|HCC Site ID:||1177||Parish:||Bishopstoke|
|Designations:||Conservation Area||Area:||0.3 ha|
|Access:||Public Access||Ownership:||Leased to Eastleigh Borough Council|
Location and Site
The churchyard garden is located in Bishopstoke village, approximately one mile east of Eastleigh town, on Church Lane, just north of the B3037 Eastleigh to Fair Oak Road. It is in the centre of the Eastleigh Borough Council designated Bishopstoke Conservation Area. The original Saxon Church of St Mary’s built on the raised banks of the River Itchen had direct access to the River, which now runs along near the west and southern boundary with a pathway and broad walk providing access. The surrounding land is mainly residential to the north and east.
Mentioned in the Domesday Book, the Saxon church was probably destroyed by the Danes when they invaded Southampton (Hamtun) in 1001. A drawing of unknown date depicts the re-built church which appears to have had a wooden tower, dormer windows in the roof and steps leading up to an entrance above the ground floor. This church fell into disrepair during Thomas Garnier’s time as rector and in 1825 a new one, mainly financed by him, was built on the same site. A report in the ‘Hampshire Chronicle describes the church – “The exterior presents a neat and substantial building with Gothic windows and surmounted by a tower with four pinnacles. The eastern windows over the altar are composed of beautifully stained glass … The whole edifice is a specimen of sound taste and judgement”. Extensive repairs were carried out in 1883 but by this time the population in the surrounding area had grown, mainly through the building of the railway, and a local landowner offered a site for a new church further up the hill opposite the school. Despite considerable controversy, a new church was built and consecrated in 1891. Yet again, the church fell into disrepair and in 1907 all but the tower was demolished. The last burial there took place in 1812.
The churchyard originally had had direct access to the River Itchen for a short distance, but in the late 19th century a fence was erected between the river and the churchyard to keep the public out of the sacred precincts. A path from the churchyard still gives access to a bridge over the river and the Itchen navigation, but no longer to the same stretch of water that it once bordered. The site was leased to Eastleigh Borough Council in 1952 under the 1906 Open Spaces Act. A fire made the tower unsafe and it was pulled down in 1965. In 1995 considerable maintenance and replanting was carried out by the Borough.
AAll that remains of the church of 1825 is a raised turfed platform of the nave, with redbrick and flint foundations of the west tower and a tombstone dated 1679. Other 17th/18th century tombstones line the old wall dividing the site on the southern boundary from the residence called Itchen House. There is also a war memorial on the elevated area. The old churchyard is a public open space with seating and specimen trees, including a large multi-branched 1694 yew. The park is used as a cut-through for commuters into Eastleigh and dog walkers going through to the river paths or sports field beyond and has become a significant green space in an area which is being extensively urbanised.
The early 17th/18th Churchyard of St Mary’s became a public open space in 1952. The footings of the 19th century church, some old tombstones, a 1694 yew and a war memorial remain. Reflecting its long history from Saxon times, it is now a garden with seating, specimen trees and a pathway that provides access to the River Itchen.
The public green space remains a simple, atmospheric site that both reflects its history and offers sanctuary for the future.
HGT Research 1998; update Eastleigh Urban Park Survey 2019
OS maps 1884, ?, 1939 supplied by Eastleigh Borough Council
St Mary’s Bishopstoke, Church booklet
Photocopies – Old Church prior to 1825, 1825 Church
Tree Preservation Order
Hampshire Treasures – Eastleigh area
Eastleigh Borough Council site drawings with planting details
1997 Survey pages 11802018 pdf.