Churches of St Mary

Bishopstoke History Society

Churches of St Mary

(Produced from a presentation compiled by Allen Guille and Chris Humby in October 2011)

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Bishopstoke in Hampshire has a recorded history which stretches back to the Jute, Angle and Saxon period. Bronze age weapons as well as Roman remains have also been found in the area. Little is known of the old Saxon church; it was probably destroyed when the Danes invaded the district in 1001. This sketch is of a church which stood on the site near the River Itchen, prior to 1825. The church is shown with a wooden tower, dormer windows in the roof and steps leading up to an entrance above the ground floor, probably leading to a gallery. The large entrance porch is typical of churches from the mid-1400s. These covered doorways were used as a trading point in the community where contracts were exchanged, and marriages arranged by way of a handshake. This church fell into disrepair and was demolished to make room for a new one in 1825. The new church was built by Dr Thomas Garnier (Rector) at a cost of £1800. Dr Garnier built a new rectory for himself and his family, when he moved to Bishopstoke in 1807, and the new residence can be seen behind the church, on the right of the picture. There are records for the rectors of the early church in Stoke Episcopi (Bishopstoke) dating from 1334. Infamous rectors of our village include William de Lude, who was defrocked as a result of his unseemly behaviour in medieval times, while John “Billious” Bale, was the incumbent in the mid-1500s.

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John Bale was Rector of Bishopstoke from 1547 to 1552. He is credited with being the author of the first historical church play and his sermons were renowned for their ferocity. His life was eventful. At the age of 12, he was sent to a house of Carmelite Friars in Norwich. The friars supported his education and paid for him to attend Jesus College, Cambridge, where he gained a doctorate in Divinity. He was frequently in conflict with church authorities. In 1536, Bale left the Catholic Carmelite order, married, and became a secular priest in Suffolk. In 1537, Bale was arrested for preaching heresy in a sermon that denounced “papistry”. He was subsequently freed, thanks in part to the intercession of Thomas Cromwell, who was a prominent supporter of Protestant propagandists, and chief minister of King Henry VIII. Thomas Cromwell was executed in 1540, after he fell from Royal favour, and Bale fled to Antwerp, with his family for safety. John Bale returned to Britain on the accession of King Edward VI, who supported the protestant faith, and received the living of Bishopstoke. Whilst here, he seemed to escape the notice of higher authorities but, taking occasion of a royal visit to Southampton in 1552, he presented himself to Edward VI – thus contradicting reports that he had died. In his “satisfaction” at finding Bale alive, the King offered (obliged him to accept) the Bishopric of Ossory, in Ireland which was vacant. (and as far away as possible). These were turbulent times. As Bishop of Ossory during the reformation, John Bale had been appointed, as an anti-Catholic, to uphold ecclesiastical reform, and bring the Irish church under the English Protestant faith, which was, to put it mildly, an unmitigated failure. It is recorded that Bale made himself so obnoxious to the Catholics in Ireland, that on the news of the death of Edward VI, (his protector) Bales house was attacked and five of his servants were killed. In 1553, Queen Mary ascended the throne, reinstated the Catholic faith, and ordered the arrests of the leading Protestants in England. Once again John Bale went into exile, and sought sanctuary in Europe, from where he launched a vigorous attack on the religious policies of Queen Mary. He had been wise to flee. During her forty-five months in power, Queen Mary ordered the burning alive of 227 men, and 56 women for their Protestant beliefs. Following the accession of Queen Elizabeth, Bale returned to England, and in January 1560 was appointed by the crown as Canon in Canterbury Cathedral. Now aged 65, Bale was not in good health, and died on 26th November 1563. It seems incredible today that there was so much conflict between different factions of Christianity, and with such ferocity. Perhaps it must also be realised that John Bale was a most controversial figure. His unhappy disposition, habit of quarrelling, and the personal dislike he aroused everywhere he went, earned him the nickname “Bilious Bale”. Despite his unpopularity, he was considered a scholar. He wrote a number of plays and is credited with works dealing with the history of early English literature containing information that cannot now be found from any other source.

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Many years after Bale, this church replaced the earlier Saxon church and, for a while, all was tranquil. This St Mary’s church built in 1825 was constructed of brick and flint with a slate roof. It had windows in the gothic style and a tower with four pinnacles. The main windows, facing east, were stained glass and the Church had a seating capacity of 240. This seating was mainly in faculty pews, which were rented by wealthy residents of the parish. There were a few backless benches to the rear of the church, and in the gallery for the poorer parishioners. The choir also sat in the gallery in 12 seats which were allocated as “the singing pews”. There was also a small harmonium. The Church was the focal point in the community and today we have lost sight that, at this time, the only other churches in the district were in Stoneham and Otterbourne.

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It was Dr Thomas Garnier who, in 1823 commissioned plans for the church seen in the previous picture and put the building programme into operation. A most popular Rector, Dr Thomas Garnier was born at Rookesbury Park, Wickham, and is Bishopstoke’s longest serving rector. He was Rector of Bishopstoke from 1807 until 1869. Although he became Dean of Winchester in 1840, he and his family continued to live in Bishopstoke. He died in 1872. For a time, due to his influence, Bishopstoke became one of the most desirable residential communities in Hampshire. He was a friend of Lord Palmerston and his nephew, Admiral Sir Henry Keppell, moved to “The Cottage” near the rectory in the 1850s.

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On taking office in Bishopstoke in 1807, Dr Thomas Garnier’s first project was to rebuild the rectory in the style seen in this sketch. He was a keen botanist and laid out the rectory gardens with many rare species of plants and shrubs, some of which had been brought back by noted explorers of the day, including his brother-in-law, William Edward Perry, a famous Arctic explorer. Many dignitaries visited these gardens including H.R.H. Prince Albert in 1851.

