St John the Baptist Church Burley
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Burley was originally part of the Parish of Ringwood and it was only separated from it in 1838 when Sir John Lefevre, Lord of the Manor of Burley, gave part of his estate, called Barn Close, for the erection of the first Anglican Church in the village.

The Church of St John the Baptist, Burley was consecrated by Charles Sumner, Bishop of Winchester, on 14th March 1839. It was a simple rectangular building, designed by Charles Underwood, comprising of what is now the nave and choir of the present church. The cost of about £1,000 was raised by local subscription together with a further sum of £1,000 for the building of a Vicarage nearby.

Shortly afterwards a "Dame's School" was built in the churchyard which provided education for local children until the County School was built some fifteen years later.

In 1851 the pews were enclosed and a gallery, reached by an outside staircase, added at the west end. In 1886 the church was stated to be very damp and the seats so ill-arranged that kneeling was impossible for adults. In those days the parish clerk was paid £3 and the organist was paid £5 per year!
A well-known Victorian architect, William Butterfield, designed a new sanctuary, vestry, north porch and organ chamber and these were added in 1886/7. The gallery was removed from the west end and better seating provided.
The 19th century Font is of grey and white marble in which small fossils can be found. It is covered with a carved oak lid.

Between 1936 and 1978 the pews, choir stalls, altar rail, pulpit and lectern, were all replaced with the fine oak ones you see now. Many were given in memory of Burley people, including the interesting communion table by the bookcase made by Thompson's with the famous carved mouse.
In 1955 a Compton organ of three extended ranks replaced the Victorian one, made by Bevington. It is still in use in the Parish Church of Hook in Hampshire. The present organ a Copeman Hart digital electronic one, was installed together with the new sound system in 1998.


The White Ensign over the west door was presented to the parish by the officers and ship's company of HMS Burley in 1958.

In 1967 the Victorian tiled floors in the chancel and sanctuary were replaced with Purbeck marble and Portland stone.

The church room, on the north side of the church, was added in 1974 and enlarged in 1987 to provide meeting rooms, kitchen facilities and storage space. A toilet for the disabled was installed in 2004.   In 2019 a complete refurbishment was undertaken and a Church office was added.

Like the windows, the memorial tablets, both in the church and churchyard, tell their own stories of Burley people.

One, in the churchyard not far from the north door, commemorates a Frenchman who sought refuge in England after the Revolution of 1789 and settled in Burley as a nursery-gardener. The inscription reads "In memory of Virtue Fey who departed this life Oct.9.1863 aged 62. Also of William Fey who died July.13.1859 aged 85. By much largeness of heart and enterprise he gave employment to many and his resources provided School Instruction for Burley when it was at that time remote and destitute of any."

A memorial on the north side of the nave bears the delightful legend "Emma Harding. 1873-1976 a faithful member of the congregation who continued to walk to church when past her hundredth year." Another centenarian is commemorated on the next tablet but one. The quality of wording of the memorial tablets repays careful reading. They reflect well the styles of brass and stone tablets over a period of about 100 years.

Hidden amongst the memorial pews and furniture in the nave are two wooden mice, the signature of Thompson who made them. To find them, look carefully at the legs of the small table near the font and at one of the pew seats towards the pulpit.


The stained-glass spans over 100 years, the earliest windows dating from the Victorian restoration of 1886. A new window was installed to celebrate the Millennium in 2000 and another one in 2006 celebrating the life of Sdn Ldr Vernon Churchill Simmonds and all those pilots who took part in the Battle of Britain. Like the memorial tablets on the walls they were nearly all given in memory of Burley people and each has its story to tell.

The east window depicting St John the Baptist in the centre together with St Luke and St Paul was given by William Esdaile, formerly of Burley Manor. His own memorial is the west window showing Faith, Hope and Charity, given by his many friends. The south sanctuary window commemorates the death of a young girl, Ruth, aged 14, and tells the story of our Lord raising a dead girl to life.

In the nave on the south side, St George commemorates a soldier killed inaction in Tunisia in 1943. Near the door is a very different window associated with World War 1. This was given by the children of the Sunday School in thanksgiving for peace, symbolised by the doves.

Towards the pulpit, the figure of Jesus knocking on the door is reminiscent of Holman Hunt's famous painting "Behold, I stand at the door and knock".

Appleby Window

The next two have North American connections. Miss Applebee, who lived to 107, introduced woman's' hockey into America. St Catherine of Sienna is the patron saint of Sport. Note the hockey sticks in the border also the rebus of her name shown as pictures of apples and bees. The Appleby window was given in 1984 by her many American friends. The other window in memory of Mary Warren-Taylor of New York was given in 1936 by her great friend Miss Applebee, who also gave the pulpit and choir stalls in her memory.

The Millennium window on the south wall facing the door was installed following a fund raising effort by the whole village. The concept and original design was by a member of the congregation, to celebrate 2000 years of Christianity.

Millennium Window

It symbolises the journey of Christianity through the ages as it travelled around the world though the ages encompassing people of all races.
The text on the book is from Galatians 4:4

The latest Memorial window was installed in 2006, celebrating the life of Sqdn Ldr Vernon Churchill Simmonds of Manor Farm, Burley, one of the Battle of Britain pilots. many of whom gave their lives for our freedom in World War ll. The symbolism in this window represents the spitfires that took part in the battle, the coming home to Manor Farm, surrounded by the Forest and the ponies. The doves of peace overlooked by the Guardian Angel, are a prayer in themselves. Peace on Earth.

Memorial Window
St. Mary Magdalene Chapel 2009

St Mary Magdalene Chapel

The new St. Mary Magdalene Chapel was built in 2009 and consecrated by the Bishop of Winchester on 4th October in that year.

Mary was healed by Jesus and remained close to him throughout his Ministry. The hope is that everyone who uses the chapel will feel that same level of closeness with Jesus as Mary did. We hope you will enjoy the peaceful & serene surroundings that the Church & Chapel offer.




The name Burley comes from two Saxon words BURGH – LEAH meaning a fortified place with fields; this refers to Castle Hill, a Bronze or Iron Age hillfort just North of the present village centre.

Two ancient trackways from the North and from the West, converge here before continuing South-East to the coast near Pennington, where limestone ledges connected the Isle of Wight to the mainland until about 100 BCE.   The hillfort stands about 100 metres above sea level, with wide views West and North, controlling these important routes.


 The village continued to flourish through Roman and Saxon times, until King William ordered the clearance of the area to create his New Forest in the year 1079 CE. To compensate the residents of the area, they were granted "Rights of Forest”. Any property existing before 1837 CE  still holds its Rights, and the Verderers Court in Lyndhurst still maintains the Register showing which Rights each old property has. The free roaming ponies, cattle and donkeys are still exercising their Rights to wander freely, including the middle of the roads !


Burley continued as a traditional Forest farming community, supplementing its income with an active role in the Smuggling industry over many years, and supplementing its diet by poaching the Royal deer.


The railway across the New Forest was opened in 1847, known as Castleman’s Corkscrew because of the winding route chosen by its promoter, Mr Castleman. This brought many visitors to the New Forest, which became a favourite vacation and retirement area from Victorian times.


Nowadays the village centre holds many shops and cafes to attract visitors, though the old thatched roofs and cob walled cottages still stand behind some of the newer shop fronts, and can be seen all over the area. Walkers, cyclists and other visitors will find Burley a worthwhile destination, and we hope you will visit our beautiful Church.   You are very welcome to come along to one of our Church Services.


We are grateful for all the help of local people in writing this short history, especially to the late Felicity Hardcastle BEM, our local historian, who wrote "Records of Burley" for our enjoyment

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