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Breamore House

Breamore House

Breamore House

This beautiful Elizabethan red brick house was damaged by fire in 1856 that ruined the interior, but the exterior has much the same appearance as when it was built in 1583. The house contains many valuable paintings, tapestries and pieces of furniture.

Breamore Countryside Museum, close to the big house, has a modern maze, the winner of a 1983 competition, laid out in brick in the lawn.

The Mizmaze

On the top of a hill more than a mile from any settlement is Breamore Mizmaze. A footpath near Breamore House leads to the Mizmaze on Breamore Down. A Christian cross cuts through the Cretan design of the mediaeval turf mizmaze on the estate. This is not the sort of maze with dead ends, but a labyrinth where all paths eventually lead to the little mound in the centre. Paths of turf, made by cutting down to the bare chalk between them, curve in a symmetrical pattern, which is also found on the floors of some Italian and French churches.

Mizmaze was originally used on holy days in Pagan times and Druids claim fertility dances took place. Later both the turf and church ones seem to have been used for penances, according to tradition, monks used the maze for their penances, painfully traversing it on their knees. With prayers said at fixed points along the path: the folds of the maze may also have represented the folds of sin.

Breamore Mizmaze is enclosed by a grove of yew trees, suitably romantic for such an odd survival. Close to it is a Bronze Age barrow. The Mizmaze itself is fenced: necessary for its preservation.

The Mizmaze is not accessible by car, which adds to its atmosphere. The usual route is a footpath of a little over a mile up through the woods from near Breamore House, but footpaths lead up to it from all directions. One from Whitsbury leads around Castle Ditches. All make good walks.

Mizmaze

The Mizmaze, Breamore Down

St Mary's Church - Entrance

St Mary's Church

Breamore Church

From the years 980 to 1130 information about Breamore Church is scanty. Who built it or how it was administrated during that period is the subject of further research. With the founding of the Augustine Priory in 1130 there is a very complete history of the successive priors who administered the church. In 1536 Thomas Cromwell, as the King's agent, appointed a ' Commission of Visitors to the Monasteries to give colour to their confiscation. In the account of 30th May, 1536, not a single scandal is even hinted at in connection with the Hampshire Houses, the report on the Austin canons of Breamore was "that they are of good conversion.'' Not withstanding the nature of these reports every one of the smaller houses was suppressed before the close of the year.

Prior Finch was, on 21st June 1536, assigned a pension of £18 per annum, and in March 1538, he was made Suffragan bishop of Taunton. The site of the Priory was granted to Henry Marquis of Exeter and Gertrude his wife, together with all its possessions, amongst which is enumerated the Manor of Breamore and the rectories and chapels of Breamore. The site of the Priory can still he seen adjoining the River Avon and North of Breamorc Mill. Excavations on the site in 1898 revealed only trace of the cloisters and some stone coffins, three of which were removed and placed beside the old Yew tree in Breamore Churchyard to preserve them from damage. Some beautiful old tiles found during the excavations can be seen in Salisbury Museum.

Breamore church is a large and handsome structure and is of special interest, being a valuable and practically complete example of a Saxon building dating from late in the X th century. It is exceptionally long (96ft 6in) and consists of a chancel and aisle-less nave, separated by a square central tower, from which there opened originally a lateral porticus or chapel or transept on each side, the one on the north having now disappeared, and there are indications that a western adjunct also existed opening into and of the same width as the nave.

The walls are composed of whole flints with large quoins of irregular long and short work and pilaster strips of green sandstone and ironstone, but the appearance it now presents is very different to its original aspect, for the whole church both within and without was covered in pro-conquest times with plaster, the only portions left uncovered being the quoins and pilaster strips, which projecting from the face of the wall are cut back to receive it, but it is continued unbroken over the splays of the windows. Alterations have been few, but the chancel was re-built in the XIV th century, the old walls in their lower part being retained, and a south porch has been added.

Breamore is not, strictly speaking, a cruciform church, but its most interesting architectural feature is that it presents a step forward in the evolution of the cruciform or cross plan (which eventually became such a prominent feature in mediaeval church construction in England), with the tower between the nave and chancel resting on piers and arches, the latter opening to transepts of the same width as the tower, the whole connected together in one structure. In some of the earlier churches there had been side chapels (porticus), as for instance as St Pancras, Canterbury, where they projected from the side of the nave, halfway up its length. In latter churches, such as Britford, near Salisbury, and Deerhurst, Gloucestershire, the chapels projected on each side near the east end of the nave.