19. All Saints, Steep
This attractive 12th century church lies close to Bedales School on the outskirts of Petersfield. A wooden spire was added during a restoration in 1875 whilst the present lychgate dates from 20 years later.
The interior is dominated by traditional round Norman pillars with rounded arches. The chapel altar on the North side has stained glass windows depicting St Martin and St George whilst to the right ancient steps lead up to what was once a Rood Loft. Under the plain lancet windows of the north wall is a large World War One memorial showing Christ on the Cross. Nearer to the Perpendicular North door stands the 14th century font, a plain hexagonal bowl standing on six pillars and now topped by a modern cover carved by George Taylor in 1979.
The chancel, though restored in 1875, still contains two impressive deep set lancet windows in the south side. The glass of the East Window is typically Victorian and underneath is a reredos showing the Crucifixion built in memory of Lt-General Sir William Keelly who died in 1914. The floor is paved in York stone taken from the old London Bridge. More Victorian glass can be seen in the 13th century West window and in the small circular Rose Window above.
The church is full of interesting memorials. A large monument on the north wall commemorates with pride "the elder branches of the family of Baker of Priors Dean where they have been seated from a very remote period". About ten names are listed beginning with Thomas Baker who died in 1545 and ending with John Baker who died in 1808. Then high up on one of the Northern arcades is a memorial to a Martha Legg 'who died in this parish on 28 January 1829 aged 105 years.' Is anyone older commemorated in any other church?
On the South Wall are two memorials of the Imperial Age. William Carmichal Hawker, a Lieutenant in the Hampshire Regiment died in March 1889 from "wounds received in action in Upper Burmah", whilst alongside a fine brass tablet commemorates Ormelie Campbell Hannay killed in action at Paardeberg South Africa on February 18 1900 "when gallantly leading the brigade of mounted infantry". Another memorial relates to a climbing tragedy when Basil Jock Newton Marden was "killed by an avalanche while climbing Aconagua in the Andes" in July 1928.
Perhaps of the greatest interest are two small windows in the south wall engraved by Lawrence Whistler in 1978 to mark the centenary of the birth of the famous poet Edward Thomas who lived in Steep and was killed in action at the Battle of Arras in 1917. Done with great skill and delicacy they form a wonderful modern addition to this ancient church. The left hand window shows a road across the hills bordered by yews and flowering may. The poet's jacket is shown hanging from a branch with his clay pipe protruding from the pocket and his walking stick alongside. The name Edward is engraved across the top and the surname Thomas down the right hand side.
The right hand window shows the 'new house' at the top and below a sequence of doors opening, leading at the base to a Flanders battlefield scene with a flight of birds flying alongside. The whole central section is taken up with the words of one of his poems beginning:
"Now first as I shut the door
I was alone
In the new house and the wind
Began to moan."
Underneath is a facsimile of the poet's signature. Altogether a magnificent example of the engraver's art and a worthy tribute to a fine poet who is also commemorated by another memorial about a mile away on Shoulder of Mutton Hill.
On the wall alongside is a picture of the church made of a collage of fabrics and silks by Frances Rhodes. Before leaving note the splendid array of 150 kneelers made between 1967 and 1980 on the instigation of the vicar Canon Douglas Snelgar. They show wonderfully varied examples of the local flora and fauna such as birds, animals, plants, flowers and trees including spiders, butterflies, snakes, rabbits, mushrooms, hedgehogs, owls, swallows and dormice. More than 60 parishioners were involved in their making. Also on the wall near the North Door is a beautifully engraved list of all the vicars of East Meon and Steep on black slate with the two coloured Diocesan badges below.
written by John Symonds
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page last updated 6 JUNE 1998