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An article appeared in “The Hampshire Advertiser and Salisbury Guardian” on Saturday August 2nd, 1851, related to a visit by Prince Albert to Bishopstoke to view the gardens of the Dean. “His Royal Highness, the Prince Consort, honoured the Dean of Winchester with a private visit and inspection of his recharche’ and beautiful gardens at Bishopstoke on Friday (yesterday). His Royal Highness arrived in Southampton Docks at 4 o’clock pm, in her Majesty’s yacht “the Fairy” and proceeded to Bishopstoke by first class railway carriage where he was met by the very Reverend, the Dean, and proceeded in the Carriage of T. Chamberlayne, Esq., to the rectory. In the village demonstrations of rustic loyalty were enthusiastically shown and on right and left were ranged boys and girls of parochial schools who gave His Royal Highness a right earnest English welcome. At the Rectory, His Royal Highness was met by Colonel and Lady Catherine Harcourt and Miss Delme, the niece of his Reverend, the host, and, after a short sojourn in the house, proceeded to view the beautiful garden attached to it.

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The garden is famed for being laid out in the most enchanting form, and for the neatness which pervades every portion of it. “In the centre is to be seen a noble British Oak, which rises far superior to all the exotics that surround it. Among the numerous objects which attracted the attention of the Royal guest, may be mentioned the Cedrus Deodara, a very beautiful and singular shrub, fourteen yards in circumference and twelve feet high; with its branches drooping and trailing on the ground; an almost infinite number of Magnolias; the Pinus Pallulla, from Mexico, a very beautiful specimen, and probably unique in this country; the Araucaria Imbricata, one of the finest and most beautiful specimens of foreign shrubs dispersed throughout the garden, that can be seen in any grounds of treble the extent”.

His Royal Highness returned to Southampton docks at 6 o’clock pm where he was met by Her Majesty, and Princes and Princesses for their return across the Solent to Osbourne House. Many papers, including The Times, carried an article about the “Royal” visit to Bishopstoke, yet this visit must have passed very quickly as no more than two hours elapsed between the Royal Yacht arriving and departing Southampton Docks. (Prince Albert must have had just about time for a quick stroll, cup of tea in the rectory, and a canter to the khazi, before returning to Southampton Docks).

This ground plan was prepared for the horticulturist, John Claudius Loudon and his wife Jane, who had visited Bishopstoke Rectory on 20th August 1833. John Louden produced an article which must have raised the profile of Bishopstoke and the reputation of the Rector, by describing these gardens as “a perfect gem of botanical beauty”. This article appeared in the 1834 edition of the “Gardeners Magazine” along with plans and legend as to what plants were planted, their location on the plan and a description of their appearance.

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Dean Garnier has, without question, been the most prominent Rector of St. Mary’s to grace the village of Bishopstoke, and the man who was influential through friends, family and acquaintances to make Bishopstoke, for a while, a place of influence and prosperity. This extract from “The Hampshire Telegraph” dated Saturday 5th September 1857 entitled “The Deans Jubilee” perhaps summarises the community atmosphere in the village 160 years ago. “There was a sound revelry in the village of Bishopstoke on Wednesday last. The place was alive, and there was a smile on every countenance, and the whole population, rich and poor, old and young, turned out in their Sunday clothes and with cheerful hearts to do honour to their revered Dean of Winchester, who for a period of 50 years has been the Rector of the parish. The principal inhabitants of the place had sometime decided that there should be a commemoration of the very unusual occurrence of a country clergyman having, for half a century, held and done the duties of the same benefice, and the feeling was enhanced by the high respect, cordial affection, and lively gratitude they bore to one who proved himself to be their guide, philosopher and friend.

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The arrangements were capital, thanks to Squire Bradshaw, of Fair Oak, Captain Collins, and the sturdy yeomanry of Bishopstoke. The Dean dined with his parishioners under a tent capable of containing four hundred persons, which dinner was provided by the managing committee, had been bid to come in the afternoon, the whole of the school children, to the number four hundred, were regaled by the Dean with cake and tea, and in the evening, there were rustic sports and fireworks. At the entrance to the village was a triumphal arch, lofty and well proportioned, formed of green branches and ornamented with dahlias and other flowers; there were triumphal arches also at the other approaches to the place. In the street there was a band of music, engaged from Southampton, playing the favourite air “Should auld acquaintance be forgot”, and every house had some adornment for the occasion, and the humblest of cottages, their bunches of flowers.

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Bishopstoke is a large parish, and its population is scattered, so that many parties live at a considerable distance from the village. This circumstance gave the yeomen an opportunity to furnish their wagons and horses to convey their poorer neighbours and friends to the selected spot, and wagon after wagon, crowded with happy mortals, arrived from Fair Oak, Horton Heath, and Colden Common. A little after one o’clock the parishioners formed themselves in procession, and, preceded by the band and colours, marched to the Rectory for purpose of accompanying his reverence to the place of dinner. They proceeded through the village to the meadow in which the tent was erected, being joined by the children, who were also in the procession, headed by a banner, with the following inscription – God Bless Our Generous Benefactor. The fare was abundant and excellent, consisting of rounds of beef, legs and shoulders of mutton, and veal pies, almost innumerable and to which justice was done… every labouring man was given a pint of strong beer and a quantity of tobacco. The afternoon was passed with diversions for the children, who swarmed over the meadow, and merry were they and happy seemed everybody. About five o’clock the children took possession of the tent, and with keen appetites and with evident relish did they make away with the nice plum-cake which was placed before them, and bucket after bucket of tea came from the Deanery. Whilst the little folks were amused with foot races, scrambling for half-pence, climbing the greasy pole, and such like games, the lads and lasses of longer standing were in possession of the tent and “tripping on the light fantastic toe”, the band playing some old country dances and well known tunes. As a finale to the day’s sports, there was a grand display of fireworks, under the direction of Captain Collins, then home the youngsters and their elders trudged, tired and happy, to bed”.

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For those of you not familiar with the location of the old St. Mary’s Church, it was built on what is now the green between Itchen House and Mellor House, on the bend in the road where Riverside gives way to Church Road. The Anchor Inn and the Anglers Inn can be seen on the right of picture, opposite the river.

