HISTORY OF ALL SAINTS
It is believed that Jutes and not Saxons lived in the area and worshipped in this pleasant little church set in a woodland glade, reached by a narrow lane from the village centre.
Parts of the present church are known to have been here since 1272 and were began by the Jutes who ruled the area from Winchester. And ever since then the church has altered to meet the current demands of the people it has served and will no doubt carry on into the future.
On entering the church, through the lychgate which is constructed of local oak and has a central coffin rest was constructed in 1938 and commemorates three successive Compton family members, who have all be Rectors of the church, you come upon the north porch and do not realise you have already walked where people have walked for the past 900 years, even though the porch was not constructed until 1683.
The pointed chancel arch over the pulpit has been reconstructed using the original stones around the 11th century.
The pulpit which is a triple deck affair is made of New Forest oak and is dated around the 17th century, and the desk on the bottom deck was for the Parish Clerk, who these days runs the local parish council.
The lectern in the middle is still used today for the reading of the Lesson and often the main pulpit at the top is used to deliver sermons. The transept was originally constructed to cascade down the south wall to where a cast iron pillar now stands.
The main gallery constructed in the late16th century was for musicians that accompanied the hymn singing long before the organ was introduced into churches, the local choir can still be occasionally found singing here today. The upper gallery was added in 1818 and is believed that it was built to accommodate the less well off people and children.
Believed to have been once hidden away from the puritans, the oldest stone in the building, the font can be found in front of the pulpit, and is reputed to be made during Saxon times. It was recovered from its hiding place by an Abbott who found it buried in the garden of the Rectory, while digging the garden. Though buried for more than two centuries the font was erected on a new pedestal in 1893.
The font was not the only treasure that had been hidden away and since rediscovered. While doing construction work during the 1970's builders uncovered a wall painting which now hangs on the rear chancel arch above the ceiling.
Over the centuries the pews have changed dramatically, the oak ones dating back from the 1600's, while the box pine pews in the transept were once painted yellow. To the left of the altar rail can be found one of three Victorian family pews each of which had a hearth and chimney to keep the worshippers warm. The Castle Malwood pew was donated to the Church when Castle Malwood was sold to the Southern Electricity Board in 1949, and belong to Major General Robbins Daniel Hanbury. The Parnell family owned the Minstead Lodge pew by the porch and today still contains the family memorial as well as the organ console which was installed following the tragic death of William Parnell, Lord Congelton in a motor accident in 1967.
Compton window commemorates the death of the Squires son who died in 1923. While on the west transept wall by the nave can be found a plaque which commemorates the death of the Squire and his two brothers in early 1943.
Began as another private pew the south transpet once held a sofa, but the pew vanished in 1790 and a new "starter" transept was constructed for the estate workers and their families.
In 1820 the transept was enlarged to what it is today due to the expansion of the local community.
Outside in the churchyard one can see the bell tower which was rebuilt in 1774 and contains five bells, which include a very rare pre-Reformation 15th century bell and another two which were hung in 190 to mark the 700 years of continuous clergy at All Saints.
Upon the roof can be found a finial, which was made from local oak by a member of the congregation in 1998. A carving depicts the Tree of Life and the word Pax (Peace). A cross and three globes representing the Trinity are also found.
The churchyard also contains some very remarkable gravestones, among them being many devoted to the Purkess (Purkess) family, which are related to the wife of the webmaster. Among these is the oldest one that can be read and stands on the right hand side of the path into the church, to John Purkess and is dated 1680, the Purkess family are well known in the forest and is believed to be related to Purcas the charcoal burner who carried the body of William II (Rufus) on a cart to be buried in Winchester Cathedral after he was accidentally shot by Sir Walter Tyrrell while hunting nearby. The Rufus stone can be found on the other side of the main A31 road to Ringwood, where the name Purkess can be found engraved upon it..
Another well known (locally) gravestone is where a Mr White is buried and includes a space where the word "faithful" used to be carved before "husband". It is believed that his wife had request the words "faithful husband" to be carved there until village gossip made her think otherwise and had the offending word removed!!
A faithful friend. A father dear.
But the most famous grave of all is that to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle lies buried beneath an oak tree at the rear of the church. The creator of the Sherlock Holmes stories family retreat was just over the parish boundary, and the memorial is a mecca for mystery fans the world over.
He was buried in an upright position being a devoted spiritualist in the garden of his home in Crowborough, East Sussex in 1930. His second wife buried along side him a decade later. His gravestone reads:
Financial problems let to the sale of the family home but the graves remained there until the family relented to the original wish of Lady Jean that they be buried all together at Minstead. The couple were laid, horizontally this time, to rest in a double grave early one morning in a double lead casket. Conan Doyle's did cause a b it of embarrassment to the Church of England but they did eventually agree that he could be buried only by the far boundary of the church grounds.
On the west side of the churchyard is the grave of Thomas Maynard, who died in 1807 at the age of 27. He was a member of the Band of Musicians of the South Hants Yeomanry and his headstone has a carving of the old musical instrument known as a serpent, an essential part of church bands in those days.
An unusual Yew tree by the lychgate is reputed to be at least 400 years old while others claim it was planted when the church was built. A severe storm ripped down half of the tree after it had been partly filled with concrete in 1979, due to a hollow centre, this caused a lot of arguments about whether to fell the tree completely or to leave it to chance. But it is still there today which is mainly due to expert treatment by tree surgeons who estimate it as over 700 years old.
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