Otterbourne Church history
St. Matthew's Church, Otterbourne
There has been a church in Otterbourne since the 13th century, but in this short guide we are only concerned with the church on its present site.
The Building: The work of the building began on the 16th May, 1837 when the foundation stone was laid by Mr Yonge (Vicar’s Warden) and was consecrated by Bishop Sumner and dedicated to St Matthew on 30th July 1839. The minister at that time was the renowned John Keble, as this parish formed part of his benefice at Hursley. The site of the church was given by Magdalen College, Oxford, and John Keble himself gave the sum of £400 towards the cost of erection, said to be about £3,000. Mr Owen Carter of Winchester was the architect, but Mr William Crawley Yonge (father of the authoress Charlotte Mary Yonge) took an active part in the planning of the building. He also gave the fine oak pulpit, adorned with carvings in low relief of the Virgin and Child, flanked by the four latin fathers of the church. A point of interest to note here is that the panels are of wood except two at the side which are of cast iron. There appears to be no reason for this. The chancel rails of carved oak, also a gift of Mr Yonge, came from a premonstratension abbey in Flanders and contain the figures of St Anthony of Padua, St Clara of Assisi, St Dominic, founder of the famous order, and St Norbert, Archbishop of Magdeburg. Legend states that these rails were obtained by Mr Yonge from a second-hand shop in London.
The shape of the present church differs from the original in several ways. When built it was cruciform in shape with a gallery at the west end. The font was situated at the front of the church, almost in the position now occupied by the front row of pews. In due time it was found that the seating capacity was not sufficient and the north aisle was added, the gallery being removed at the same time. The work was completed towards the end of 1874 and the following year work commenced on extending the church with an apse which now forms the sanctuary.
Organ: The present organ was then installed and the vestry now used as the vicar’s vestry was completed. This work was completed at the beginning of 1876. It was during this year that Otterbourne became separated from Hursley and constituted a separate parish. With the addition of the sanctuary the altar was moved back to its present position and the choir stalls added. No doubt the church music before the installation of the organ was supplied by a small orchestra.
Dividing the choir from the body of the church is a fine rood screen, erected to the memory of Charlotte Yonge, commemorating her life and work for the church. The lychgate was a gift by her and her grave lies close at hand at the foot of the granite memorial cross of John Keble and it is perhaps fitting that she should be buried at such a spot, devoted as she was to the work and teachings of John Keble.
Windows: The beautiful stained glass windows represent the following themes:-
North window East window South window
- ‘Resurrection’ - ‘Crucifixion’ - ‘Nativity’
The last named was given in 1883 by the Reverend John Yonge in memory of his son who died at Otterbourne House in 1847. The West window bears, among other things, the arms of Bishop Sumner.
Font: The font is carved Caen stone with a very fine carved wooden cover of ‘The Good Shepherd’.
The north aisle was converted into the Allbrook Side Chapel in 1964 to take the place of and continue the memory of the Allbrook Mission Church which was pulled down many years ago.
Bells: The bell tower originally contained two bells but, during recent restoration work one was found to be cracked and was not replaced.
Spire: The spire itself was found to be unsafe and was demolished.