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This picture shows the entrance gate to the church yard from Riverside. Note the gravestones and the covered entrance porch to the south side, near the tower. Whilst the tower is covered in ivy, it has been carefully removed to ensure that the tower clock is clearly visible. The old church appears to be an attractive building, yet it was once described by a Bishop of the time as “the most hideous church in all Hampshire… a bald barn-like structure with horse box pews, a three quarter-decker pulpit, windows of the plainest glass and walls as bare inside as out”. Although only built in 1825 by 1891, only 66 years later, it had been replaced by the new St. Mary’s church that we know today. Let us explore what may have been behind this description and the events that unfolded.

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Many of the older Bishopstoke families will have ancestors who were married or buried here, and I hope you agree, that these images outside of the old church-yard display an attractive scene of peace and tranquillity. Inside the church, things were less than harmonious.

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The pews were “faculty pews,” and consequently the property of the owners of the older and larger houses, for which they paid an annual fee to the church. Originally, they were square so that the occupants sat facing one another; but in many cases one square had been made into two oblong ones, now, both facing east, towards the preacher. There was clearly a social divide harking back to the Manorial days of privilege and wealth. The biggest frustration for the working man, in an emerging world of social equality was that the ordinary family had no permission to occupy pews left empty, when those entitled to their use were absent.

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The church had a flat ceiling and a gallery at the western end, where the choir sat around the harmonium. There were also “faculty pews” at the front and centre of the gallery. The free seats, for ordinary villagers, were some benches under the gallery and, on occasion, those benches in the gallery which were not occupied by the choir.

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This picture, from Bygone Bishopstoke by Dorothy Escombe, shows the interior of the church and faculty pews after minor modifications in 1883. The larger pews towards the front had been made smaller by partitioning and all seats had been modified to face the Alter. The pulpit and reading desk were almost exactly alike and stood on each side of the sanctuary. The rectory pew, which was a square one (not shown in picture), occupied the space between the pulpit and the south wall.

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This is a seating plan of St. Mary’s Church from 1825 and it contains the names of the property or person to which they were assigned. Most seating was in the main body of the church, whilst the layout bottom right is the seating plan for the gallery. This document is not easy to read.

Hopefully these layout will offer more clarity.

The Manor of Bishopstoke, in 1825 was a parish of 3,430 acres and included Fair Oak, Crowd Hill, Horton Heath, Stroud Wood, West Horton, Lake, and Stoke Park. Today it is a parish of less than 500 acres. It is clear from the names allocated to the pews that the congregation were drawn from this larger area. Examples include Fir Trees Farm (Fair Oak), East Horton Farm (Upham), Nole Hill, Pile Hill and Stacks House (Fair Oak), Lake Farm House (Allington Lane), Hall Lands Farm House (Mortimers Lane). In fact, not many of the pew holders from 1825 lived in the area that we recognise as Bishopstoke today. But then, this was the only Anglican church in the area. It is also obvious that not all the prominent landowners are included in the faculty pew rent list; there were other farms and large houses in the district. It must be remembered that there were many practising Catholic families in the area and, as social change took place throughout the 19th Century, non-conformists, particularly Bible Christians amongst the working classes, became established in the village. The most notable example of a member of the non-conformists being Thomas Cotton who lived at the Mount, who was a Quaker. To the detriment of the church, it is believed that the lowness of the roof and lack of ventilation in the gallery, during warm summer evenings at evensong, made the atmosphere so bad that this part of the church was unfit to use.

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There were problems with the old church yet there does not seem to be a great deal of logic in abandoning a church in 1891 that was only built in 1825. A number of reasons were given at the time. First, the growing population brought about by the arrival of the railway and housing development for railway workers meant that the old church was not large enough to accommodate all who wished to worship there. Certainly, the population was increasing rapidly as industry replaced agriculture as the source of employment. By 1863 a new church was opened in Fair Oak and another in the emerging town of Eastleigh by 1868. So why would these additional churches not have reduced some of the demand? We have seen from the layout of the seating arrangements that it is probable that only the wealthy residents of the village had been able to worship in the old church on a regular basis, so it is difficult to use population growth as a reason unless you are going to create significant additional capacity, which the new church did not do. Another reason given was that the church was considered to be in need of restoration. Minor alterations had been carried out in 1883 to the layout of the pews and some redecoration work undertaken. However, within a few years, the roof leaked and there were problems from damp. A more major concern was that the tower was now considered unsafe for the bells (pictured) to be rung and by this time only one was permitted to be chimed for service. These bells had been previously installed in the tower of the old wooden Saxon church. These Bishopstoke bells have a long history. The three original bells pictured were cast for the church and installed during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1. Two of the bells had been cast by John Wallis of Salisbury. One in 1589 is shown inscribed “In God is my Hope” and the second cast in 1600 is inscribed “Seek the Lord”. The third bell was cast in 1598 by Robert Beconsall, who was a bell foundry specialist, and it was inscribed “Geve thanks to God”. These bells were some years later transferred to the new St. Mary’s church after much controversy. Sadly, they are no longer part of the ring of bells.

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The root of the problem seems to have been political. The new social order no longer willingly accepted the role of master and servant whilst the wealthy landowners wished to retain rank and privilege from the old Manorial days. This picture shows some of the villagers sat around the “old Yew tree” in the churchyard which is believed to date back 1000 years. It is still standing. This tree, with its surrounding bench would certainly have been a meeting place to while away the time and exchange gossip. They may well have been discussing the logic of why a stone built tower only 60 years old could not support the peal of bells that had, presumably, been perfectly safe in a far inferior wooden construction which must have stood for much longer. It is interesting to note that whilst the main body of the church was demolished around 1910, the “weak” tower was not demolished until the 1960s, where it had stood un-supported by the body of the church some 80 years after it had been pronounced “unsafe”. Not surprisingly, it had become damaged by years of neglect and weakened by vigorous growth of ivy, before succumbing to damage by fire. There was obviously more at stake. There was clearly an issue in relation to the use and allocation of faculty pews versus free seating. A leaking roof can be fixed, and pews altered, a lot cheaper than building a new church.

