by Dr. Isabel Sanderson
The architect of the church, built in 1866, was Henry Conybeare,
the brother of the Revd. Charles Ranken Conybeare, then vicar of
the parish of Itchen Stoke with Abbotstone. The design of St.
Mary's was based on that of La Sainte Chapelle in Paris.
The site is several feet above the level of the road and this
adds to the imposing nature of the building. Some years ago, the
graveyard was planted with wild daffodils and the irregular
spacing of conifers and other trees enhances this site. A steep
path leads from the churchyard gate to the west door, above which
is a small statue of the Good Shepherd. A large, circular rose
window above the doorway was given by Lady Ashburton in memory of
her husband. In the evening sunlight the glass in this window can
give rise to brilliant reflections.
When seen from the outside, the proportions and design of the
east end of the church, though very different from those of
neighbouring village churches, are nevertheless pleasing. The
roof is of purple and grey-green slates, skilfully laid in a
regular diamond-shaped pattern: at the east end of the ridge is
an open belfry with two bells, built above the chancel arch. The
walls are faced with ragstone and the quoins are of Portland
The entrance to the church is through the west door which opens
into a wide vestibule with a vaulted stone roof. The vestibule is
divided into three compartments and round the walls of the outer
ones is a low stone bench. Light comes from two small, cross-shaped
windows, one in each of the north and south facing walls. Placed
in the vestibule is ^an ancient font of stone, standing on four
plain pillars, its sides rudely sculptured with something like an
arabesque pattern of surrounding foliage' such is the
description recorded by John Duthy in the early 19th century
after his visit to the old church in a meadow adjoining Water
Lane where he saw the font. It is some three feet high and
somewhat weather-beaten. Having been found in pieces in the
present churchyard hedge where it had been dumped many years
previously, it was reassembled by a recent vicar, the Revd. H. L.
Inside the church, the beauty of the shape, colour and design of
the windows at the east and west ends, the absence of exposed and
elaborate roof timbers, and the size and proportions of the nave
with its four large bays create an uncluttered feeling of
simplicity allied to dignity. There is no screen to obscure the
view of the long, elegant, arched windows of the chancel which
contain small pieces of clear, red, blue and green glass arranged
in geometrical patterns. The chancel contains five windows of two
lights, each surmounted by a small rose window similar in design
to the larger one in the west wall. The chancel has a vaulted
stone roof: the floor is circular in plan and covered with glazed
brown and green tiles laid out in the form of a maze.
The pulpit on the north side of the nave is entered from the yestry. It is made of wood and is supported on a tall pedestal.
Each of the five recessed panels is filled with scroll work and
foliage in cast iron and this design is repeated at the ends of
On the walls of the nave and chancel are several memorials though
some have been removed. The oldest are two brasses on the west
wall near the door. Originally these were in the old church; they
were taken away when this building was demolished in the early 19th
century. The larger brass, 1ft. 7in. in height, is in memory of
Joan Batmanson who died in 1518 and underneath is a brass plate
with the following inscription:-
"Of your charite
pray for the soule of Johan
Batmanson late the wyffe of master John
Batmanson doctor of Sevell which Johan
deceased the xviii day of may the year of our lord
mvcxvtii on whose soule Jhu have mercy"
Joan Batmanson is portrayed standing with
hands together in an attitude of prayer. The sleeves of her gown
are plain and finished with deep, fur-trimmed cuffs and round her
waist is a loose. ornamental girdle.
Joan Batmanson's will of 1518 is in the Hampshire Record Office
in Winchester. She had three daughters and some grandchildren.
Various people in the village are mentioned including the vicar,
Sir Bernard Byknell, and a James Dodds. It is interesting to note
that one of the fields belonging to Manor Farm, Itchen Stoke, is
called Dodds, some 450 years after the death of Joan Batmanson.
The second brass is that of a lady of about 1500 kneeling at a
desk. She is wearing a pedimental headdress and a close-fitting
gown with fur-trimmed cuffs. Three roses form the clasp of a
girdle round her waist. This brass was missing from the church
for several years and its disappearance was reported in 1941 by C.
J. P. Cave in the Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club and
Archaeological Society. The brass had been put in a chest and
this was sold at the end of an incumbency. For many years it was
on the wall of the chapel of West Hayes School, Winchester. In
1950 it was returned to St. Mary's church and fixed on the west
wall near to that of Joan Batmanson.
Charles Ranken Conybeare (1857 to 1885) and his son. Charles
Henry Conybeare (1886 to 1903) were the incumbents of St. Mary's
for nearly 50 years and there are several memorials to this
family in the church.
The patron of the living was Lord Ashburton who lived at The
Grange, a large mansion set in beautiful parkland in the
adjoining parish of Northington. In his absence, the Revd.
Charles Ranken Conybeare was the squire, parson and father-figure
of the village, including the school.
The first Conybeare memorial to be seen is an elaborate font in
the aisle near the west door. It is octagonal in shape and is
supported by eight slim columns of different coloured marbles,
spaced round a central black marble shaft. The ends of the
columns rest on a circular plinth of polished black marble and
this. in turn, stands on a marble step some seven inches high.
The font was erected by Henry Conybeare, the architect of the
church, in memory of his ten-year-old daughter who died in 1861.
The inscription round the top of the font records the death of
his wife, Annie Conyheare. in 1871.
The inscription on a small plaque under the central window of the
chancel reads thus:-
To the Glory of God
This Chapel in memory of I. H. Markland
by his widow and children
Charlotte Markland, Charles and Elizabeth Conybeare 1866
Other windows in the chancel were given by
the vicar, Revd. C. R. Conybeare, in memory of his mother and
sister, his father, W. D. Conybeare the Dean ofLIandaff, and
brother W. I. Conybeare. Another window was given by friends in
memory of I. H. Markland.
