|HCC Site ID:||1177||Parish:||Bishopstoke|
|Designations:||Conservation Area||Area:||0.3 ha|
|Access:||No Public Access||Ownership:||Leased to Eastleigh Borough Council|
Location and Site
The churchyard is situated on Church Lane, Bishopstoke, just north of the B3037 Eastleigh to Fair Oak Road. The original Church of St Mary’s was built in early Saxon times on the raised banks of the River Itchen and had direct access to the River. A pathway and broadwalk now provide access.
St Mary’s Churchyard was the site of a Saxon Church, which was probably destroyed by the Danes, when they invaded Southampton (Hamtun) in 1001. It was also mentioned in the Domesday book. A drawing exists of the church that followed, at what date this was built is unknown. A list of rectors start at 1334 as records prior to the 14th century are unreliable. The church appears to have had a wooden tower, dormer windows in the roof and steps leading up to an entrance above the ground floor. During Thomas Gamier’s time as rector, (he became Dean of Winchester in 1840) this church came into disrepair, and a new one was built on the same site in 1825, mainly financed by him. 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”. Bells that had presumably been in the old church, could only be chimed as the tower was not substantial enough for them to be rung. Extensive repairs were carried out to this church in 1883. 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 and opposite the school. There was considerable controversy to this. However, the new church was built and was consecrated in 1891. The old church fell into disrepair, and all but the tower was demolished in 1907. The last burial took place in 1812.
Originally the churchyard had direct access to the River Itchen for a short distance (1 872 OS map). In order to keep the public out of the sacred precincts a fence was erected between the river and the churchyard in the late 19th century. A path from the churchyard still gives access to a bridge over the river and to 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 this was pulled down in 1965. Considerable maintenance and replanting was carried out by the Borough in 1995.
All 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 17/18th century tombstones line one and half boundaries of the garden. A war memorial is also on the elevated area. It is a public open space with seating, specimen trees including the large multi-branched 1694 yew.
The 17th/18th Churchyard of St Mary’s became a public open space in 1952. The footings of the 19th century church, some old tombstones, 1694 yew and war memorial remain. It is now a garden with seating, specimen trees and a pathway that provides access to the River Itchen.
HGT Research 1998
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