east wall of the original church, what is now the Lady Chapel entrance, the Altar was then removed and the wall removed. From the plan of the church it can be seen that the builders did not square the new extension, and no wonder, the Lady Chapel was built at the cost of the people for whom it was provided, and the labour supplied by the villagers.

The memorials are many. To enumerate them all would be tedious and necessarily incomplete, for they were added constantly. The most ancient are of special interest. They are to the members of the White Tichborne and Viner families who once resided here.

In 1571, the registers of baptisms, marriages and burials were commenced by William Shakford, and they have continued ever since. The period of the Civil War and Commonwealth seem to have made a greater impact on the life of the parish than the Reformation some one hundred years previously. One of our curates, Thomas Hollinshead, seems to have been ejected in 1641 and replaced by John Perry, used it and in spite of the use of the Prayer Book having been made illegal, not only in the church but in the home, making life difficult to all in the parish, he remained with us until 1677, well after the restoration of 1660.

There is a legend that Nell Gwyne, making a journey from Portsmouth to London in 1678 stayed at the Fox and Hounds Inn, and gave birth to a stillborn child of Charles II, help coming from 'Old Mother Squall' who lived near the village green, in the dire emergency. For this help it is said that the King made an annual grant of 200 to the church but this has never been proven. From then on little seems to have disturbed the life of a small country village, until 1855, when the Army came to Aldershot to create the largest military camp in this country.

In 1859, after the population suddenly increased by many thousands, the little church which had served so long as the only place of worship for at least 800 years, was enlarged by the addition of an aisle, and the virtual rebuilding of the ancient nave, plus the provision of a gallery at the western end for 117 children and then an organ to replace then a single clarionet and the choir, or psalm singers as they were called. But this was not the end of the changes. In 1912 the present fine church was completed. The architect, Sir Thomas Jackson, was truly inspired. He has left a wonderful example of continuity and unity. On the south side of the ancient church, chancel nave and tower, then reaching out from it a splendid modern church in keeping with the old, of nave, chancel and sanctuary. The whole unites in one, past present and future, fit for any modern congregation.

The Bells
The light eight (tenor 8 cwt.) were recast and rehung by John Taylor of Loughborough in early 1960. The first bell in the tower was hung in the late 14th century and the clappers still retained in the tower. Other bells were added in 1611 and 1624. When the church was enlarged in 1911 the oldest bell was recast and three other bells added, making a ring of six (tenor 8 cwt.). The first peal in the tower was of Minor, rung on May 27th 1912, conducted by Charles Edwards. Following the First World War, two trebles were given by soldiers in Aldershot Camp who had been killed during hostilities and these are named 'Soldier's Bells'.

The first peal on the octave was of Stedman Triples (half-muffled) rung on January 22nd 1927, by C. Hazelden, C. N. Burdock, H. Hutton, G. W. Steers, E. Weatherby, Sgt G. Gilbert, A. H. Pulling and W. R. Melville. It was rung in memory of Mr H. A. Mann, a local ringer who collected the money and worked hard for the augmentation, completed in 1920. The remarkable thing about the peal was the time taken - 3 hours 25 minutes with tenor 8 cwt.!

There can be little doubt that the majority of ringers who have, during military service, been stationed in Aldershot, have found their way to the old Parish Church of St Michael the Archangel and enjoyed this ground floor ring and the welcome which is characteristic of the local band. It has been and still is a very popular and lively tower.

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