St John the Baptist
The Old Church
old parish church of Greatham which dates back from C.I 282 is disused and in
partial ruin. It is built of rubble composed of sandstone and ironstone with
sandstone ashlar dressings. The Chancel is still covered, and contains an
interesting marble and alabaster monument to the memory of Dame Marjory Cary
At the latter part of the last century it was decided that the church should
be left to its own demise as funds were no longer available for its upkeep or
repair. However, from time to time some efforts have been made to forestall its
In 1990 the church was declared redundant and an alternative use had to be
found. The Church Commissioners have agreed to transfer the ownership to
the Parish Council. It is to remain as a monument and a place of prayer for the
In 1992 the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings took it on as a
project and intend to continue to work on the building in order to make it as
safe as possible and to prevent any more deterioration.
The present church of St. John the Baptist was built on a new site and
dedicated in 1875. Like most churches built during the religious fervour of the
Victorian Age, it was financed by a local family.
They were called Foster and lived at Le Court, a stone mansion built in 1865/66
on an escarpment to the West of Greatham. Joseph Foster became Curate-in-
charge at Greatham in 1866 at the age of 32. At that time the Old Church was
probably in an advanced state of decay and was thought too small for the
growing population. The new Church was designed to seat 150 or more.
Joseph's elder brother William Fry Foster gave the land and £5,000 and was, in
a way, creating a lasting memorial to his parents. Sampson (d. 1870) and Mary
(d. 1869). The stained glass window behind the altar is dedicated to them and
The architects were H. and A.R Fry - cousins to the Fosters - and were a
Liverpool firm, a city becoming renowned for its Gothic Architecture. The new
Church, however was not to follow this trend. At its conception it was modem,
in the Decorated Style, without a spire, just a 30ft. tower with two bells from
the Old Church. It is possible that the simple style was designed to mirror the
lines of the Old Church. The builders were J.H. & E. Dyer of Alton and they
made use of local Selbome stone for the main structure with the more
substantial Bath stone for the dressings.
|The font with the statue
of St John the Baptist
on the wall behind
||A candle burning in a
niche by the altar
Samuel George Dudley succeeded Joseph Foster as Rector in 1875. Joseph was still
a curate but was to return later as Rector. In 1877 Thomas Hooper became Rector
but only for two years.
Joseph Foster returned in 1879, sadly he died the following year at only 46.
But, during the years he spent at Greatham both he and his wife established
themselves as a much loved and caring couple in the community. A stained
glass window in the Church confirms this. It says - "Joseph Foster - Loving
husband, tender father and true friend, he was a generous benefactor of this
Church. And to his wife - Letitia Frances Foster - Her labours of love in this
parish will long be remembered by a grateful people. 1883." The family tomb
of the Fosters is in the southern comer of the old Churchyard. The last
interment there being in 1968.
In 1880 Greatham's most disinguished Rector, Archdeacon Henry Press Wright was
inducted. Behind him lay a most notable career. His military and academic
achievements, plus his powerful personality made him a formidable Rector. From
1875 the patronage of Greatham was naturally owned by the Fosters
but in 1882 it was sold to a West country family called Nalder. Henry Press
Wright had married Anne Nalder in 1843.
1891 was an important year for Greatham Church. Eight stained glass windows were
installed and dedicated to various members of the Wright family, a magnificent
lectern was given, and a handsome pulpit designed by an eminent architect James
Like the mediaeval churches which used wall paintings and windows to depict
stories from the Bible, the windows in this church follow a similar vein.
The west windows depict scenes from the Old Testament which can be looked
up because the texts are provided in the glass.
Those in the nave follow the life of Christ from the Annunciation to His birth,
ministry. Crucifixion and Resurrection. The story isn't quite complete. In
building the Church Centre an access door was made in the north wall, in front
of the pulpit. This meant that the window showing Simeon with the baby
Jesus in the temple at Jerusalem, had to be moved into the Church Centre and
can be seen on the landing.
The east window shows the life of our patron Saint, John the Baptist. Below
each scene there is a dedication.
Sunlight shining on
plants growing on one of the
At the dedication service which was held on April 2nd 1891 for the 8 stained
glass windows, £12.5.5 was given by the congregation for a Chancel screen.
James Fowler a very talented architect, with the design and execution of many
churches to his credit, was appointed in 1891 to design it. It is there today, a
example of his work.