Practically all the cost of building this church was defrayed by
the vicar. The parishioners contributed £50 towards the windows
on the south side of the nave as a mark of regard for the
Memorials of those killed in battle in the First World War, 1914
to 1918, took many forms. A simple brass plate on the north wall
of the nave, not far from the pulpit, records the names of five
men from Itchen Stoke who died in this holocaust. Two men from
the village were killed in action in the Second World War, 1939
to 1945, and two brass vases were a memorial to them. These were
placed on a narrow shelf just under the earlier brass plate.
Mention has been made of an important ford at Itchen Stoke and
this gave rise to an early settlement on the north bank of the
river Itchen. A church in the village is listed about 1270 in
Bishop Pontisarra's Register and by 1327 there were 24
householders paying tax to the king. This number represents a
population of about 100. The manor of Itchen Stoke was held by
the Abbess and nuns ofRomsey and remained in their possession
until the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII.
Subsequently the manor passed into the ownership of William
Paulet, 1st Marquess of Winchester, and remained in this family
until it was bought by Lord Ashburton in the early 19th century.
He also bought the adjoining manor of Abbotstone, to the north of
the village of Itchen Stoke.
The site of the old parsonage, church and churchyard is shown on
a plan in the Hampshire Record Office, drawn up in 1833, when six
acres of glebe land were exchanged for a piece of land alongside
the road to Alresford, on which a new parsonage was built. The
first occupant of this house was the Revd. Frederick Baring, a
younger son of Lord Ashburton. This old site, in a meadow on the
east side of Water Lane, is now fenced off. Gravestones can still
be located amongst the tangle of undergrowth and nearby are two
majestic lime trees. John Duthy described this church in his book
Sketches of Hampshire afterhis visit to the village in the early
part of the 19th century. The church was then in a dilapidated
state but 'displayed some interesting vestiges of Norman
architecture in two rows of pointed arches supported on low round
pillars'. In addition to the brasses already described he
recorded that just below the altar rails was a flat monumental
stone, with the Paulet arms and the following inscription
engraved on it:-
"Here lieth the
Of the Lady Elizabeth Pawlet
Relict of the Honble
The Lord Charles Pawlet
Brother to John the present
John Lord Marques of Winchester
Late of Abestone in the Comptey
Who died the 22nd day of
February in the yeare
Of our Lord 1671."
Lady Elizabeth Pawlet (or Paulet) lived in
the capital messuage at Abbotstone that had been built in the 16th
century by William Paulet, 1st Marquess of Winchester. The main
residence of the Paulet family was at Basing: Abbotstone House
was seldom used and there were few inhabitants living in the
village in the 16th century. In 1589, the 3rd Marquess of
Winchester wrote to the Bishop asking him to consolidate the
parishes of Itchen Stoke and Abbotstone for the support of one
incumbent and from that year, St. Mary's has served both parishes.
The advowson of the church of St. Mary also belonged to Lord Ashburton, the new owner of the manors ofitchen Stoke and
Abbotstone. The churchwardens' accounts for this period show that
a good deal of money was paid for repairs to the fabric: and the
church, situated in the meadow near the river, was cold and damp.
A more convenient site for a new church was given by Lord
Ashburton and the old building was pulled down. The new site was
in the centre of the village, away from the river, bounded on the
south by the road to Alresford and on the west by the lane to Abbotstone.
There is a brief description of this church in William White's
History, Gazetteer and Directory of Hampshire and the Isle of
Wight (1855). The church was 'a neat structure in the Early
English style with a tower containing two bells and crowned by a
lofty spire . Although no illustration has been found there are
two plans drawn to scale in the Hampshire Record Office. The
church was 60ft. long and 32ft. wide with a porch on the south
side, facing the road to Alresford. The second plan shows the
seating arrangements, the position of the windows and gallery.
These plans indicate a simple, dignified building in keeping with
the unpretentious homes of the villagers. The school opposite was
built about the same time. of undressed flints, and maybe the
church was built of the same material together with brickwork.
Laurels and Irish yews were planted in the churchyard by Thomas Barker, the parish clerk, who also planted ivy round the
church walls. Some of these trees are still in the churchyard,
including two of the yews, one on either side of the original
footpath leading from the porch on the south side to the
Alresford road. In 1840, Mr. Coles was paid £10 for slating the
tower: the church was heated by a stove fitted with a 15ft. stove
pipe, and coal was bought at first by the bushel. An organ
accompanied the singing and this was repaired from time to time
by Edward Grainger, the village carpenter. Such was the village
church when the Revd. Charles Ranken Conybeare was instituted in
April 1857. Within ten years, this 35-year-old church had been
demolished and the present building erected on the site.
A year or so after his institution, the Revd. C. R. Conybeare was
complaining about the cold, damp church and that to correct these
faults would cost almost as much as building a new church. He had
applied the same remedy to the church in his parish in
Oxfordshire before coming to Itchen Stoke. After receiving the
consent of the Bishop of Winchester and Lord Ashburton, plans for
the present building were drawn up by his brother. Henry Conybeare.
The following comments about this church are recorded in the
Victoria County History. 'Though the materials used are not in
all cases of the best, the general effect is extremely good, and
an appearance of richness has been obtained with considerable
skill.' The use of inferior, simulated stone has, over the years,
given rise to many serious problems including the crumbling of
the mouldings round the west door and the arches in the chancel
and the cracking of slim, marble columns. The large, rose window
at the west end of the church was repaired some years ago but the
cost of necessary extensive repairs to the fabric at a later date
was beyond the means of a small rural parish and regular services
in the church were discontinued, the last being held in 1971.