A message from Jacquie Pearce, congregation member at St John the Baptist, Northwood

Posted by Admin on Saturday, 21st April 2012, 17:05

What Northwood church means to me

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The ancient village churches of England are a precious part of our nation’s heritage. Our church of St John the Baptist began in the late twelfth century – the age of Robin Hood of Sherwood Forest. In those days the north of the Island too was covered by forest after which church and village are named with more deer, wild boar and wolves than human beings. After his conquest of England, King William gave the Island to his childhood friend, William FitzOsbern. A typical Norman, William combined warfare with concern for his soul. He in turn gave several parishes including Carisbrooke to his favourite abbey of Lyre back in Normandy.

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Lyre set up a Priory at Carisbrooke to administer their booty. The Priory set up four chapels, one of which was our first church. It was probably a simple stone box with a door at one end, altar at the other, earthen floor and thatched roof. Why John the Baptist? He preached in the wilderness ; his rough dress and manners would make him the ideal patron for a church in the wild woods. Its purpose was less spiritual than mercenary. Northwood acted as a collection point for tithes (10% of produce church tax) shipped along the Medina to the Priory or away to Lyre. Tithe-payers would swear a solemn oath in church that they hadn’t dodged their tax.

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Over the centuries the church survived wars, famine and plague. In the 14th century the medieval village surrounding it died out hence its distance from today’s Northwood. It was “one of the ruins Cromwell knocked about a bit”. Unlike St Mary’s, Whippingham and Newport it escaped the Victorians’ zeal for rebuilding churches. Through its ups and downs it has continued at the heart of the community marking the great seasons of the year – Christmas, Easter, Harvest and the rites of passage – baptism, weddings, funerals.

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Over the years buildings and worship have changed but as we pass beneath the chevroned archway – perhaps that of the original tiny chapel in the woods – we walk in the footsteps of past generations of Englishmen and women who came here to worship their God. Let us hope we can hand it on to future generations sound in fabric and vibrant in spirit.

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Jacquie Pearce

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