A new tower was also a far cheaper option and, as we will see, the new church was built without a tower, as sufficient funds were not available to do so. So why not simply repair the roof, provide some damp proofing, repair the tower, and stop the allocation of faculty pews by adopting a first come, first seated policy, which would have been a relatively cheap solution compared to building a new church. Firstly, the Bishop of Winchester had declared his dislike of the church which had been built by Dean Garnier, on plain and simple lines. The Bishop was, therefore, unlikely to support further costs to improve and maintain this building. Secondly, the owners of the old and large houses would have had a legal entitlement included in their title deeds which granted them the Manorial right to be seated in the faculty pews of this church and, it would need every single one of them to agree to relinquish this privilege for free seating to be introduced. Pressure was placed on the church when, in the mid-1880s, the L. & S. W. Railway announced that they were to relocate carriage and wagon building operations from Nine Elms in London. Land was allocated in Bishopstoke and the surrounding area to house an influx of workers and their families, who would need a place where they could worship.

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The minutes of a vestry meeting, held on 5th April 1888, recorded that Alfred Barton, owner of the Longmead Estate, proposed to donate a site for a new church and burial ground on his land, and give £1000 towards the building of this church, on condition that all the seats were free and that he was allowed to nominate the architect. A meeting of parishioners, held on the 20th of August 1888, some five months later, agreed to the proposal by Mr Barton. However, it was not until the 29th of November 1888, after another three months, that the minutes of the vestry meeting were signed by Rev. J.P. Nash to ratify this proposal. Alfred Barton clearly recognised the political implications surrounding the right to free worship. By nominating the architect, he was, for all practical purposes able to control the design, and therefore ensure that ordinary villagers would, in future, be able to attend worship on an equal basis with more wealthy members of the community. It did however mean that more privileged members of the community, and their families would not be separated from other villagers during worship, which up to then had been traditional. As the largest landowner in the village and a wealthy businessman, he was more than equal in social standing to oppose those that stood in the way of progress. It could be assumed that construction of the new church would settle the issue, but it did not and remained a conflict within the community for some years to come.

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The “new” St. Mary’s church, that we know today was built in 1890/91 by Wheller Bros. of Reading at a cost of £4,200. The Rector James Palmer Nash managed the move from the old church to the new. The new church was consecrated on Thursday 12th November 1891 by the Bishop of Guildford. This picture shows the new St. Mary’s church as we know it today, complete with tower. The legend below the picture lists the Rectors and their contribution to the development of this church. The tower was not added until nearly twenty years after the church was opened because there were not sufficient funds available to build one. The ongoing development of St. Mary’s church, and the people involved are outlined below.

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George Covey Stenning was Rector of St. Mary’s between 1892 and 1896. Born in East Grinstead in 1840, he was educated at Westminster School and Trinity College, Cambridge. He was Honary Secretary to Hampshire Voluntary School Association and member of the County Education Committee. He inherited a debt of £800 from his predecessor, the Reverend J.P. Nash. During his four year tenure, he helped to reduce the debt for construction of the new church to about £450 and raised funds towards furnishing and fitting out the interior. However, there was still not funding available to construct the bell tower.

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Meanwhile, the old church gradually became abandoned. The Bishop expressed the wish that it, together with the churchyard, “should be kept in decent repair and used as a mortuary chapel”. This caused a lot of ill feeling among the original inhabitants of Bishopstoke, especially the faculty pew rent holders, who objected to the loss of privacy in the new church and lobbied for services, to once again, be held in the old building. This period of conflict within the community and bitter controversy resurfaced during the tenure of Canon Francis James Ashmall, who was Rector from 1896 to 1904. Canon Ashmall came to Bishopstoke from the parish of Holy Trinity in Southampton where he had suffered a severe nervous breakdown. He was fearful that his condition would end his ministry but was delighted, after recuperation, to be offered the quiet backwater parish of Bishopstoke as a rural retreat. Writing in “Bygone Bishopstoke” by Dorothy Escombe, he describes how he received a very friendly and warm reception from everyone in the parish. All went happily until 12th November when the 5th anniversary of the dedication of the new church was celebrated with an appeal to clear the remaining debt. This caused all the old differences and difficulties to resurface. Writing in reflection, Reverend. Ashmall recalls that “perhaps he was not well enough to take things calmly. The tragedy of the situation was that those who might have helped me were some of the kindest and most delightful persons imaginable, and yet, while they welcomed me as a man and a gentleman, to use their own expression, they declined to recognise and help me as the Rector of Bishopstoke. This led to five years of difficult and unpleasant work”. He was, perhaps also unfortunate to be a member of the Urban District Council which agreed the merging of Bishopstoke with Eastleigh, of which he approved. Whilst this merger was carried by a large majority, when put to a public vote, it certainly did not meet with the approval of many of the older influential inhabitants who opposed industrialisation and its associated housing development. By 1901 Canon Ashmall had cleared the debt for the building of the new church. In 1903 Robert William Bourne took residence in the “Old Manor House” where he lived for nearly 30 years. He had not been in the parish a week when he declared his mission was to have the old church re-opened. Mr Bourne challenged the legality of the exact procedure regarding the consecration of the new parish church. He spent large sums of his own money in actions, which were fought to appeal in both the Civil and Ecclesiastical Courts. Although all judgements went against him, his contention was that the new Bishopstoke church was illegally consecrated, because endowments of the former church had not been transferred prior to the consecration. It is clear from the recollections in Bygone Bishopstoke that Canon Ashmall endured troubled times as Rector. He lost close friends with his stand to merge Bishopstoke with Eastleigh UDC. Politically he did not see eye to eye with Thomas Cotton, of the Mount and records that they “differed on thorny points” yet both men shared a common interest in ornithology and he recalls how fondly he remembered the happy times spent in the company of Mr.Cotton in Yorkshire and Hickling Broad, Norfolk where they went on field trips together.

