Sir William Heathcote, therefore, resolved to build a church for the
people, and Mr. Yonge was again the architect and clerk of the works,
profiting by the experience gained at Otterbourne, so as to aim at
Early English rather than Decorated style. A bell turret, discovered
later at Leigh Delamere in Wiltshire, was a more graceful model than
that of Corston. The situation was very beautiful, cut out, as it
were, of the pine plantation on a rising ground above the road to
Romsey, so that when the first stone was laid by Gilbert Vyvyan, Sir
William's third son, the Psalm, "Lo, we heard of the same at Ephrata,
and found it in the wood," sounded most applicable. St. Mark was the
saint of the dedication, which fell opportunely on 21st April 1841,
very near Mr. Keble's birthday, St. Mark's day, and to many it was a
specially memorable day, as the Rev. J. H. Newman was present with
his sister, Mrs. Thomas Mozley, and her husband, then vicar of
Cholderton; and the Rev. Isaac Williams, a sacred poet, whose
writings ought to be better known than they are, was also present.
The endowment was provided by the chapter of Winchester giving up the
great tithes, and a subscription of which T. White, Esq. of Ampfield
gave 500 pounds.
The Rev. Robert Francis Wilson was the first curate, being succeeded
in the curacy of Hursley by the Rev. Peter Young, then a deacon, who
inhabited the old vicarage. The present one, which had been built by
Sir Thomas Freeman Heathcote, was made over to the living by Sir
William some years later.
Immediately after the consecration, Sir William was married to
Selina, daughter of Evelyn John Shirley, Esq., of Eatington,
Warwickshire, a marriage occasioning great happiness and benefit to
all the parish and neighbourhood.
CHAPTER X - HURSLEY CHURCH
In one of his prose writings Mr. Keble speaks of the faithful
shepherd going on his way though storms may be raging in the
atmosphere; and such might be a description of his own course as
regarded his flock, though there were several of these storms that
affected him deeply. One gust came very near home.
The diocesan, Bishop Charles Sumner, was an excellent and
conscientious man, with a much deeper sense of his duties as a bishop
than his immediate predecessors, and of great kindness and
beneficence; but he had been much alarmed and disturbed by the
alleged tendencies of the Tracts for the Times, and shared in the
desire of most of the authorities to discourage their doctrines and
practice. When, therefore, the curate of Hursley came to Farnham to
be admitted to the priesthood, he was required, contrary to the usual
custom with candidates, to state categorically his views upon the
Holy Eucharist. He used the expressions of the Catechism, also those
of Bishop Ridley, but was desired to use his own individual words;
and when these were sent in, he was rejected, though they did not
outrun the doctrine that had always been taught by the close
followers of the doctrine of the Catechism. Nevertheless, in spite
of this disapproval, there was no withdrawal of his licence, and he
remained at Hursley, not thinking it loyal to seek Ordination from
another bishop, as would readily have been granted. He married Mrs.
Keble's cousin, Miss Caroline Coxwell, and their young family was an
infinite source of delight to the childless vicarage.
Their baby ways, to one who held that "where christened infants
sport, the floor is holy," and who read a mystical meaning into many
of their gestures and words, were a constant joy and inspiration; and
there grew up a store of poems upon them and other little ones,
especially the children of Dr. George Moberly, then headmaster of
Winchester College (later bishop of Salisbury). These Mr. Keble
thought of putting together for publication, being chiefly impelled
to do so by the desire to improve Hursley Church, the eighteenth
century arrangement of which really prevented the general inculcation
of the more reverent observances which teach and imply doctrine.
In consideration of the feelings of certain old parishioners, and the
other more pressing needs, as well as of the patience with which so
great an enterprise needed in his mind to be contemplated, nine years
had elapsed since his incumbency had begun before he wrote: "We are
stirring about our Church, and next spring I hope really to go to
work; you must come and see the plans first, or else hereafter for
ever hold your peace in respect of alleging impediments. One feels
that one's advanced age has not rendered one fitted to set about such
works; but really the irreverence and other mischiefs caused by the
present state of Hursley Church seem to leave one no choice."