In the same year the patronage of Greatham was sold by the Nalders to Charles
Luttrell-West. A year later in 1892 H.P. Wright died and is buried with his
first wife in the old Churchyard.
Francis Richard Bryans became Rector in 1893. In the same year a wealthy
shipping magnate Heath Harrison and his wife purchased Le Court. They came
from Liverpool - that city of Gothic spires - and no doubt thought as many did,
that Greatham Church looked stunted and unfinished.
The Rev. Bryans had a natural rapport with Heath Harrison, they were both
graduates of Brasenose College Oxford, although a generation apart and were at
ease with each other. There is no doubt that when there was talk of "doing"
something in Greatham to commemorate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897,
Francis Bryans influenced Heath Harrison. He gave £800 to finance the building
of a spire for the Church and the Churchwarden, Timothy White gave £100. For
some reason the original architects of the Church were not asked to
submit plans. The obvious choice would have been James Fowler but he had died in
Another noted architect Frederick Chancellor was consulted. The first design was
rejected as being "too dumpy" but after some minor alterations they were
approved and work began. The spire is built entirely of English oak and the
tower was heightened to accommodate four two-light belfry windows. In all an
extra 70 ft was added to the tower and the bells were re-hung. On January llth,
1898 a dedication service was held, the Bishop of Winchester officiating.
In 1900 there were discussions about adding a South aisle to the Church but
there was no need for additional space and the prohibitive cost meant that the
idea was shelved. The population ofGreatham in 1901 was 533 but of these
166 were military personnel at Longmoor Camp.
In 1902 Francis Bryans moved to Torquay, he was 67 and Cecil Luttrell-West
became Rector at the young age of 27. He was also the Patron, his father
having purchased the living for him in 1891. He never married and lived a very
reclusive life outside his Church duties.
The Harrisons continued to give generously to the Parish. In 1907 they
provided the Lych gate. Many other families have also given unstintingly to the
Church over the years and their generosity is recorded by plaques and tablets in
the interior. In particular the beautiful statue above the Font. The sculptor
Hew Lorimer. He was born in Edinburgh and his work includes both sacred and
secular works in
Cecil Luttrell-West had the distinction of being the first 20th century Rector
of Greatham and the longest serving, thirty three years in all. He died at his
desk in the Rectory in August 1933 aged 68.
Sir Heath Harrison died the following year. Their deaths, in a way, ended an
era. With the war only a few years off and the irrevocable change it was to
bring to Church and village alike.
In 1957 Greatham was united under one benefice with the Parish of Empshott.
The old Le Court mansion was demolished in the 50's. Only the stable courtyard
and a few outhouses remain of the 1865 house. The name lives on though, in the
Leonard Cheshire Foundation Home for the Disabled which occupies the site. It
retains strong ties with Greatham, its Church and people, the Rector at Greatham
also being the Anglican Chaplain to the Home.
The Church building has changed little since the early years of this century.
Electric light replaced the gas in the 30's and improved heating and carpets are
modem additions. Apart from this we sit in the same pews where countless
others have sat before us.
In 1988 the benefice of Greatham with Empshott was united with the Parish of
Hawkley with Priors Dean under one benefice. As the result of the union,
Greatham Rectory was sold. The Incumbent currently resides in the Vicarage
Many of the facilities the Parish had enjoyed at the Rectory were lost. So in
1991 the Parochial Church Council felt that new facilities were needed. In
1994 the Church Centre was built funded mainly by the Diocese but also by
donations and covenants from the congregation and many friends of Greatham.
It was dedicated and officially opened on 23rd. October 1994 by the Lord
Bishop of Portsmouth, the Very Reverend Timothy Bavin.
Access to the new building from within the church, as well as a desire for a
more 'flexible' worship space, created a few alterations in the Church. A door
was put into the North wall Just in front of the pulpit. The stained glass
window, removed to make way for it, is now re-sited on the landing of the new
Church Centre. A dais was built and a nave altar put in position. This altar is
from the Old Church, and dated 1637. It carries a dedication to Marjory
Caryll whose tomb is in the chancel of the Old Church. A few pews were also
removed from the back to create an open space where young children can be
taken during worship if they become restless.
Taken from "A History
of St John the Baptist Greatham"
First researched by Angela Stone in 1986
Revised and updated by Huguette Jenkinson in 1966