All Saints Church
When William the Conqueror invaded England
in 1066 East Meon was already an ancient and important settlement.
A church had probably been here since the early days of
Christianity in this part of the country. By the 10th century the
church was sufficiently important for a Saxon king to grant lands
to it. Sadly nothing
of the Saxon church remains. Even its position is uncertain
although it was probably on the site of the present building. The
Normans built widely and often magnificently as a means of
proclaiming their new won supremacy. In the century following the
Conquest many new castles, cathedrals and parish churches were
built including All Saints', East Meon. This church was built by
the bishops of Winchester, the lords of the manor. The main
builder was probably Bishop Walkelin who was also responsible for
the rebuilding of Winchester Cathedral. From the beginning the church was conceived
on a grand scale. The increasingly elaborate decoration, from the
simplicity of the west door to the intricacies of the tower,
suggests it may have been built over a considerable period, from
roughly 1080 to 1150.
Sacred to the
in the County of Sussex.
and Many Years of the Tything
of Oxenbourene in this Parish.
Born May 9th 1749 O.S.
Died May 9th 1825.
Also of MARY His Wife,
Born December 8th 1750. O. S.
Died December 17th 1826.
Also of WILLIAM Son of the above
Who died April 25th 1860
Aged 81 Years.
Also of CATHERINE, His Wife
Who died July 23rd 1860.
Aged 73 Years.
Also of WILLIAM, Son of the above
Born at Oxenbourne
October 28th 1817.
Died April 8th 1907.
Also of ANN, His Wife,
Born March 30th 1829
Died December 17th 1889.
The original church was cross-shaped, consisting of a nave,
chancel, and transepts; the total length being 110 feet and the
width at the transepts 62 feet. The original work is clearly
identifiable by the round-topped arches typical of the Norman or
Romanesque style. The only major addition to the church came
around 1230 when the south aisle and the Lady Chapel were added. By then the new Early
English style, with its pointed arches and the ability to create
larger windows had arrived. The spire also dates from around this
period. After this time most alterations were largely to the
detail of the church. Windows were modernised, particularly in
the 15th century when a large east window was added. In the 18th
century the church was filled with high pews and galleries and
these were not removed until a major restoration in 1869/70.
Further restoration was done early this century by the famous
Church architect Sir Ninian Comper.
The situation of the church under the lee of the steeply rising
Park Hill is dramatic. Raised above the level of the village it
is a dominating presence. The massive tower and lead-covered
broach spire can be seen for miles when approaching the village
from the south. The walls are largely of flint and mortar with
windows, doorways etc in dressed stone. The tower is entirely of
stone. A walk around the church reveals very clearly the phases
of building. The west front still has its original Norman door
and the join where the later south aisle was added can be clearly
seen. The south doorway is also Norman although it was moved to
its present position when the church was extended. All around the
church stack pipes dated 1869 bear witness to the major
restoration of that time. That restoration also saw the roofs
returned to their original medieval height. At the east end of the church, set high on the wall, are the arms of
Prior Hinton and Bishop Langton of Winchester who were
responsible for the restoration and remodelling of the chancel
and Lady Chapel in the late 15th century. Walking around the
church the eye is constantly drawn to the tower and spire. The
elaborate decoration in the Norman style is reminiscent of the
tower at Winchester Cathedral. Looking across the road you can
see the 14th Century Court House of the Bishops of Winchester.
This building and the church together must have been a constant
and powerful reminder of the authority of East Meon's episcopal
Entering by the Norman south door it is best to start at the west
end of the nave facing eastwards. Behind you then is the original
Norman west door still used on special occasions. By contrast,
immediately to your left, stands the newest major addition to the
church, an organ built by Peter Wells and completed in 1983.
Looking east you see the original Norman nave and the heavy
arches of the crossing. The first window on the left wall is
Norman and just a trace of a similar window can be seen above the
arches to the right, indicating clearly how the original south
wall was pierced in order to create the aisle.
Moving up the nave you will see on the left a strangely shaped
window with two carved heads dating from the 14th century. By the
window is a fine pulpit of the early 18th century. It was brought
by a former vicar from the now demolished church of Holy Trinity
Minories that once stood near the Tower of London. The crossing which lies ahead of you is the heart of the original church. Its
massive quality suggests that a large tower was planned from the
start. Standing under the crossing the scale of the church can be
readily appreciated. Transepts of such size are rare in a village
The north transept has been used for many purposes over the
centuries. In the middle ages it probably contained a side chapel.
