Yesterday I visited St Peter’s Church, Curdridge, near Botley in Hampshire, in the company in Dr. Jennifer Fellows, and following the alert provided by a chat with Matt Beames the local playwright. The church is a 19th century revival of 15th century Gothic style, and includes a series of prominent stone carvings around its tower.
The Boar above is undeniably part of the Bevis story. The horse below is equally part of the Bevis story. It’s name ‘Arondel’, derived from ‘hirondelle’, meaning the fast-flying bird the swallow, in French, fits both its speed in the story, and its lofty perch here.
The knight in his chain mail below is Bevis. His luxuriant, rather Victorian, moustache makes him look less like the young knight who wins Josian’s heart and more like the mature warrior he becomes. He is shown wearing his precious mail that would resist any edged weapon and clearly drawing his sword.
This smooth-skinned, long-haired female is presumably Josian.
The female figure below is clearly older, and must therefore be Bevis’s wicked mother, the Countess of Southampton. Although this image does not show it, the carving is just below a small turret or spire which is off-set to this side of the tower. This is significant in terms of the original story because the adulterous Countess eventually throws herself off a tower after her usurping and murderous second husband is killed by Bevis.
This view shows the small turret or spire above the Countess. Above the window are the twin sons of Bevis and Josian.
A closer view of the twins Miles and Guy.
This is the most perplexing carving. It may be one of the lions, but if so, why does it have such a clearly human musculature to its arms and shoulders, and hands. It appears to be holding a foliated club so this must be Ascupart.
The carvings are certainly an interesting late addition to the Bevis story, consistent with the Gothic revival and bearing out the medieval tale’s lasting fascination for successive generations.