Mottistone Church

The Church of St Peter and St Paul dates from the 12th century. It was a private chapel to the Manor and a ‘daughter’ to the church of Calbourne. The church stood within the manor grounds with the public highway curving to the west of the church where the lane is today. It was only in 1846 that the road was re-routed to the north of the Church.

The Chekes were one of several great families to own Mottistone Manor and took possession in the mid-14th century. On the north side of the chancel is the manorial chapel, known as the Cheke chapel, originally built by Robert Cheke during the 15th century when the Church was restored.

Over the years there have been many alterations and very little of the original medieval church still remains. The nave was rebuilt and the tower added in the 15th century. The tower is built of small slate-like stones found on the beach nearby. In 1553 it is recorded that there were three bells in the tower, plus the sanctus bell which would have been rung at the moment of the consecration in mass.  Now there is only one bell dated 1664. The bells of St Peter and  St Paul would have been a very distinctive feature of Mottistone life, calling the parish to church, giving news of joy and sorrow and, most importantly, warning the village of possible invasion. The bells were also rung when a parishioner was on the point of death, so that those who heard it might offer prayers. The tolling for a man’s funeral was three bells thrice repeated, for a woman, two bells thrice repeated and for a child one toll thrice repeated.

As with a number of churches on the south coast of the Island the larger tomb in the churchyard was a convenient place to stash smuggled tubs. When the chancel roof was repaired it was lined with cedar wood salvaged from the wreck of the Cedrine in 1862.

The Hookey family’s blacksmith mark of two crossed pipes can still just be seen in the ironwork on the gates.  Church lighting presented a problem and it was not until the 1850s that ‘candles for lighting the church’ feature in the churchwardens’ accounts. The church is still lit by candles at evensong and at the Christmas midnight service when the soft glow of nearly 100 candles is most beautiful.

In 1916 the church interior was altered to make Seely family pews in the Cheke chapel.