The step that had first been taken was one for which many generations
far and wide have reason to be grateful, the arrangement and
publication of the Lyra Innocentium, to a certain degree on the lines
of the Christian Year, so as to have one poem appropriated to each
Sunday and holy day (though these were only fully marked off in a
The book is perhaps less universally read than the Christian Year,
and is more unequal, some poems rising higher and into greater
beauty, some deeper and showing that the soul had made further
progress in these twenty years, some very simple in structure, fit
for little children, yet with a grave and solemn thought in the last
Those that are specially full of Hursley atmosphere, on events
connected with the author, may be touched on here.
"Christmas Eve Vespers" was suggested by the schoolmaster's little
daughter going into church before the decoration had been put up, and
exclaiming, disappointed, "No Christmas!" "The Second Sunday in
Lent" recalls, in the line on "the mimic rain on poplar leaves," the
sounds made by a trembling aspen, whose leaves quivered all through
the summer evenings, growing close to the house of Mr. Keble's life-
long friend and biographer, Sir John Taylor Coleridge, at Ottery St.
Mary. An engraving of Raffaelle's last picture "The Transfiguration"
hung in the Vicarage drawing-room.
"The Fourth Sunday in Lent," on the offering of the lad with the five
loaves, was suggested by the stained window on that subject given by
the young Marquess of Lothian - a pupil for some years of Mr. Wilson
at Ampfield - to the church at Jedburgh, built by his mother. Now
that he has passed away, it may be remarked that he, as well as all
the children commemorated in these poems, grew up so as to leave no
painful impression connected with them. "Keep thou, dear boy, thine
early vow," was fulfilled in him, as it was with George Herbert
Moberly, the eldest son of Dr. Moberly, who, when a young child
staying at the vicarage, was unconsciously the cause of the poems
"Loneliness" and "Repeating the Creed," for Easter Sunday and Low
Sunday. Frightened by unwonted solitude at bedtime, he asked to hear
"something true," and was happy when Mrs. Keble produced the Bible.
He was a boy of beautiful countenance, and his reverent, thoughtful
look, as he repeated the Creed, delighted Mr. Keble. It was little
expected then that he was doomed to a life-long struggle with
invalidism, though he was able to effect much as a thinker and a
priest before he, too, was taken to see in Paradise "the glorious
dream around him burst."
It was a baby sister of his who drew herself up in her nurse's arms
with a pretty gesture, like a pheasant's neck in a sort of reproof,
as she said "Thank you" to her little self, when she had held out a
flower to Mr. Keble, which, for once in his life, he did not notice;
and his self-reproach produced the thoughts of thankfulness. One of
the gems of the Lyra, "Bereavement," was the thought that came to the
mind of the Pastor as he buried the little sister, the only child
except the elder girl, of the bailiff at Dr. Moberly's farm. "Fire"
embodied his feeling about a burnt child at Ampfield -
We miss thee from thy place at school
And on thy homeward way,
Where violets, by the shady pool,
Peep out so shyly gay
The Lullaby, with the view of the burnished cross upon the spire, and
the girl singing the baby to sleep with the old Psalm -
In Thee I put my stedfast trust,
Defend me, Lord, for Thou art just,
is another Ampfield scene, inspiring noble and gentle thoughts for
"Lifting up to the Cross" (St. James's Day) was the product of a
drawing brought home from Germany of a sight beheld by Miss Maria
Trench, on a journey with Sir William and Lady Heathcote. She
afterwards became Mrs. Robert F. Wilson, and made her first wedded
home at Ampfield; and there is another commemoration of that journey
in the fountain under the bank in Ampfield churchyard, an imitation
of one observed in Tyrol and with the motto -
While cooling waters here you drink
Rest not your thoughts below,
Look to the sacred sign and think
Whence living waters flow,
Then fearlessly advance by night or day,
The holy Cross stands guardian of your way.
"More Stars" (All Saints' Day) and "Wakefulness" (The Annunciation)
are reminiscences of Charles Coleridge Pode, a little nephew of Mr.
