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Church of the Ascension, Burghclere


A brief history of The Church of the Ascension, Burghclere

From 1160 until 1838 the principal church in the parish was All Saints at Old Burghclere with the Rectory [now Burghclere Manor] adjoining it. From 1216 Newtown had its own church with the Rectory being shared, so that the northern end of Burghclere was partly served by the church at Newtown. After the centre of the population shifted north a chapel-of-ease, built in Harts Lane, was consecrated in 1838. Soon afterwards All Saints, owing to its dilapidated state, fell into disuse and so remained until the Carnarvon family had it repaired. It was reopened in 1861. The new church in Harts Lane was enlarged and restored during 1874/75 and reopened on Ascension Day 13 May 1875 by when a spire had been added to the tower and the church dedicated to the Ascension.

The building consisted of a nave, two transepts, a square tower (with its spire), a west gallery and another gallery in the north transept with an entrance door at the bottom of the stairs which led up to it. Both galleries were later removed and the north transept became a side chapel with altar furnishings and a rail designed and made in 1963 by Leonard Parry, a churchwarden, who had been blinded in the First World War.

By 1958 the spire had become a liability and by June 1964 it had been removed. Today the church looks almost as it did in 1875.

The Parish of Burghclere with Newtown has two parish churches, one for each village. An historical oddity was discovered in 1968 by the Rector James Craig who learned that officially All Saints was a parish church, the Ascension by oversight having never been awarded that status. Reverend Craig completed a Deed of Substitution and in 1969 the Ascension was substituted for All Saints as one of the parish churches.

Of the six bells at the Ascension three were originally at All Saints, another was acquired in 1838 and to commemorate the Jubilees of Queen Victoria two treble bells were added, one in 1887 and the other in 1897.

In 1859 three lights by Wailes depicting, to the left the Good Shepherd, Suffer Little Children and the Charge to Peter, centrally the Ascension, the Nativity and the Crucifixion and to the right the Good Samaritan, Raising Jairus' daughter and Feed my Lambs were placed in the east wall of the north transept in memory of William Barter.

In 1870 the organ, built in 1863 for the Church of Saint Mary at Sutton Scarsdale, was installed in the Ascension. It was rebuilt in 1905 and most recently overhauled in 1994.

In 1882 two lights by Hardman depicting, to the left the Sermon on the Mount and Christ at the Well of Sychar, and to the right Noli me Tangere and John and Peter at the Tomb were placed in the wall of the south transept.

In 1884 five lights by Clayton & Bell depicting, from left to right, the Annunciation, the Transfiguration, the Ascension, the Resurrection, and Christ and the Disciples were placed in the east wall of the sanctuary.

In 1885 two lights by Clayton & Bell both depicting Angels were placed in the wall of the south transept in memory of Frances Fanshawe.

In 1886 a window by Clayton & Bell depicting the Crucifixion was placed in the north wall of the nave in memory of Lieutenant Henry Raymond Portal.

In 1890 three lights by Clayton & Bell all depicting the Last Supper were placed in the north wall of the sanctuary in memory of George Portal, and the pulpit was placed in the church in memory of the 4th Earl of Carnarvon.

On Palm Sunday 1901 a Font Ewer was dedicated to the Service of God by the Women of Burghclere and Newtown in affectionate remembrance of Lady Susanna Blunt, the Rector’s wife who had died the previous year. Around this time a Prayer Desk was placed in the church in affectionate memory of Mrs G. R. Portal by some of her many friends. The carving on the desk was by Thomas and Co, under the direction of Mr. G. H. Kitchin.

In December 1902 the Rector Alex Colvin Blunt presented the clock which was installed in the tower.

In 1903 new Altar Rails, the gift of Mr Bacon of Earlstone, were installed.

In 1905 three lights by James Powell & Sons depicting, from left to right, St George, the Madonna and Child and St Helena were placed above the choir stalls in the north wall of the chancel.

In 1906 two lights by Clayton & Bell depicting Musician Angels and Choir were placed in the south wall of the sanctuary.

Canon Portal and the parishioners, with help from parishioners from his former parish at Aldbury, had built the chancel. On Ascension Day 1914 the chancel screen was presented by Francis Bacon in memory of his parents. Several years later the chancel screen was enriched with light tracery by Francis and Mary Bacon as a thank-offering for the safe return of their son Alban Francis Langley Bacon after service overseas in the First World War.

In 1916 the window Caritas by James Powell & Sons was placed in the south wall of the nave in memory of Frances Evelyn May Wentworth.

The memorial to the First World War on the north wall of the nave was unveiled on 16 January 1921.

The bells were re-hung in 1929. Some of the timber from the old bell frame was used by William Allen to make a psalm board.

In 1930 a glazed oak screen replaced a curtain that had formerly separated the belfry from the nave.

In 1934 the window Fides in memory of the Hearn family and the window Spes dedicated in memory of Elizabeth Garrett both by James Powell & Sons were placed in the south wall of the nave.

In February 1935 The Wessex Electricity Company began to install electricity in the church.

In 1943 two lights by Martin Travers one depicting St George and the other St Richard of Chichester were placed in the north wall of the north transept.

The memorial to the Second World War placed in the south wall of the nave was unveiled on 6 November 1949.

The Millennium window is the last church window designed by Laurence Whistler. It was engraved by Sally Scott, placed in the north wall of the nave and dedicated on 18 July 1999.

© 2008-2014 Church of the Ascension, Burghclere.