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Reverend Ashmall greatly desired a tower for the church, and despite many appeals for donations through the parish magazine, he was unable to complete his plans before leaving the parish in 1905. These pictures show St. Mary’s church before the tower was built. The lower picture is a rare image of the north side of St. Mary’s church.

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Sidney Newman Sedgwick M.A. replaced Canon Ashmall and was Rector of St. Mary’s between 1905 and 1922. Before coming to Bishopstoke he had been curate at St. Nicholas Church in Leatherhead, Surrey.

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He was a prolific author. As well as novels of a moral and ecclesiastical nature, and instructional works for religious teaching. He also wrote a number of books on nature and natural history, which he illustrated as a keen photographer with some of his own pictures. He also wrote a number of plays and words and music for operettas in the Gilbert and Sullivan style. These operettas were performed, by villagers to raise money for church funds, and some of the money raised was used to pay for a new village hall. Whilst becoming well liked, Sedgwick’s tenure did not start well. In keeping with social changes, Bishopstoke was no longer the wealthy parish, with large stipendiary income that it had been in Dean Garnier’s time. Reverend Sedgwick wanted to sell the old rectory in Church Road, as he considered it too large for his needs, and wanted to have a smaller house built nearer to the new church. The parish was divided about this proposal, and the Bishop decided to appoint a church commission to resolve the issue. A church defence committee was established in Bishopstoke, in opposition to the church commission, and Mr. Bourne, who had opposed the closure of the old St Mary’s church since he had become a resident in 1903, was elected chairman. Being relatively new to the village, he was seen to be impartial.

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A public meeting was held on Thursday 30th November 1905 in the Boys School, Church Road, opposite the new church, to object to the sale of the rectory, and also to object to the demolition of the old church and levelling of the graves. The Eastleigh Weekly News reported that “there was a crowded attendance, standing room being at a premium: while many more were unable to obtain admission.”

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A transcript of the meeting was made and published in this booklet, so acute was the interest. The meeting, chaired by Mr Bourne, opened with discussions regarding the future of the old church. Arguments were presented, for and against demolition, with strong and passionate representation on both sides. A number of letters had been submitted by parishioners, or ex parishioners, which supported retaining services in the old church. This support was entirely from members of elite village residents of high social standing that would have previously been entitled to faculty pews. Mr Bourne, the chairman, would have also been entitled to a faculty pew. The meeting raised the issue that there were no representatives of the village included in the church commission, and it was therefore considered that the commission appointed by the Bishop, was not of fair representation.

The chairman, Mr. Bourne, proposed that: “We, the parishioners of Bishopstoke old parish church, protest against the destruction of our old parish church and the levelling of the graves, and we humbly pray the Rt. Reverend the Lord Bishop of Winchester to command that divine service be said at least once every Sunday in the said Bishopstoke old parish church”. Reverend Sedgwick addressed the meeting and explained that, to his knowledge, many of the rumours about the old church being put forward were not based on fact. He believed that the commission appointed by the Bishop, was impartial to the decision regarding the old church. Ultimately it would be for the people of the village to decide. He could not therefore support the motion. The motion was carried. The second item on the agenda related to the sale of the rectory and whether the Rector, as he believed, had the right to do so. Rumours abounded that the sale included not only the rectory and associated orchard, but also the glebe meadow. The chairman, Mr Bourne, addressed the meeting and declared that the Rector was not the owner of the rectory and could not do with it as he pleased. It was the property of the parishioners. Reverend Sedgwick was adamant on having the right to sell the rectory. “I hold that Bishopstoke is a working man’s parish, and I am a working man’s parson. Why should I be compelled to live in a great house as if I were a landed gentleman – apart from the fact I can’t afford it”, he said. There were many discussions, but the general consensus was that the rectory should not be sold, however, there was support for the building to be rented, with funds raised made available to build a new rectory, more suited to the Rectors needs. Reverend Sedgwick commented: “All I want is a house fit for a working man’s parson, in a working class parish”. The second resolution proposed was: We, the parishioners of Bishopstoke, protest against the sale of the rectory and glebe land, and we hereby request the Right Reverend the Lord Bishop of Winchester, not to permit such a sale. This motion was also carried.

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About six months later, another public meeting was held to review the findings of the commission that had been appointed by the Bishop of Winchester. Mr Bourne was again chairman, and the meeting appears to have been highly contentious and hostile from the outset. At times, the village policeman was asked to intervene to keep order. There was much evidence presented by Mr Bourne, regarding exchanges of letters since the previous meeting in November 1905, and he included comments to the meeting that Reverend Sedgwick, at the previous meeting, was the only witness to advocate the destruction of the old parish church. He raised issues regarding the legitimacy of the commission, and the way they had conducted their business. In particular, he cited Reverend Sedgwick for “fabrication of imaginary law” in controlling matters at vestry meetings. After much further discussion, the chairman proposed the motion that: The parishioners, in public meeting assembled, express their utmost indignation at the conduct of the rector in advocating the destruction or desecration of the parish church and the levelling of the graves – also at his attempts to sell the rectory. The motion was carried.

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The protests achieved nothing. Mr. Bourne continued to fail in his campaign to have the old church reinstated. In May 1909, despite, or more likely, because of Mr Bourne’s belligerent efforts, an order was made for the body of the old church to be demolished. The tower, which had been condemned in the 1880s, and which was the cause of the new church being built stood defiantly unsupported for many years. It was not until the 1960s, when after neglect and erosion by ivy, it was finally demolished. It may well have stood for longer. Children were blamed for setting fire to the ivy and some of the older villagers may remember the rumour, told at the time, that council workmen had been using the base of the tower to store paint. They also had a brazier in there to keep warm. One day they were called away and a spark from the brazier ignited the storeroom and damaged the tower beyond repair. (Form your own opinion)

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It was not until May 1907 that the Church Council passed a resolution to build a tower at the new St. Mary’s Church, £200 having been raised towards the cost of its construction. On the 30th of October 1909 the tower was consecrated by the Lord Bishop of Winchester, the Right Reverend Herbert Ryle. The tower was dedicated as a memorial to Sir Henry Keppel, who served as churchwarden in Bishopstoke from 1881 to 1895.