Yonge, and his ecstatic joy on the first night of being out of doors
late enough to see the glory of the stars. A few months later, on a
sister being born, he hoped that her name would be Mary "because he
liked the Virgin Mary." And when, only a few days later, his own
mother was taken from him, he lay awake and silent, night after
night. He, too, was one who fulfilled his early promise, till, as a
young physician, he was cut off after much patient suffering. "More
Stars" is also attributed to an exclamation of one of Mr. Peter
Young's children; but in point of fact, most little ones have broken
out in a similar joyous shout on their first conscious sight of the
Mrs. Keble used to forbear telling of the subjects of these poems,
lest, as she said, there might be a sort of blight on the children in
breaking the reserve; but most of them are beyond the reach of that
danger in publicity; and I can only further mention that the village
children en masse, and the curate's in detail, furnished many more of
the subjects, while still they only regarded Mr. Keble as their best
They cheered him when the great sorrow of his life befell him in the
secession of John Henry Newman, hitherto his friend and fellow-
worker. It came at a time when perhaps he was most fitted to bear
it, when his brother in Gloucestershire and his wife at home had just
begun to recover from a terrible typhoid fever caught at Bude.
Words spoken in the immediate prospect of death, by Mrs. Keble,
strengthened her husband's faith and made him more than ever
determined to hold fast by the Church of his fathers; and the
thankfulness and exhilaration caused by the improvement in her health
carried him the better over the first blow, though he went out alone
to a quiet deserted chalk-pit to open the letter which he knew would
bring the final news of the reception of his friend into the Roman
Nor did his Hursley plans stand still. Under the management of Sir
John Taylor Coleridge and other friends, the Christian Year had
become much more profitable, and the Lyra also brought in a
considerable quota, so that the entire work could be undertaken at
Mr. Keble's expense.
It was decided, partly by Mr. Yonge himself, that the enterprise was
on too large a scale for his partial knowledge, and moreover, much
progress had been made during these nine years in ecclesiology, so
that architects who had made it their study were to be found. The
design was committed to William Harrison, Esq., a relation of
Archdeacon Harrison, a very old friend and contemporary. It followed
the lines of the existing church, which were found to be so solid and
well built as for the most part only to need casing and not renewal,
nor was the old tower taken down.
The contract with Locke and Nesham was for 3380 pounds, exclusive of
the flooring, the wood-work, and other fittings of the interior. For
this 1200 pounds was set aside, but the sum was much exceeded, and
there were many offerings from private friends.
The altar of cedar-wood was the gift of Robert Williams, Esq.; the
altar plate was given by Mrs. Heathcote; the rails by the architect;
the font by the Rev. William Butler and Emma his wife, and the clergy
and sisters of Wantage. Mr. Butler was then vicar of Wantage, later
canon of Worcester and dean of Lincoln. The present cedar credence
table was made long after Mr. Keble's death, the original one was
walnut, matching the chancel fittings.
This was proposed as the inscription on the base of the font, to be
entirely hidden -
In agro Hursleiense
Hunc Fontem, Lavacrum Regenerationis,
In honorem D. N. J. C.
Presbyteri, Diacones, Lectores, Sorores
Ecclesiae SS. Petri et Pauli
Whether the whole was actually cut out on the under side of the
granite step must be uncertain.
The steps of the sanctuary have in encaustic tiles these texts. On
Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have a right
to the Tree of Life, and enter through the gates into the city.
On the step on which the rails stand:
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for
they shall be filled.
On the next:
Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed
are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
And on the highest:
Thine eyes shall see the King in His beauty, they shall behold the
land that is very far off.
The lectern was the offering of the friend of his youth, the Rev.
Charles Dyson, Rector of Dogmersfield, copied from that at Corpus
Christi College, where they first met.
The corbels were carefully chosen: those by the chancel arch are
heads of St. Peter and St. Paul, as exponents of the inner mysteries;
those by the east window are St. Athanasius and St. Augustine as
champions of the faith. On the corbels of the north porch, looking
towards the hills of Winchester, are Bishops Andrewes and Ken on the
outside; on the inside, Wykeham and Waynflete. On the south porch,
St. Augustine of Canterbury, and the Empress Helena over the door; on
the outside, Bishop Sumner and Queen Victoria to mark the date of
"How would you like to have the book boards of the seats?" wrote the
architect; "perhaps it would suggest the idea of a prayer desk if
they were made to slope as the chancel stalls?"
