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All Saints’ Church, Hursley

Post code: SO21 2JB OS Grid Ref: SU 427 252 CoE CHR No: 641340

Exterior of All Saints Church, Hursley Photo 1 - All Saints, Hursley.

The church is best known for its associations with John Keble, the pioneer leader of the Oxford Movement. It was designed for him by JP Harrison, and built in 1846-8, in the Victorian Gothic revival style. It encased a church which had been much remodeled in 1752-3. The earliest remaining feature is the west tower, thought to date from the 14 th century. Earlier stone mouldings, some with Norman decoration, can be seen within its fabric, as well as reused material for later rebuilding. The spire which was added in the 19th century was taken down in 1960.

The HMGP usually concentrates on earlier graffiti, so the main area of interest for our visit was the medieval west tower: its chambers and staircase and the outer west doorway. However, we also checked for and recorded all later graffiti, including a significant amount of 18 th century and later graffiti on the Heathcote Mausoleum, which was built in 1771 within the churchyard. The graffiti found on this structure is described in a separate report.

Tower exterior: Around the doorway, on the mouldings on the north and south sides, are incised many sets of initials, some within elaborate frames, and some with dates. The dates are all from the 18 th and 19 th centuries. The dated initials WT 1783 are prominent and are on both sides of the doorway, repeated at least three times. (Photo 2)

South side of doorway. Elaborate boxed initials WT 1783 Photo 2 - South side of doorway. Elaborate boxed initials WT 1783.

Among the initials is a symbol which could represent the letter M, made of a pair of overlapping inverted Vs. Such marks are sometimes known as Marian marks. They were originally devotional religious symbols, the Vs standing for Virgo Virginum, Virgin of the Virgins, invoking the Virgin Mary, but in time their religious significance was forgotten and, post-Reformation, they were used instead more as lucky symbols, or apotropaic marks, a protection against evil, and often found around building openings such as windows or this doorway (Photo 3).

Doorway, south jamb. Marian mark Photo 3: Doorway - Marian mark

Tower interior: Within the tower, the bell chamber, ringing room and the whole of the stairway from ground level to the roof, were surveyed. We were also given access on to the roof, where some graffiti was seen. However, the roof lead was restored relatively recently so the graffiti is clearly modern. Two fine examples of 17 th century graffiti occur just outside the ringing room, on the jamb of the entrance arch into the staircase. These are the names John Woll 1627 and John Frostt with a scratched-out date, which is possibly 1609 or 1629 (Photo 4). Both names are enclosed within shield-shaped surrounds.

Tower staircase, below ringing room. John Woll and John Frostt Photo 4: Tower staircase, below ringing room. John Woll and John Frostt.

Further down the staircase is a depiction of an armorial shield (Photo 5). Unfortunately, it is hard to identify such heraldic devices when no colour is present. The coronet surmounting the shield is an indication of the bearer’s rank, so again, further research may help to identify the family represented by this shield, which is presumably a local one. It might represent the Heathcote coat of arms, shown in the VCH as having “three roundels vert within each is a cross or on top of a ground of ermine” (Fig 21). Sir William Heathcote bought the manor in 1718, and it remained in this family until 1899.

Tower staircase. Heraldic shield and VV apotropaic mark Photo 5: Tower staircase. Heraldic shield and VV apotropaic mark.

Masons' Marks: Some marks are identified as masons’ marks because of their location and the manner of carving. There are relatively few of them, and no marks are repeated, apart from two cross shapes in the bell chamber, above the north and south window arches. At ground level, on the south side of the tower arch, too high up to be carved in situ, is a finely carved mason’s mark which might be based on a monogram of initials I and D, or possibly an I and H. It could also be a lower-case h. (Photo 6).

Tower arch, south side, mason's mark Photo 6: Tower arch, south side, mason's mark.

The Former Village School: Marks on the brick wall of the adjacent village hall were noted (Photo 7). These are reminiscent of grooves cut into the wall of Church Cottage, Basingstoke which are said to have been made by pupils sharpening their slate pencils when the building was a school. It was confirmed that this was the case in Hursley too, and the building had been the village school in the 19 thcentury.

” Pencil” sharpening marks on brick wall of former village school adjacent to church Photo 7: ” Pencil” sharpening marks on brick wall of former village school adjacent to church.

340 photographs were taken during the survey. All images and record sheets are held by the Hampshire Field Club Medieval Graffiti Project archive and are available on request. A copy of this report has been lodged with the Hampshire Historic Environment Record and with the church.

See further images and read the fuller pdf report.

Survey date: 4th June and 23rd July 2022

Surveyors: Mark Barden, Ron Brading, Aldous Rees, Karen Wardley