La de dah, it's all very special, and you get the occasional pony trotting down the road. It is extraordinarily beautiful and always full of traffic, and home to a rather extraordinary church, St Michael and All Angels (just seen in the background, above).
St Michael and All Angels is at the top of a little man-made hill, and probably the third incarnation of a church on the site. When the pretty Georgian chapel became too small and leaky, a competition was held to design a new building. A vicar's son, William White (nephew of the naturalist, Gilbert) won, and his design was built between 1858-68. It is a Victorian wonderland, filled with beautiful design and moving detail and has an unexpected link to the Victorian art and literature world, other than the designers of the interior. To enter the church, you have to go through one of the beautifully decorated doorways...
|The carved figures around the West Doorway|
|Jeremiah in chains from the Old Testament|
The West Doorway is particularly splendid, as it is a heavily decorated carved arch, filled with foliage and carved figures. The West Door was given to the church by Le Chavalier de Chatelain in memory of his wife, Clara, who is buried in the churchyard. He is best known for translating Shakespeare into French for a Victorian audience. Come on inside then....
|That sound is Mrs Walker hyperventilating at the Victorian wonderful-ness|
|The East window by Burne-Jones and Morris|
|Fresco with stained-glass light|
Around the corner from the marvellous fresco is a splendid painting of Madonna and Child...
This was by a friend of Burne-Jones, known only as Mrs Glover and the angel on the right, with the red hair, is rumoured to be Ellen Terry. I particularly loved the spindly trellis against the golden background, gorgeously backlighting the angels.
Turning around, the other windows are by Morris and Co (south transept) and Charles Eamer Kempe (west window) with his little wheat sheaf 'signature'. I think I need to now see other Kempe windows to spot the wheat sheaves.
|Saints by Burne-Jones, Angels by Rossetti|
|Detail of west window by Charles Kemp|
Kempe's window is from 1903 and was designed for the Aitchison family. In design it shows a shift from the Pre-Raphaelite style to a more Arts and Craft Aesthetic.
All through the church are tiny angels and figures in wood or stone...
|Here's an angel...|
|And another couple...|
They are all over the place, and are all different. Some are down low, just above head height, and some are right up in the pointed arches. Every where you look there are decorative touches, so that you always feel you are being watched, beneficently, by little figures hovering above you.
This wouldn't be one of my outings without something to make you bite your knuckle at the quiet pathos of it all, and here's today's moment of bittersweet. In the graveyard, there is a fairly large, yet plain, grave, well stocked with flowers and well visited. It is the grave of Mrs Reginald Hargreaves, who spent a large part of her adult life in Lyndhurst. The Great War Memorial inside the church holds the names of her two sons, Alan and Leopold, who died within a week of each other. While she preferred to be remembered as Mrs Hargreaves, living her married life in assumed anonymity, we can't help but remember this grieving mother as Alice Liddell, some time resident of Wonderland...
I do urge you to go down to the New Forest if you can, it's gorgeous and this is an absolute gem of a church with some stunning works inside. How often do you get to see the grave of one of the most famous characters in children's fiction?
Really, that sort of thing happens once a month at the most...