All Saints Church, at Monk Sherborne, is an
exceptionally complete early Norman building, that has managed to
retain a lot of it's original shape and simplicity. More than likely it is older than Pamber Priory, which lies a
little way up the road. None of the building is earlier than 1140, but there is a window
just above and to the west of the north door, which is evidence
of a building of an earlier time. The remains of an apse, behind the altar, are disproportionately
large i comparison to the rest of the chancel.
The visitor enters the church via a very beautiful wooden porch,
which dates back to the 14th century. That this porch has
survived is extremely remarkable due to the destruction that
overcame many churches in the years of Cromwell's Commonwealth.
The door itself is older, around 1140-50, the Norman period.
Traces of a 13th century chequerboard ornament remain above the
door. Though the porch has now obscured this, probably by an
earlier lych gate standing there.
On entering the church, the first thing you notice is the font.
This is a deep stone bowl, vertical sided on which roughly carved
faces can be seen on three of the sides. Only one of the faces is original, probably from around 1230. The
pedestal, base and cover are Victorian, and were introduced
during restoration work in 1887. During this period a Jacobean
communion rail was removed from the East to the West end of the
church, and is still lying there near the front of the rood
The rood screen, which is made from oak has a central Gothic arch
built during the 15th century, whilst the two flanking arches are
19th century. On examining the screen closely it is possible to
see a face, similar to those on the font in place of the intended
rose is carved in the centre of a trefoil, instead perhaps, of an
Further up the church, on the North wall can be found five brass
tablets, of which two of these were discovered buried under the
chancel floor. These tablets are an interesting statement on the
politics of the area in the years of the civil war. Their dates
ignore the years of the Commonwealth (1649 - 1660).
Opposite here, on the South wall there is a rectangular stone
tablet belonging to Benjamin Biggs of Putney. It seems he was a
successful man at his trade, for such a large memorial, and was
buried far from his home of Putney, (noticeably given as in
Surrey). While renovations were being carried out on the pews the
flooring underneath was lifted revealing his tomb. The tomb is
vaulted and of 18th century brick construction, a lot of which
had disintegrated and a further inner lead coffin.
The pulpit, which has survived intact, is from 1651. This, as in
the case of St Andrews, is no small tribute to the devotion of
the parishioners who at that time installed it and saved if from
the depredations of the Commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell.
The chancel and arch is from about 1140 and looking closely at
the 'grotesque head' as described by the Victorian Country
Histories - it can be seen that the teeth rest on the necking on
the capitals of the arch, an unusual decorative feature.
The entrance to the vestry, in the South wall, was added in 1852,
and is where the oldest item of St Andrews is found...the pillar piscina. This stands unobtrusively against the outside wall, and
carries its 800 years well dating as does from the late 12th
The bell tower window has three 15th century cinquefoil-headed
lights. And the windows themselves ate from the 19th century. The
figures reveal the connection with The Queens College, Oxford, as
owners of Pamber Priory and at one time of All Saints and Sherborne. King Edward III, to the left, founded the college with
a Charter, dated 18th January 1340: Queen Philippa in the middle,
under whose protection the College was established; and on the
right Robert de Eglesfield, chaplain to Queen Philippa and
another founder of the college. The other windows of the church
also date from the 19th Century and are a wonderful display of
Hugh de Port's reward for distinguished service in the Battle of
Hastings was to be given large estates in North Hampshire.
Included in his estates were two Shires or Shers, on either side
of a brook or burn. They were known as East Sherborne and West
Sherborne. All Saints, West Sherborne, was given to the Prior and
monks of Pamber by Hugh's son Henry. Henry's grandson married
into the St John family, whereby East Sherborne became known as
Sherborne St John, and West Sherborne, in turn, became Monk
The long unbroken line of vicars attests the continuing
independence of All Saints for over 800 years. In 1976 however,
the then incumbent John Gurnos-Davies took on the responsibility
of the merged and enlarged Parish of The Sherbornes with Pamber.
He left Monk Sherborne to take up residence in Sherborne St John.
All Saints to-day enjoys the status of a Grade 1 listed building,
which means that it is considered by English Heritage to be of
national importance. Unbeknown to the Parish, this has been its
proper status since the 1960's with the fact coming to light in
1992 when the Historic Building Bureau of Hampshire County
Council pursued its belief in the quality of the building.
The Grade 1 listing arises from a combination of factors: the
basic Norman aspect, the 14th Century porch, the 16th Century
pews, all in a remarkable state of preservation: the bell turret
with its 16th Century (or earlier) oak timber work supporting the
five bells. Two of the bells are dated 1595 and 1653, the other
three are 19th Century. In addition the church underwent an
extraordinarily good re-ordering in 1852 under G F Bodley, the
distinguished Victorian architect. He installed the panelled
roofing, the organ casing, the chancel flooring and choir stalls
as part of an extensive refurbishment programme. In 1992 the parish played its part in the ongoing process of
preservation. Problem areas of the tower timbers, the stonework,
the floor staging were tackled, at a cost of £55,000. We hope
the visitor enjoys the tranquility of a church which continues in
regular use after 800 years. June 199