History of Blessed Mary
It is not known precisely when this Church was built, but the Domesday Survey records two churches in the Manor of Bishop’s Waltham, of which one is thought to be Upham. In 1132 it was referred to as “ecclesia” (“church”) in the Charter of the Hospital of St Cross, Winchester, and again in 1284 in the Letters Patent of the Prior and Convent of St Swithun. The first known Rector of Upham was Robert de Borghaise in 1304, and we have a continuous list of his successors down to the present day, which can be seen on the wall to the right of the font.
In 1598, which is as far back as the records of Upham vestry go, the Church was described as having a squat tower, a nave, a chancel and a south aisle. The original tower was rebuilt in 1700, of blue and red chequer brick, and in Victorian times the Church was extensively restored and the north aisle added, the latter being completed in 1881. The moving spirit behind this was the incumbent, the Reverend R S Gubbins, and the architect was G E Street. When the north wall of the Church was demolished three early 13th century arches were uncovered, and one of them was re-used at the east end of the new north aisle by the organ loft. Mr Gubbins’ daughter, writing in 1914, recalled the days before the restoration when Upham Church had high pews, a three-decker pulpit, two large galleries and a grind organ with three cylinders of hymn tunes. The present organ was installed in memory of the Reverend Gubbins, who died in 1884, and it was renovated in 1981 by Mr R Boston of Owlesbury.
The beams in the chancel are of the 17th century, and the wheels on the beams were for raising and lowering the candles. The stained glass is mostly Victorian and later, but there is a little window, high above the altar, which is medieval. It is shaped like a lamb’s head and contains the arms of the Plantagenet Kings. Since these were also the arms of Henry, Cardinal Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester from 1404 to 1447, who built the Beaufort Gatehouse at St Cross, it is tempting to think that there must be a connection with him.
The two windows in the north aisle and the one at the west end of the south aisle, in the choir vestry, are by Kempe, circa 1895 and 1892 respectively. The memorial window to Mrs Gubbins, at the east end of the south wall, is by Mr Powell, and was inspired by the first two verses of Revelation 22. An explanation given by her daughter, Bertha Tufnell, hangs below it.
During the Civil War, in the year 1642, Cromwell’s soldiers stabled their horses in Upham Church, and there is an entry in the churchwardens’ accounts of a sum of money being paid for cleaning the church after “use” by horses. A later churchwarden, when Cromwell’s regime ended, added the letters “ab” in front of the “use”, thus making it clear whose side he was on! During this period, the then Rector, Myth Wayferer, was removed, and Matthew Stocke, described as an intruder, was installed. In due course he disappeared, and Myrth Wayferer was restored in 1663. This can be seen on the list of Rectors, as can the name of Edward Young, sometime Prebendary and Dean of Salisbury and Chaplain to King William and Queen Mary. His son, also Edward, who was to become a well-known poet in his day, was born in Upham Rectory and christened in Upham Church on the 3rd July 1683. Virtually forgotten today, he was honoured as a “great man” by Dr Johnson, and his satires were said to rival those of Alexander Pope. His best known work was “Night Thoughts on Life, Death and Immortality”, from which comes the well known line “procrastination is the thief of time”. He was educated at Winchester College.
The bells have always been of great importance to the life of Upham Church. There was a peel of bells in the original tower in the 16th century, which were replaced in 1761 by six bells cast by Thomas Swaine in a field near Alresford. These were re-hung in 1850. The names of some of the workmen employed in installing the bells are in the bellchamber. In 1978 the frame had to be replaced and, as the result of an appeal, enough money was raised to re-tune the six original bells and to add two new bells to improve the chime. There is a plaque giving details of the work behind the font.
Above the door of the Church as you go out hangs a copy of an original painting by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) commissioned by the Burgomaster of Antwerp to hang above the altar of the Carmelite Monastery in Antwerp, and which is now in the art gallery of the city. The subject is the Crucifixion, and the painting is known as the “Coup de Lance” – the thrusting of the spear.
In 1996 with funds from a generous legacy from the late Colonel Davidson of The Manor House in Upham, a former Church Treasurer and Chairman of the Governors of Upham Church of England (Aided) Primary School, a new room was built in the west end of the north aisle. Named the Davidson Room, it is dedicated to Colonel and Mrs Davidson.
As part of its celebration of the Millennium in 2000, a stained glass window was commissioned to be inserted in the trefoil in the east end of the south aisle. The work was carried out to the design of Mr Simon Knight and is intended to express the all-encompassing energy of the Holy Spirit and the vibrancy, vitality and importance of Christianity today and the new Millennium.
In 2003 a new door, the main entrance to the Church, was installed, paid for by popular subscription. On the 21st December 2003 it was dedicated to Mr Edward (“Ted”) Barnett who for many years had been the verger, a friend and helper to many in the village and a tireless worker for the Church.