All Saints’ church. Steep

All Saints’ church. Steep

Steep church is Grade II* listed.

Steep was originally part of the ecclesiastical parish of East Meon. The church was built as a chapel of ease for All Saints’ church, East Meon. A chapel of ease was a small chapel built within the parish of another church, designed to meet the needs of those who lived a long distance from the main church, but who could not easily travel to it. At that time, East Meon church would have employed a curate whose job was to celebrate the services at Steep. There was thus no vicarage in the parish of Steep. We know that in the mid C19 the curate who took the Steep services lodged in Petersfield.  Steep did not become an independent parish in its own right until 1868. It was originally in the diocese of Winchester but in 1927 became part of the newly formed Anglican diocese of Portsmouth.

The church dates from the C12, perhaps around 1125 or 1140. Its walls are rendered malmstone. Originally, it may only have been a primitive rectangular form comprising a nave and chancel. It may have had tiny round headed windows where the present nave arches now stand. Around 1180 the south wall was pierced and a narrow south aisle was created. The two eastern Norman arches of this south side date from this time. The pillars/piers here have trumpet capitals. The third one dates from C13 and the fourth is probably from the C19 improvements. The south door is Norman inside and C13 Early English outside. At some time in the C12 a small side chapel was added at the north east corner and a low tower was built at the north western corner. Around 1200 the north wall of the nave was pierced with Norman arches and a north aisle was formed to link the tower and the side chapel. The capitals of the north aisle are more sophisticated than those on the south side. They are moulded and the arches have slight chamfers. There are faint traces of paint on the eastern face of the third pillar of the north aisle. The figure of a saint or angel in a Gothic arch is shown. The interior of the church may once have been colourful with several such paintings. During the first quarter of the C13 a new and larger chancel was built. The two south facing lancet windows in the chancel date from this time. The other windows in the chancel are later.

Stairs in the wall to the right of the side chapel altar would have led to a Rood loft. In Medieval churches a Rood screen often separated the nave from the chancel. Above this would have been a rood loft. The rood, or wooden cross, would have been positioned or hung here. The rood loft allowed access to the rood for draping it with cloth at Easter time. The rood loft sometimes formed a gallery which was used by musicians. Most roods and rood lofts were destroyed in the Reformation.

The hexagonal font on six squat columns is early C14. It is Sussex sandstone with projecting trefoiled arches. It once stood at the west end of the nave. The font cover is by cabinet maker and wood carver George Taylor of the Edward Barnsley Workshop 1979. It was given by Mrs Joan Coles in memory of her husband Alfred (1903-1978). The Coles family have been farmers at Aldersnapp Farm, Steep, since 1928.

The north door is Perpendicular in style and dates from the C15. The wooden door here is one of the few surviving C15 panelled doors in Hampshire with tracery at the head. The north porch was added later. The timbers in its roof may be the old C14 ones removed from the nave. The porch doors were made by the Edward Barnsley Workshop in 1960s. The roof timbers of the chancel, north aisle and nave are also C14, but the tie beams in the nave are perhaps C19.

In 1813 James Cookson, curate of Steep and rector of Colemore, had written to the bishop of Winchester complaining about the extreme ‘damps’ and dilapidation of Steep church and implying that it was an unsuitable place in which to keep the church registers. A restoration took place in 1838-9. £370 was spent. Drawings and a painting of 1846 by R W Ubsdell show Steep church with its lower tower and the nearby single storey building of the old Steep National School.

The main west window of the nave is C14. its stained glass is C19 by Clayton and Bell. The glass was given by the Shuttleworth family of Collyers, Steep, in memory of Captain Algernon Preston, the brother of Mrs Rose Isabella Shuttleworth. He died in 1874 aged 30yrs. Rose was apparently a recurring name in the Shuttleworth family. Rose motifs are to be found in the stained glass design. There is also a rose window above.