And certainly their finials do suggest kneeling, and the arrangement
is such that it is nearly impossible not to assume a really
A stranger clergyman visited the church, measured the font and the
height to the ceiling, and in due time, in 1850, there arrived the
beautiful carved canopy, the donor never being known.
The windows did not receive their coloured glass at first; but Mr.
Keble had an earnest wish to make them follow the wonderful
emblematic series to which he had been accustomed in the really
unique Church of Fairford, where he had grown up. The glass of these
windows had been taken in a Flemish ship on the way to Spain by one
John Tame, a Gloucestershire merchant, who had proceeded to rebuild
his parish church so as fitly to receive it, and he must also have
obtained the key to their wonderful and suggestive arrangement.
Fairford Church is much larger than Hursley, so that the plan could
not be exactly followed, but it was always in Mr. Keble's mind. It
was proposed that the glass should be given by the contribution of
friends and lovers of the Christian Year. Two of the windows came
from the Offertory on the Consecration day, one three-light was given
by Mrs. Heathcote (mother of Sir William), another by Sir William and
Lady Heathcote, one by the Marchioness of Bath, and one by the
Marchioness of Lothian. The designs were more or less suggested by
Dyce and Copley Fielding, but the execution was carried out by
Wailes, under the supervision of Butterfield. The whole work was an
immense delight to Mr. Keble, and so anxious was he that the whole
should be in keeping, that the east window was actually put in three
times before it was judged satisfactory. The plan of the whole was
Mr. Keble's own; and though the colours are deeper, and what is now
called more crude, than suits the taste of the present day, they must
be looked upon with reverence as the outcome of his meditations and
his great delight. I transcribe the explanation that his sister
Elisabeth wrote of their arrangement:
The Hursley windows are meant to be a course of Instruction in Sacred
History from Adam to the last day the church being dedicated to All
The north-west window has Adam and Noah. The windows along the north
aisle each represent two persons from the Old Testament.
The three-light window on the north side, David with the ground plan
of the Temple, Moses with the Tables of the Law, Solomon with the
Model of the Temple. The Medallion under Moses is the Altar of
Incense, and some of the Holy things.
The whole of that window means to represent the fixing and finishing
of the Old Religion.
Then comes in the north chancel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and
Daniel, the prophets preparing for the Gospel.
The north-east window has the Circumcision connecting the Law with
the Church, with the figures of Anna and Simeon on each side.
East window: The Crucifixion, The Blessed Virgin and St. John on
each side, The Agony, Bearing the Cross, and the Scourging.
The side window of the Sanctuary has St. Stephen and St. John the
Baptist as the nearest Martyrs to our Lord, both before and after
Him, and their martyrdoms underneath.
The south-east window: The Resurrection, with soldiers at the
Sepulchre. St. Peter and St. Paul on each side.
The south chancel windows: The Four Evangelists; under, St. Luke,
the Disciples at Emmaus; under, St. John, he and St. Peter at the
The three-light south window: St. James the Less, first Bishop of
Jerusalem; underneath, the Council in Acts x. 6. At his side two
successors of the Apostles, St. Clement of Rome, Phil. iv. 3, and St.
Dionysius of Athens, Acts xvii. 34, to show how the Church is built
upon the Apostles.
In the west window, the Last Judgment, with St. Michael with his
scales, and answering to Adam and Noah in the west window of the
north aisle; and as a repentance window, St. Peter and St. Mary
Magdalene in the west of the south aisle. In the two windows close
to the font, St. Philip and Nicodemus, for baptism.
So were carried out the lines in the Lyra Innocentium.
The Saints are there the Living Dead,
The mourners glad and strong;
This sacred floor their quiet bed,
Their beams from every window shed
Their voice in every song.
