“Deep in the woodlands of the Meon Valley, the Church of Our Lady of Warnford stands in peaceful isolation. This is hallowed ground where God has been worshiped continuously for thirteen hundred years. The church serves a scattered parish of farms and cottages that is Warnford"
The Meon Valley was one of the last places in England to hear about the Christian Faith. Its villages were inhabited by Saxons and Jutes - the Meonwara meaning the Meon People, when Saint Wilfrid came to live amongst them from 681 – 686AD. Two ancient stone tablets, written in Latin, lay claim to the founding of this church by Wilfrid during that time and some have also claimed that Wilfrid made his headquarters here, although the source of this claim has not been found. In any case, Adam de Port, the Lord of the Manor who lived in Warnford 500 years after Wilfrid respected the link with the saint as he rebuilt the church in stone in 1190. More information can be found about Saint Wilfrid at the following link.
Today the church sits in a private estate which can be accessed directly off the A32 when leaving the village going South. Access from the entrance gate to the church is on foot only and cars should not be parked outside the gate as it is in constant use. Visitors are asked to respect the privacy of the land owners and heed the notices at the entrance and elsewhere on the site.
Of note are the ruins of St John’s house behind the church built in 1210 by the St John family who had married into the de Port family. This is a very rare example of a 13th century hall, unique in the South of England and described more fully in a leaflet that can be found in the church. The flat ground to the left of the bridge as you approach was the site of an Elizabethan mansion built to replace the old hall which first became a barn and then a ‘scenic ruin’ when the estate was landscaped by Capability Brown in about 1760. Around this time the River Meon was expanded into the lake we can see today and the old riverside road from Alton to Gosport was diverted to the line of the present A32, the work being largely undertaken by Napoleonic prisoners of war. Many visitors come to the church in the spring to see the glorious display of snowdrops (see pictures below) - in fact, many just know Warnford as the ‘Snowdrop Church’. Also don’t miss the gravestone under a holly tree outside the church door (see picture above) - a salutary tale of gardening on a Sunday after being warned not to - learn the full story in the church!