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Sir Henry Keppel, lived at “The Cottage” (now known as Itchen House) in Church Road. The memorial tablet on the tower is inscribed: – “This tower is built to the Glory of God and in memory of Admiral of the Fleet the Hon. Sir Henry Keppel, Churchwarden of the parish 1889 – 1895. October AD 1909. The heraldic crest above the inscription is the Coat of Arms for the Keppel Family.

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Henry Keppel was born in June 1809 and died on the 17th of January 1904, aged 95. He was the son of the 4th Earl of Albermarle and entered the Royal Naval Academy of Portsmouth in 1822, at the age of 13. His family connections secured him rapid promotion. He became lieutenant in 1829 and commander in 1833. He retired from the Navy in 1879. He was married twice and had a son and daughter. He is buried in the parish church of Winkfield, Berkshire. Sir Henry Keppel was groom-in-waiting to Queen Victoria and a friend of the Prince of Wales. Keppel Harbour in Singapore is named after him.

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The clock in the tower of the old wooden St. Mary’s church was originally built by a Mr. Hawkins of Southampton and it was set in the tithe barn of the rectory when the church was re-built in 1825. In 1870, the barn was replaced with a stable block and the clock from the older church was then installed in the tower which had been built in 1825. By 1903, although the old St Mary’s church was not used, the clock continued to be regularly wound and maintained. In April of that year, it was reported at the vestry meeting that the clock had been inspected and pronounced to be beyond economic repair. However, a Mr. Page, of Eastleigh, offered to repair the clock, free of charge, providing that he was reimbursed for the cost of materials. This proposal was accepted. Mr. Page’s account for the work came to the sum of £2.3s.3d. The main item being £1.9s.6d for 54 yards of clock wire. The most interesting item on the account was a charge for the labour of two men, who suspended Mr. Page from the tower, whilst he gilded the dial. The clock was removed to the new St. Mary’s church when the tower was completed in 1909.

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The three bells originally in the old St. Mary’s church, were removed to the new. Two more bells were presented by Mr. Henry White, Churchwarden in 1909, and were first rung on Wednesday June 22nd, 1910. These original bells have been replaced. The bells from 1598 and 1600 are hung in the church at Immingham, near Hull. The 1589 bell cracked and was melted and re-cast (replaced) in 1920 by Llewellyn & James of Bristol.

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In 1921 the peal of bells in the new St. Mary’s church was completed by the addition of three new bells inscribed “Thanksgiving”, “Peace” and “Remembrance”. The tenor bell was cast from three smaller bells from the clock tower of the London and South Western Railway Carriage Works at Eastleigh, presented by the directors of the company as a “memorial of all the railwaymen who gave their lives in the Great War, and among them especially the men of the parish”. The bells “Peace” and “Remembrance” are shown in this picture taken with Reverend Sedgwick and members of the congregation in 1921, prior to the bells being installed in the bell chamber of the tower.

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On June 23rd, 1935, at an afternoon service, the ringers and members of the congregation celebrated the silver jubilee of the first peal of bells in the new church. Among those present were three ringers who took part in the opening peal. They were Mr. C. Ayliffe, Mr G. Grant and Mr W.J. Tucker. This picture is of the original bell ringers who first rang the peal of 5 bells in the new St. Mary’s church. This picture was taken in 1912, just prior to Harvey Collyer (pictured right) joining “Titanic” on her maiden voyage to New York with his wife and daughter to start a new life. The picture was taken, by Reverend Sedgwick, to record the last time that the original group of bell ringers would be together. Tragically Harvey Collyer perished soon after this picture was taken, and a plaque in St Mary’s Church is dedicated to his memory.

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By 1990, the bells were becoming difficult to ring and needed refurbishment. It was eventually decided to completely replace the tonally poor set of 8 bells with a brand new, modern tuned ring of ten. Most of the old bells were sold individually to various churches. The old bells from Bishopstoke can now be found in St. James Church, Immingham, Lincolnshire, Tredington Church, Gloucestershire, St. Anne’s Church, Limehouse, London and Wagga Wagga Church, New South Wales, Australia. The frame to support the bells was strengthened and the Whitechapel Bell Foundry supplied the current ring of ten bells pictured. In 1995 when these bells were cast, the Whitechapel foundry had only cast three complete rings of ten bells since World War II. The set cast prior to those made for St. Mary’s church in Bishopstoke were cast for some place called Westminster Abbey, wherever that is?

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The wrought-iron screens, that stand in the church today were installed in 1903, during the time of Reverend Ashmall, to the memory of his wife’s family, George Postlethwaite, of Oakleigh, East Grinstead, who died in 1881, Elizabeth Davies Postlethwaite, his wife, who died at Chiselhurst in 1901, John Guy Postlethwaite their youngest child, who died in Colorado Springs, USA in 1890. The screen was designed and made by a Mr. Bainbridge Reynolds, and was dedicated by the Rev J.C. Cooke-Yarborough, Vicar of Romsey, on November 23rd, 1903. If you study the picture carefully you will notice that there was no pulpit in 1907 when this picture was taken. We will explain why a little later. The original colours for the screen were red, cream, white and apple-green with some gilding, as used in the ancient screens of English churches. These colours were changed during 1951, by Rev. Allen. When he first came to Bishopstoke, Reverend Allen had the church redecorated, and asked different church groups to choose colours and fabrics for parts of the church. The youth club were asked to choose the colour for the screen. In those days, Wolverhampton Wanderers were the lad’s favourite team, and they played in gold and black, which allegedly greatly influenced the decision on the colour chosen for the screen.

