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IIOLY GHOST CHAPEL, &e.
The Ruins of an ancient structure at Basingstoke, known by the name of Holy Ghost CHAPEL, have often attracted the attention of the Traveller and the Antiquary. Men eminent for their skill in architecture, have considered the venerable remains, as a beautiful specimen of the taste and skill of our ancestors, in the erection of religious edifices. The contemplative moralist has visited the interesting scene, not without a mixture of regret and instruction, while he has reflected on the transitory nature of sublunary things, so strikingly displayed by these Ruins, and the tombs of the great, which they inclose. And they who have no taste for such curious monuments of ancient art and times, have been sensible of the pleasure which the beauty of the surrounding prospect is capable of imparting to the spectator.
Mr. Carter, an eminent Architect and Antiquary, in his “Pursuits of Architectural Immovation," gives the following account of Holy Ghost Chapel :-" It is situated on an eminence at the extremity of the town, overlooking the road leading to Vewbury. The style
of the architecture appears of the day of Edward IV. The design, though small, is much enriched; and among the ornaments are many of the Roman and Grecian turn; which shews that examples of this sort had been carlier introduced among us than is generally understcod. However, it is not impossible but that many of the carvings, with some shields of arms, were added in the reign of Henry VIII. in consequence of repairs or alterations then taking place. Another feature new at this time in the method of construction, is also to be met with ; that is, the walls are of brick-work, and faced with stone. The dimensions of the brick one foot nine inches, or two bricks and a half; the stone itself measuring six inches. As it is the received opinion of Antiquaries that the use of brick-work was introduced, or received in the above king's reign, we may fairly date this building one of the first trials of the kind : which, though here used as a subservient material to the stone work, yet it was very soon afterwards thought of suliicient importance to compose the major part of many large and magnificent edifices; and to this day, under various textures and colours, remains the principal article in the building branch in most parts of the kingdom. Holy Ghost Chapel, in its plan, gives one aisle, with three window's at the Eastern end, and four windows on the South side. The North side is wholly destroyed. At the West end of the South Wall is an hexangular tower. The elevation of the exterior of the South side has, on the piers between the windows,lung warrow pedostals, on which rise niches. These decorations take their place also at theangles of the tower. If we look for complete proofs of delicate workmanship, either in car
ving, or masonry, it is to be met with here. Most certain it is, so much of that which we call worthy of notice awaits the curious on this Chapel, that it should never be passed by without a certain degree of attention bestowed upon it. Its merit has made us descant thus much in its behalf. To think the inhabitants of this town will be interested from our recommendation to pay due respect for its ruins, would be an idle supposition. Some few feet more to the westward of this chapel is an erection, which once no doubt, was the body of that church to which the chapel was attached, constituting the chancel or choir. The masonry is very simple and of a much older date than the pleasing design we liave been describing as above.”*
As Winchester had bishops in the time of the Saxon Heptarchy, and the site of this Chapel has been an ancient burying place, called here the Liten, (an old word signifying a Church-yard,) it is probable, as Mr. Carter supposes, there might have been a religious structure here, before the erection of the Chapel now in ruins. It is, indeed, traditionally said, there was a church as early as the period of the Saxon times; when it must have been a place of considerable importance, as the same tradition says, that seven Saxon Kings have been there to worship at one time. Kings-Clere, in the neighbourhood of Basingstoke, having once been the seat of the West Saxon Kings, is a circumstance which renders such a tradition not improbable. A few years ago, while the
* Gentleman's Magazine, November, 1802.
workmen were digging the basin of the canal at Basingstoke, a Saxon idol, in the form of a grotesque human figure, made of brass, was found, and presented to the Antiquarian Society of London, who published a learned paper on the subject. † It was of the Æolipile kind, as some other Saxon images were, by the use of which the frauds and miracles of the heathen priesthood were effected; for, being filled with a fluid, and set on the fire they would be covered with sweat, and as the heat increased, would at length burst out into flames. Christian places of worship were frequently erected on the site of Pagan temples, it being a common practice with those who undertook the conversion of the heathens, to fix on such spots for their new places of worship, as had been hallowed in the opinion of the converts by ancient consecration. It was also thought an extraordinary piece of devotion upon the planting of christianity in these parts, to erect crosses and build churches in the most eminent places, as being more conspicuous and nearer heaven. Some have thought this was done partly in imitation of the high pluces erected by heathens to their gods.
The present chapel was not built till the former part of the reign of Henry VIII, in which the reformation began; that is, about the year 1516. There was another Religious House in Basingstoke of much greater antiquity than this Chapel. As the former seems to have been sometimes taken for the latter, it may not be unecessary to give some
† Archäologia, Vol. XII.