A Silchester Quester with Historic Church Search (Hampshire)

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Lowland and Hill Walks
Apr 02

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20 km/12.5 miles; 6 hours

Pretty and profusely painted; solid, serene and spacious; remote, rustic and restrained; haphazard, homely yet harmonious: four churches (one a priory), three of which are Grade I listed. The last is next to something far better known: Calleva Atrebatum, Roman Silchester: late Iron Age capital, bustling city of Britannia...and now just some fields encircled by a wall. Never mind; the extent is impressive. All these sights are linked by a relaxed, ring-shaped route that passes through fields, farms and forests. 

Sights to see on the walk:

St James, Bramley: One of Simon Jenkins's England's Thousand Best Churches. Mostly late-Norman, with a 15th century screen, 17th century tower and fine wall paintings. These include a magnificent 15th century St Christopher wading through a sea teeming with ships, mermaids and fish, and a scene of the murder of Thomas Becket from just 50 years after his death - a remarkable survivor of the Reformation. The south transept is by Sir John Soane, which includes the Brocas memorial, lavishly sentimental and vivid. Lise Meitner, co-discoverer of nuclear fission, is buried in the churchyard.

Pamber Priory, Pamber End: Benedictine Priory, founded 1120, dissolved 1417 by Henry VI. Plain and majestic crossing tower, the serene chancel is intact but the nave and auxiliary buildings are ruined. Handsome effigy of a knight, 14th century. Leafy, secret setting. Sir John Betjeman considered it 'one of the loveliest churches in the county'. 

St Peter, Tadley: Brick tower of 1685, Georgian chancel. Pulpit of 1650 and furnishings of 17th and 18th Centuries.

Pamber Forest and Silchester Common: Nature Reserves both, the Wildlife Trusts write: 'Pamber Forest is a large ancient woodland site traditionally managed by coppicing and grazing...The woodland is predominantly oak and birch, and the heath and wood pasture on the east of the site make an interesting contrast to the woodland site.'

Roman Silchester: Late-Iron Age town (oppidum) and capital (civitas) of the Atrebates tribe, Calleva Atrebatum, Roman town, now abandoned. Perhaps never really thrived, despite having baths, a forum, temples, and an amphitheatre, and never became a modern settlement. Mostly excavated between 1864 and 1909, then covered over with the finds taken to Reading Museum. The perimeter wall reaches 4m in places.

St Mary, Silchester: Another one of Simon Jenkins's England's Thousand Best Churches, mostly of the 13th century with some 14th century. Fine mahagony fittings, allegedly taken from wrecked ships of the Spanish Armada. Superb screen of angels with pierced wings, and roses and pomegranates celebrating the marriage of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. Beautiful recessed 14th century tomb of a woman in a wimple.


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