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The east window in St. Mary’s church, which stands above the altar, was erected in memory of Alfred Barton. It was Alfred who built Longmead House and who gave land and £1000 towards the construction of this church. Charles Kempe was considered to be one of the finest craftsman and designers of stained glass in Victorian times, and he was commissioned in 1885 to make this window. One of his hallmarks is the great detail, as can be seen in this window. The inscription, which was added later, dedicates – “to the Glory of God, in memory of Alfred Barton who died 11th May 1893 and in praise of Heavenly Jerusalem, this window is dedicated as willed by his widow, Ellen Barton who died 14th May 1894”.

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The octagonal wooden pulpit in St. Mary’s church was constructed from the original pulpit and reading desk that were crafted in 1825 for the old St. Mary’s church. Recycling is not a modern concept, and it is, perhaps comforting that there tangible links to the old church still existing in our church today. When first installed, sometime after 1909, the pulpit was located on the right hand side of the chancel arch. Whilst preaching the Rector could not clearly see the congregation sitting on the side aisle, so in 1951, Reverend Allen had the pulpit moved to the left hand side.

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The south chancel’s window did not originally belong to St. Mary’s church, but to St. Nicholas church in Leatherhead, Surrey. This window was a gift to Reverend S.N. Sedgwick from his previous parish where he had been the curate for thirty years. The window was designed by H. Hughes of London in 1863, and built as a memorial to the Henderson family, owners of a large estate near Leatherhead. This window become available because, of the death of the Archdeacon of Surrey in 1909. This old east window from the church was removed to make way for a new window, dedicated to the Archdeacon. It seems a shame that a quality piece of work like this, that had been commissioned as a work of remembrance, had to be removed from its original location, and I feel a little uncomfortable with the decision that was made. Today, it would be more difficult for a dedicated window such as this to be replaced and in this manner, but then we do not know the circumstances surrounding this decision. We must also be aware that perceptions and outlook are very different today, than they were 100 years ago. Perhaps it is more important that the window was gifted to Reverend Sedgwick who installed it in his new church. Thankfully it still exists so that we can enjoy its beauty and respect the reason behind its creation.

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Although there is no signature on this window in the Lady’s Chapel, it is also believed to have been a gift, and is similar in many fine details to the south chancel window. Although there is no signature it is thought to have been designed and built by H. Hughes of London.

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Another example of re purposing in the Lady Chapel are the altar rails which were originally part of the old St Mary’s built in 1825. They were removed from the old church sometime after 1909.

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Bernard Hancock was Rector of St. Mary’s between 1922 and 1929. He came to England from Australia and was educated at the universities of London and Durham, where he was a scholar and exhibitioner in Theology. He was the author of several books, one of them: – “A Certain Priest” was published in 1928 whilst he was still Rector of Bishopstoke. It is believed that the gentleman on the left of this picture is Bernard Hancock. This picture, with members of the Sunday School, was taken near Itchen House opposite the Manor House on the mound. There is a certain irony that this picture was taken opposite the Manor House.

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Although he had left Bishopstoke in 1929, Bernard Hancock was to suffer the ire of Mr Bourne, because he had sold the old rectory and orchard in 1923. Letters were submitted in 1931, by Mr Bourne from the Manor House, to the Treasurer of the Bounty of Queen Ann, who were the charitable organisation, on behalf of the church authorities, that had received payment from the sale. Mr Bourne claimed the sale was fraudulent. It was claimed that:

There had been no Rector in Bishopstoke at the time of sale because the parish church had been demolished in 1910. (Mr Bourne did not recognise the new St Mary’s church as being properly consecrated). Bernard Hancock, therefore in Mr Bourne’s opinion, had no authority to sell the rectory associated with the old church.

Financial fraud had taken place because payment had been made twice, yet only accounted for once (due to dates not matching on contract documents). Quite simply balance of monies relating to the sale had originally been made towards the end of December, but not recorded until January.

It was further claimed by Mr Bourne that the Archbishop of Canterbury had no jurisdiction over the property, neither did the Bishop of Winchester.

Not surprisingly these allegations were refuted. Mr Bourne, suffering from ill health, was not able to pursue the matter further. He died a year later. It can be seen from this conveyance document of 1923 that the hall was not included in the sale. The village was therefore alarmed when a notice was posted on the hall door in 1930, by the then Rector Oswald de Blogue to say that the hall was to be closed and sold. Clearly ownership had been retained by the church. This note is probably the catalyst behind the letters purporting to corruption, written by Mr Bourne, which indicated that he would gift this land to the parish of Bishopstoke, if he could establish true title to it.

Some 20+ years later, in 1957, there was again uncertainty over the ownership of this land, when a small additional plot was needed, for the new Memorial Hall. There was much legal wrangling at the time over which trustees had, or should have, control over the hall, although ownership, at that time, seems to have been in the hands of Eastleigh Council. During his time in Bishopstoke, Mr Bourne took up many issues with the established church on a number of matters. It is difficult to assess, in hindsight, whether these actions by Mr Bourne were of benefit, or not, to the people of Bishopstoke.

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Oswald William Charles de Blogue (centre) was Rector of St. Mary’s from 1929 to 1941 and was, by all accounts a “colourful character”. He came to Bishopstoke with wide experience as a Naval Chaplain, chaplaincies overseas, and as an Archdeacon in Brazil.

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He was a member of the Magic Circle, and a gifted ventriloquist, and conjuror. These skills were put to good use in the village for fund raising.

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It was during his tenure that the church rooms in Stoke Park Road were constructed. He can be seen in this picture, outside of the church rooms during construction of the path. He is the gentleman at the back in the centre wearing a flat cap.

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This picture depicts Rector de Blogue on a bell ringing tour with the bell ringers. Of particular interest is the gentleman 2nd from the left in the front row, Mr. Pullinger, as you can see, does not have a right arm. Being a successful one armed bell ringer was, and still is, quite a feat. If you think that was a challenge, we would also like to point out that Mr. Pullinger was also employed by the school as the local truant officer to catch absconding pupils in the village and return them to their studies. In keeping with his role as truant officer, he was also employed as the local rat catcher.