In early C19 and probably before that, the church had a gallery at the west end. Its tower was much lower than the present one. The restoration which took place 1875-8 saw £2377 spent on the church. In this, the gallery at the west end of the nave was removed, a taller bell tower was constructed. Stained glass was introduced to a new east window in the chancel and the west window of the nave. The chancel arch was also created. R.W. Edis was the architect for the 1876 refurbishment.

The east window above the altar in the chancel is 1876. If the Ubsdell painting of 1846 is true, it seems to have replaced a window of a similar size that was previously there. The previous window had a pointed arch shape at the top. This new east window was given by the Hawker family of Ashford Lodge and is dedicated to Rev. W.H Hawker who was the first vicar of Steep when it separated from East Meon, to become a parish in its own right in 1868. The glass is by Clayton and Bell in the firm’s small figured medallion manner in vibrant reds and blues.

The bell tower contains six bells. Five of them were cast by Robert Catlin in 1745. The treble was cast in 1940 and is inscribed: “My name is Mary I ring to the glory of God”. It was given in memory of Mary Kelly, wife of Lt Col Sir William Kelly of Bushy Knolls, Steep. The tower has oak shingles.

The reredos behind the main altar in the chancel is 1923 by Gerald Cogswell of the Church Crafts League. It shows a crucifixion between St Martin and St Wilfred. It was given in memory of Lt Col. Sir William Kelly by his widow Mary. The Kellys lived at The Knolls, Steep. He had fought in India, the Sudan and the Boer War. He died aged 66 years in March 1914. The motto on the reredos is: ‘Turris Fortis mihi Deus’ God is my tower of strength – the motto of the Kelly clan. The shamrock design on the reredos may allude to the Irish connections of the family.

In 1968 the chancel was remodelled with a 1920s rood screen removed. The Victorian tiled floor was lowered and repaved in York stone which once formed part of London Bridge.

The organ is by Ivimey & Cooper Ltd of Southampton. The organ casing is by W.J. Carpenter Turner of Winchester. The organ and casing were chiefly paid for by a legacy from the estate of Miss Louisa Lomas of Oakhurst, Steep which was given in 1953. It was later rebuilt in 1990s at the expense of Miss Cecily Roberts. The organ screen was designed by Edward Barnsley, cabinet maker of Froxfield. It was made by Bert Upton, a craftsman from the Barnsley Workshop. The screen was given by Mrs Macbeth of Whytton House, Steep in memory of her husband Norman Bruce Macbeth (1887-1951). The organ has undergone a further refurbishment in 2019.

The lectern is of English oak and was made in 1969 by 16 year old Hugh Routh, under the direction of David Butcher, his craft teacher. It was made when he was at Bedales School.

The east window in the side chapel is C14 but the glass is C20 by Sidney Meteyard 1923 by Martyn and Co. of Cheltenham. It has the single saints: St Martin and St George, with little scenes like engravings below. It was given by Mrs Inglis in 1923 in memory of her father and grandfather: Martin Diosy who died 1893 aged 74 and Arthur Diosy who died 2/1/1923 aged 66 yrs.

The WWI Memorial is of Corsham stone and was erected in 1920. It was made by Nathaniel Hitch. It names the ex choir boys of All Saints’. Steep, who died in WWI, as well as the poet Edward Thomas and other men of the parish. There are three WWI memorials in Steep: this one in the church, the one at the junction of Mill Lane and Church Road and the Roll of Service in Steep Village Hall. Each lists a slightly different number of men with some slight variations in the names included.

The monuments on the north wall of the church are to the Baker and Clement families. The Bakers were originally from Priors Dean. They held the sub manor of Ashford from the C17 to early C19. There were Baker family burials at Steep between 1545 and 1823. The wall tablet listing the incumbents of Steep and East Meon was erected in 1982 and is of slate. It was designed by Rev. Douglas Snelgar and Mr Garland in collaboration with Chichester Cathedral Works organisation.