In the 18th century and much of the 19th century it had a
temporary raised floor and housed a Sunday and day school
catering for up to 160 children. The school moved to its own
premises in 1845. More recently the transept housed the organ. On
the pillar to the east of the transept entrance can be seen
traces of a head with a halo. This with a similar head on the
south side of the crossing and traces of paint elsewhere are all that now remain of extensive medieval
wall paintings. A former vicar writing in 1912 recorded that
older villagers could remember a great painting of the Last
Judgement above the chancel arch.
Passing from the crossing into the chancel we come to the part of
the church which has seen most alteration. The large north window
dates from the 19th century while the present east window in the
perpendicular style is a 20th century copy of the original
executed by Sir Ninian Comper. Comper's work is much in evidence
here and in the Lady Chapel. The east window glass is of
particular interest, being a First World War war memorial
depicting the patron saints and coats of arms of all the allied
powers. It brings together an extraordinary range of saints and
heraldry. The arms of imperial Russia and the American Stars and
Stripes can both be seen and the saints include such rare figures
for an English church as St. Sergius, St. Methodius and St.
Quentin. Other work in the chancel by Comper includes the altar
and its furnishings and the screen which divides the chancel from
the Lady Chapel which we now enter. This dates from 1230 and is
divided from the chancel by a fine pair of Early English arches.
The floor consists of old tombstones brought from various places
in the church. Again Comper's work is prominent. He provided the
glass of the east window and the fine alabaster and wood reredos
behind the altar which depicts scenes from the life of the Virgin
Mary. The chapel also contains some fine 18th century wall
plaques, whose fulsome praise of the departed seems strange to
the modem reader.
The arch from the Lady Chapel to the south transept pierces the
original outer wall of the church and is four feet thick. This
transept contains a number of interesting features. The two round-headed
windows which are now entirely within the building survive from
the original plan of the church. In the east wall there is a
curious stone with the words, 'Amens Plenty' written upon it. When
this stone was taken up from the nearby floor in 1869 it was
found to be covering the remains of four men all buried
vertically. A local legend grew up that these were four
parliamentary soldiers of General Waller killed in a skirmish in
the village just a few days before the battle of Cheriton on 29th
March 1644. There is no evidence to support this but the burial
is curious nonetheless. Also mounted on the wall are two medieval
floor tiles which probably came originally from the
area around the high altar. Beside them is a copy of a
watercolour which shows the church as it must have appeared
around 1800. Notice the lower roof levels and the cottage in what
is now part of the churchyard to the east of the church. On the
south wall are lists of the vicars of East Meon from 1283 and a
framed copy of a description of the church given in the Gentleman's
Magazine of October 1819. Finally in the north west corner there
is a stone seat which is almost certainly part of the original
stone altar broken up, on government orders, at the Reformation
in the 16th century.
We move finally into the south aisle. The odd half arch that
leads from the transept is a clear indication of how the original
structure had to be altered when the aisle was added. Today the
aisle is dominated by two fonts. The first is a very plain stone
drum on a later base. It is of unknown date and came from the
ruined chapel of St. Nicholas near Westbury House. The ruins can still be seen
2½ miles west of the village to the left of the road to West Meon. The other font is undoubtedly the greatest treasure of the
church, being one of the seven fonts made from black Toumai
marble and brought from Belgium around 1150. It was almost
certainly a gift of the then Bishop of Winchester, Henry of Blois, brother of King
Stephen and Chancellor of England. The carvings include
depictions of the earth (flat of course !) and the story of Adam
and Eve all executed in a vigorous Romanesque style. There is
still an iron ring embedded in the top where a lid would have
been padlocked down in medieval times. This was to stop the water
from being stolen for black magic purposes.
Returning to the South door you will see above it the arms of
James I dated 1613. For many years all churches were required to
display the royal arms and those of James 1 are relatively rare.
Close by is a strange, rather primitive painting of th entombment
of Christ which came originally from the Crimea
Staricase and door to one of the galleries
which was removed
Bell from HMS Mercury
the highly decorated wood screens
stone in the wall
marked 'Amens Plenty'
entombment of Christ which came
from the Crimea