Saturday, 7 May 2016

All Saints, East Meon



All Saints is an impressive example of a Norman parish church in a wonderful setting, particularly noted for its carved 12th century font of black Tournai marble.

The Normans probably replaced an earlier wooden church of Anglo-Saxon foundation. The parish records suggest the rebuilding began in 1080, though a date of around 1130-50 seems likely. This resulted in today's cruciform church with its impressive tower. The 13th century added a south aisle and lady Chapel, as well as the attractive broach spire, and in the 14th the windows of the transepts were replaced in the Decorated style. The north and east walls of the chancel were rebuilt around 1500.

The setting is impressive in itself: the church sits in a commanding position on a hillside overlooking the village below. It is a lovely example of the Norman style, with zig-zag abounding on the tower's bell-openings, and the west and south doors. There are a few original round-headed windows but the remainder are an interesting mix of 13th windows with plate tracery and some peculiar 14th century decorated windows with straight-pointed heads rather than the normal curved arches. The east window in the chancel is a 19th copy by Ninian Comper of the original Perpendicular design.

Other features of interest include the pulpit dated to 1706, brought from the now-demolished church of Holy Trinity, Minories in London; and the reredos and screen between the chancel and Lady Chapel, both by Comper.

But the real treasure is the font. This dates to around 1130-40, and was probably a gift from the Bishop of Winchester, since it resembles a similar font in Winchester Cathedral. The sides and upper surface are decorated with vigorous carvings: two of the sides have blind arcading with birds and animals, but the other two show first the creation and temptation of Adam and Eve, and then their expulsion. Unusually, they are shown leaving a church rather than the garden of Eden. A lovely touch is the angel showing Adam how to dig and Eve how to spin after the event.

All Saints, Church Road, East Meon, Hampshire, GU32 1NJ

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