The Spanish Armada and Stockbridge, a link on a church wall.
It’s not unusual to find murals painted on the interior walls of churches but some are more of a puzzle than others. In the old church of St Peter’s in Stockbridge, some old murals were discovered and carefully restored in 1992. One is dated 1588, the year of the defeat of the Spanish Armada.
The threat of a Spanish invasion had been hanging over the reign of Queen Elizabeth I for decades but this time the Spanish intended to see the threat through to its bitter end. The Spanish fleet, consisting of over 100 ships, would sail up from Spain along the English Channel and join forces with the ships of the Spanish King’s nephew, the Duke of Parma, who were making their way from the Netherlands. This combined force it was thought, would be capable of conquering England and throwing its Protestant Queen from her throne.
The English stood firmly by their beloved Queen Elizabeth and waited, watching the seas for the first sight of the Spanish Armada. At the first signs of the Spanish fleet, beacons flared along the coast. Soon Queen Elizabeth left London and made her way to Tilbury to deliver ‘that’ speech, to her troops and her people.
“I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too”.
The Queen’s stoicism and courage in the face of the threat of invasion drew the English people close in a stand against the Spanish. Elizabeth was confident in her people and in her Protestant God and she was certain of the measures taken to ensure her fleet was superior in every way. The weather that met the Spanish fleet was foul and the English fire ships that turned on the Spanish caused them to flee. It was felt that both God and the English troops had defeated the Spanish and great relief was felt up and down the country by the majority of English citizens. Up and down the country thanksgiving services were held to mark this great victory.
The scale of that defeat and what it meant to the people of England cannot be underestimated. England was a country that had been torn apart by religious quarrels, it teetered on the brink of religious chaos. Queen Elizabeth’s Protestant God needed to survive to keep England on her steady course.
That such a thanksgiving service would have taken place in old St Peter’s church in Stockbridge is completely plausible. The E and R and the date date 1588 are clear. The design between the two initials and the symbol above are much harder to interpret. I haven’t seen another inscription like this in Hampshire.