The two clear windows in the south wall are dedicated to the memory of poet Edward Thomas (1878 – 1917) who lived with his family in Steep between 1906 and 1916. He was killed in WWI at the battle of Arras in 1917. The windows were engraved by Laurence Whistler and installed in 1978. In 2010 the right hand window was smashed in a burglary. This has since been replaced; the new version is by a follower of Whistler. The pieces of the original broken window have been reassembled and are on display to the right of the two windows.

On the south wall are monuments to Rev W H Hawker and his son William Carmichael Hawker, to J W Skillington, a long standing Steep school headteacher and church organist, to Ormelie Hannay of Coldhayes, Steep who died in the Boer War, to Basil Jock Marden of Stodham Park who died in an avalanche and to George Beck of Elmwood in whose memory the vestry was erected.

The WWII Memorial is of Hopton wood stone and Portland stone and is 1945 by M. Mould & Sons of Petersfield. It was dedicated by the Bishop of Portsmouth 15 Feb 1948. Nearby there is a memorial to a young parishioner who died of wounds sustained in the Afghanistan War 2010.

The picture hanging on the south wall is a collage of All Saints’ by Frances Rhodes. It is worked in cotton, silk, lace, tulle, wool, hessian, braid and gold thread. It was given by the artist in 1976, to raise funds for the Steeple Appeal.

The pews are of oak and were given in 1928 by Mrs Hannay of Coldhayes, Steep. They would have replaced older ones. The pulpit is also of oak. Its date is not known.

Stairs at the north west end of the church lead to the oak shingled bell tower which was erected in the 1876 refurbishment, replacing a much lower tower. There are six bells in the tower. Five of these date from 1745 and were made by Robert Caitlin. The sixth bell is a treble made by Mears and Stainbank. It was given in 1939 in memory of Mary Kelly, widow of Sir William Kelly of The Knolls, Steep.

The lych gate was erected in memory of Rev George Taswell, a retired clergyman who lived at the old Stonerwood Park, Steep 1870 – 1894. It replaced an earlier one which collapsed after a heavy fall of snow one April.

The graveyard contains burials dating from 1706 to the present, although many of the old graves no longer have headstones, or their headstones are now illegible. There are some Commonwealth War Graves in the north east section. To the north east of the church is an early C19 table tomb to the Ring family, which is Grade II listed.

The yew tree near the south door is thought to be over a thousand years old. In 2018 it was reduced, as it had become dangerous.

There is a list of vicars and curates of Steep and East Meon in the ‘People’ section of this website here: Vicars and Curates of Steep church and parish

The house known as The Old Vicarage on Steep Hill was built in 1882. Steep Hill is the road which leads from the church down the hill in the direction of the Harrow Inn. There is more information about the Old Vicarage in the book: Buildings, Gardens and Monuments in Steep by Struthers, Box, Routh and Storey. £10 Available from the email address at the end. The Old Vicarage was sold by Portsmouth diocese in 1990s and a new vicarage was erected at 77 Church Road.

Steep church has registers which date from 1610 to the present. The old registers are at Hampshire Record Office in Winchester. Microfiche copies of all the entries in the old registers are available for viewing by all at Hampshire Record Office and at Petersfield Library.

The Steep History Group has transcribed all the entries in the church registers 1610 – 2016. The entries have been recorded as an Excel file. We are willing to provide information to family history enquirers or other researchers. There is no charge for this service. However, we are always pleased if enquirers feel able to give a donation towards the upkeep of our beautiful C12 church in return. Get in touch with the email address at the end.  We are always pleased to hear from people whose families have had a connection with Steep church, or with the village in general.


William Whiteman ‘The Origins of Steep’

Pevsner, Bullen, Crook, Hubbock: ‘The Buildings of England: Hampshire and The North’

Victoria County History: Hampshire

Hampshire Treasures Vol. 6

NADFAS report on Steep church 1983

Struthers, Box, Routh & Storey: ‘Buildings, Gardens and Monuments in Steep updated 2018’

Various information leaflets on Steep church produced by the church over the years

Letter from James Cookson to Bishop in Steep church collection at Hampshire Record Office