In 1939, Longmead House was demolished by the owner and property developer Basil Underwood. 17 of these tiles were gifted to Reverend de Blogue, which he had installed in the floor, under the east window of St Mary’s church. This is the window dedicated to Alfred Barton who commissioned the building of Longmead House, and who provided land and funding to build the church. These tiles date from between 1710 and 1850 and were made by Delft. They can be readily dated by the style of the corner motif, and probably formed the decoration around a fireplace in the old grand house. The old house was built in 1866, so they were not new when the house was built. The architect was George Edmund Street, who was the most prominent architect of his time. His career involved the design, building, and refurbishment of over 170 churches, as well as a number of grand houses and public buildings. These tiles are another early example of architectural salvage and recycling. One of these tiles is not part of the collection in St Mary’s. It resides in a private collection.

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Herbert Cooper Anderson succeeded Reverend de Blogue as Rector in 1941 and both rectors are pictured here outside St. Mary’s with the choir, scouts, and members of the congregation. Reverend Anderson was evacuated from the Channel Islands just before their occupation by the Germans during World War II and remained as Rector until 1949.

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The church organ was built by Sim’s Organ Builders of Southampton for the new St. Mary’s church. It was installed for the opening of the church for the sum of £370 and Mr. Sims was church organist at St. Mary’s around the turn of the century. Reverend Anderson had electricity installed in the church in 1946. Lighting would have been a great benefit to the congregation, but to the person who no longer had to pump the organ by hand, the sum of £62 invested to providing an electric “blower,” must have been most welcome.

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Rev. Reginald Allen was Rector from 1949 to 1955 and was very popular in the village. Originally from Wales, he had a gift of oratory that drew people to his sermons, with full attendance in his church Sunday after Sunday.

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The lectern in St. Mary’s was purchased by public subscription in his memory, after his untimely death in 1974.

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Reverend Gordon Rose was Rector of St. Mary’s from 1955 to 1992 and will be remembered by many in the village. Canon Rose was the 2nd longest serving cleric in the village after Dean Garnier. Early in the tenure of Reverend Rose, the churchyard at St Mary’s was becoming full to overflowing. This had been partially due to population expansion and the conversion of the Mount to a T.B. Sanatorium in the 1920s. T.B. was a serious illness which frequently resulted in death. Many patients who died in The Mount had been given burial at St. Mary’s. Many years earlier in 1901, not long after the church had been consecrated, the medical officer of health had raised concerns about the graveyard alongside the new church, and the unsuitability for sanitary burial in its undrained condition. In 1903, Reverend Ashmall had reported in the parish magazine that the medical officer was doing his best to get the churchyard closed, unless the ground was connected to the public sewer, which would desecrate the graves. The medical officer did not pursue the matter at the time, citing instead that the source of danger arising from the escape of gas upward, through five or six feet of soil into the surrounding atmosphere was not an imminent problem, but may be so in 40 years or so.

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By the 1950s a new burial ground had become an urgent necessity. Bishopstoke was, once again, subject to major housing development, and was facing many of the problems it had encountered during the latter part of the 19th century, due to a large and sudden increase in population. A new Cemetery was chosen and established at Stoke Common on the site of an old sandpit. This Garden of Rest was consecrated by the Bishop of Winchester in 1958.

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Housing development during the 1950s and 1960s, changed the demographics of village life, just like the creation of “New Bishopstoke” had, some 60 years earlier. New Schools, surgeries and places of worship were needed to support an expanding population.

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Canon Rose oversaw the construction of a new church, St Paul’s in 1962, nearly 70 years after the conflict between the churches of St. Mary. Bishopstoke once again had two Anglican churches serving the community, and perhaps more importantly, this time serving it in harmony.

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Reverend Derek Cottrill succeeded Canon Rose as Rector from 1992 to 2006, and it must have been difficult to follow a predecessor who had been incumbent in the village for so long. It was under Reverend Cottrill that the £50,000 of funding was achieved to furbish St. Mary’s with a new set of bells, much to the delight of the campanologists who had worked hard to raise money. A dedication service was held by Reverend Cottrill on Sunday 18th June 1995 when the peal of new bells rung officially for the first time.

To those of you living near St. Mary’s church, the peeling of bells, may, or may not be a pleasure that you look forward to. It is a long tradition that has been enjoyed in the village from the early days of Christianity when a single bell was tolled to summon the faithful. Today, the “clangers club” can give vent, with enthusiasm, to a cacophony that can only be rivalled by that of Westminster Cathedral. It was a great honour that the Bishopstoke Bell Ringers were invited to ring a full peal of bells at Westminster Abbey on 1st January 2012, and they were the first campanologists, from a village church, ever to be invited to do so. It is perhaps a little sad that, in our village, the bells can no longer be heard far and wide due to noise abatement restrictions.

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Reverend Richard Wise became Rector in 2007, exactly 200 years after Dean Garnier arrived in 1807. Bishopstoke and our society today is far different from what it was all those years ago. Before being ordained, Richard was a professional musician in London and his work included piano accompaniment, teaching and positions as church director of music.

It is also around 100 years before Richard’s arrival that the village was in conflict regarding its place of worship. This conflict reflected changes that were taking place, at the time, which materialised to the dismay of Reverend Ashmall and created difficulty for Reverend Sedgwick who succeeded him. Once again there is major housing development being undertaken in the area. We wish Richard a more tranquil tenure than some of his predecessors.


Drewitt. A. (1935) Eastleigh’s Yesterdays, Eastleigh Printing Works.

Escombe, F.D. (1935) Bygone Bishopstoke, The Wykeham Press, Winchester.

Rose, Canon Gordon (1982) St Marys, Haydon Rowe

Additional Material

Joan Simmonds, Malcolm Dale, Reverend Richard Wise.