The clerestory windows were put in somewhat later, on finding that
the church was dark, and Mr. Keble wished to have the children
mentioned in Scripture, in outline upon them, but this was not
It was first thought probable that readers of the Christian Year and
the Lyra Innocentium might have presented these stained windows, but
the plan fell through, and the only others actually given were the
repentance window, representing St. Peter and St. Mary Magdalene, by
Mr. Harrison. Two were paid for by special offertories, and the rest
were finally given by Mr. Keble, as the sums came in from his
The spire, completing the work, was added to the ancient tower by Sir
The foundation stone, a brass plate with an inscription surrounded by
oak leaves and acorns, was laid on the 29th of May 1847, but the spot
is unknown. The entire cost, exclusive of the woodwork and the gifts
mentioned, amounted to 6000 pounds. The large barn was used as a
temporary church, and there are happy recollections connected with it
and with the elm-shaded path between the Park and the vicarage field.
When all sat on forms without the shade of pews, example taught a
lesson of reverent attitude to the congregation, who felt obliged to
lay aside any bad habits which might have grown up out of sight, so
as to be unconsciously prepared for the new church, where the very
width of the open benches and the shape of their ends are suggestive
of kneeling in prayer. The period of the building was a time of
enjoyment to Mr. Keble, for it was symbolical to him of the
"edifying," building up, of the living stones of the True Church, and
the restoring her waste places. When the workmen were gone home he
used to walk about the open space in the twilight silence in prayer
When the topmost stone was to be added, on 18th October 1848, and the
weathercock finally secured, Mr. Keble ascended to the elevation that
he might set his hand to the work, and there said a thanksgiving for
the completion - "The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of
this house. His hands shall also finish it" (Zech. iv. 9).
The day of the Consecration was an exceedingly happy one, on 24th
October 1848, the only drawback being that Sir William Heathcote was
too unwell to be present. There was a great gathering - the two
Judges, Coleridge and Patteson, and many other warm and affectionate
friends; and Sir John Coleridge was impressed by the "sweet state of
humble thankfulness" of the Vicar and his wife in the completion of
The sermon at Evensong on that day was preached by Mr. Keble himself,
in which he spoke of the end of all things; and said the best fate
that could befall that new church was that it should be burnt at the
He thought, probably, of the perils of perversion from true Catholic
principles which the course of affairs in these days made him dread
exceedingly, and hold himself ready to act like the Non-jurors, or
the Free Kirk men in Scotland, who had resigned all for the sake of
principle. "Nevertheless," he wrote, "I suppose it is one's duty to
go on as if all were encouraging."
And he did go on, and supported others till, by God's Providence, the
tide had turned, and much was effected of which he had only dreamt as
some day possible. It was in this frame of mind that the poem was
composed of which this is a fragment:
The shepherd lingers on the lone hillside,
In act to count his faithful flock again,
Ere to a stranger's eye and arm untried
He yield the rod of his old pastoral reign.
He turns and round him memories throng amain,
Thoughts that had seem'd for ever left behind
O'ertake him, e'en as by some greenwood lane
The summer flies the passing traveller find,
Keen, but not half so sharp as now thrill o'er his mind.
For indeed every lapse in his parish turned to fill their pastor with
CHAPTER XI - THE GOLDEN DAYS OF HURSLEY
Those forebodings of Mr. Keble's mercifully never were realised; many
more years were granted in which Hursley saw the Church and the
secular power working together in an almost ideal way.
To speak of what Sir William Heathcote was as a county gentleman
would be difficult. He was for many years Chairman of the Quarter
Sessions, and it is worth recording that when King Frederick William
IV. of Prussia wished for information on the practical working of the
English system of government, and sent over two jurists to enquire
into the working of the unpaid magistracy, they were advised to
attend the Winchester Quarter Sessions, as one of the best regulated
to be found. They were guests at Hursley Park, and, as a domestic
matter, their interest in English dishes, and likewise their surprise
at the status of an English clergyman, were long remembered.
Considerable county undertakings originated in these days - a new and
well-managed lunatic asylum at Fareham, a renewed jail on the then
approved principles, and the inauguration of county police. In all
these undertakings Sir William Heathcote and Mr. Yonge were active
movers, and gave constant superintendence while they were carried
out. Ill health obliged Sir William to retire from the
representation of North Hants in the Conservative interest in 1847,
but in 1854, on the recommendation of Sir Robert Harry Inglis, he was
elected member for the University of Oxford, and so remained till his
final retirement in 1868. What he was in both public and private
capacities has nowhere been better expressed than by the late Earl of
Carnarvon in a letter to the editor of the Times.