St George’s Arreton was the original Minster Church of the Isle of Wight with its parish stretching from the north to the south coast of the Island and is regarded as one of the most historically important churches in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. With some remaining evidence of its pre-Norman origins, it is a fine example of a Norman Church built in the eleventh Century and developed thereafter - the latest addition being ecologically friendly heating at no cost to the church when, in 2013, a local benefactor (Mr John Smith) installed radiators fed from a Biomass boiler located within the grounds of the Old Vicarage
The following is extracted from the Quinquennial Report published in October 2011 by the Church Architect, Mr Ian G Smith
Standing tall in the lower reaches of the Arreton valley, with views across towards Arreton Down, the Church of St George with its’ massive square tower, has been a beacon of Christianity for over a thousand years, and is certainly one of the most important Churches on the Island.
Arreton was one of six churches given by William I to the Abbey of Lyre in Normandy; at that time it consisted of the main Nave, together with a short Chancel; subsequently in 1140 the Church was ceded to the Abbey at Quarr, and in 1160, the addition of the north Aisle, which entailed the construction of the three Early English arches and columns, was completed.
The addition of a south Aisle in the 13th Century gave back symmetry to the Church, at the same time the Chancel was extended to the east with larger windows, and in 1299 the massive Tower was constructed, which effectively partly obscured the two Saxon west windows.
The 15th Century saw the introduction of further immense buttresses for the tower, which was increased in height, and the height of the side Aisle roofs were lifted in the 16th Century; around this time (following the dissolution of Quarr Abbey) the Church was sold to Sir Thomas Fleming.
The Victorian era saw the introduction of choir stalls in the Chancel, with new roof timbers; the Nave plaster ceiling taken down and the rafters exposed, traces of the lathing can still be seen; and the organ being installed.
In 1992 the Countess of Mountbatten of Burma dedicated the Burma Star window, designed by Alan Younger, made by David Knowles, which commemorates the close association with St George and the Burma Star Association.
Listing; Listed Grade I.
Arreton Street - St George’s Church.
The listing in the Twenty Ninth List of Buildings of Special Architectural and Historic Interest, dated 14th February 1992, of the Isle of Wight, gives a particularly detailed description of the Church, its’ history and architectural quality, including windows and other features, relying on much of the information contained in the Buildings of England, David W Lloyd and Nikolaus Pevsner, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight; this has now been updated having a separate volume on the Isle of Wight of 2006.
There are 12 separate listings for the monuments in the Churchyard, including the important Rayner monument.
The new Pevsner has 4 pages of detailed information on the Church, and he waxes quite lyrical in the first few paragraphs of his analysis stating:
“One of the most remarkable Churches on the Island, possibly the successor to an early Saxon ‘mother church’; it has impressive late Saxon work at the west end (seen only internally) and mid to late 13th century architecture of outstanding quality in the Chancel and South Chapel.
At first the Church appears quite homely as we approach from the south west; this is partly due to the relatively small west tower with disproportionally large angle buttresses, and partly due to the cat-slide roof sweeping over the Nave and Aisles. One must go inside to appreciate fully the scale and quality of the building.”
He goes into remarkable detail on all the components of the structure, noting that the “catslide roof is the most disturbing feature of the Church architecturally since it covers the clerestory”; he describes the internal fittings, notable the Font (1886); the Pulpit (1924); the 13th Century Christ; and the monuments in the Churchyard. Finally he describes the Churchyard as “attractive not over tidied”.
Items of Special Interest of the Church.
There are many items which make St George’s Arreton unique; the following are the most important:The remains of the 13th century font. The Norman window in the Chancel. The Tudor windows in the aisles. Part of the 15th century Rood Screen (incorporated into the altar rails). The Early English Columns in the Nave and the arches and windows. The Elizabethan stone porch with the sundial over the door. The bells which date from 1559 and 1601. Jacobean Altar table and Oak Chest, dated 1679. The tomb of Oliver Cromwell’s grandson, dated 1720. The brass plate over the tomb of Harry Hawes, dated 1415, with head missing.