ROMSEY Abbey has defended its decision to spend thousands of pounds on an 'ugly' painting after receiving letters of objection from worshippers.

The historic Abbey has spent £6,000 to keep a painting that saw 15 letters of objection out of the Abbey's 536-strong membership.

The painting, of St Ethelflaeda, an abbess at the Abbey around the year 1,000, was made specifically for where it is hung inside the Abbey and was created by the late artist Christopher Gollon in October 2016.

St Ethelflaeda is credited with being among the first founders of the religious site on which the Abbey currently stands.

Churchwarden Janet Wallace said: "All members are always invited to write in any objections, and while it is a sizeable purchase, we realise that art is sometimes supposed to be controversial.

"Of our 536 members, and 400-strong congregation, 15 wrote in to tell us of their thoughts. It is part of every single process when the Abbey purchases an item.

"I fear it has all been blown out of proportion, even though it is unusual to get complaints."

A report was carried out by Diocese of Winchester chancellor Matthew Cain Ormondroyd, and seen by the Daily Echo.

The report quotes the objectors as describing the painting as 'ugly', 'sinister' and 'looks like a giraffe neck'.

In the report, chancellor Ormondroyd said: "It seems to me that the artwork under consideration in this case risks being such an obstacle.

"On reading the papers I was at first minded to refuse the faculty. Having visited the Abbey, however, I am just satisfied on balance that the presumption in favour of things as they stand is outweighed by the benefits of retaining the painting permanently.

"The Abbey is large enough, and the painting's size and location are discrete enough, that it need not present an obstacle to worship to anyone who is displeased or offended by it."

St Ethelflaeda had a number of habits that got her noticed around the year 1,000, including stripping naked after a night time stroll down to the nearby River Test.

She would walk into the middle of the freezing water and proceed to recite religious chants for hours on end.

An extract from a report submitted to the chancellor by the Church Building's Council added: "It was designed for display at a particular place in it, a place associated with the nun's entrance to the church from the cloister.

"The council was told that during the time of its display it has attracted most conversation with visitors and that people have felt confident to engage with it and its message."