(« back to home page)


 English Church Architecture.


MINSTEAD, All Saints  (SU 281 109),


(Bedrock:  Eocene, Barton Group.)


'Whitby en miniature' (Pevsner).


Pevsner described this odd little church as 'Whitby en miniature' (Nikolaus Pevsner & David Lloyd, The Buildings of England: Hampshire & the Isle of Wight, New Haven & London, Yale University Press, 2002, p. 338).  A little mediaeval work remains but most features and furnishings are seventeenth, eighteenth or nineteenth century in date and are gathered together in disorganized display.  The building consists of a W. tower, nave and chancel, with a porch and two cross-gabled family pews to the north, and a vestry and large cross-gabled extension of similar size to the nave to the south.  It is constructed chiefly of Flemish-bonded red brick, although some parts are rendered in yellow-washed plaster.


The mediaeval work includes the N. doorway (inside the porch) in Norman-Transitional style, with a pointed arch of two orders bearing rolls, supported on simple abaci. The date could be c. 1210 but probably not much later, and perhaps not as late as the thirteenth century chancel arch (shown below) with its two flat chamfers supported on two orders of circular shafts.  The suggestion in the church guide ('members of the congregation', The New Forest Church of All Saints, Minstead, 2009 p. 2),  that the latter was originally a Norman arch, subsequently remodelled to assume pointed form, may have been based on its incompetent shape, but is probably spurious for the side shafts do not look right and very few Norman arches were given chamfers as wide as these.


The rest of the building is best examined section by section rather than chronologically.  The tower was constructed in 1774:  it is unbuttressed and rises in two stages to a parapet supported on a cornice and surmounted by a short spike and obelisks at the corners.  Except to the west, where there is a plain rectangle, the bell-openings take the form of little Diocletian windows, and there are tall round-headed windows beneath, blocked to the south and west, turned in brick with abaci and keystones.


Constructed in 1792 (Pevsner), the S. transept - if it may  be so termed - is an ugly piece of work due to its excessive size and shallow pitch.  The windows here and throughout the building, comprise a motley assortment of cheap domestic appearance, with the arguable exception of the chancel E. window, formed of two thinly-framed adjoining lancets in a good imitation of Strawberry Hill Gothick.  The N. porch (seen below, in the view of the church from the north) is a pretty piece, rendered in plaster and dated 1683.  The Minstead Lodge pew adjoins it to the east, and the Castle Malwood pew adjoins that to the east again.  Both originally had a hearth and a chimney and allowed their respective families to sit in warmth and comfort while the service and sermon were delivered from the three-decker pulpit set against the nave S. wall opposite. Meanwhile, the congregation  occupied the transept, nave, and galleries to the west and north.



It is this woodwork that provides the principal interest inside the building.  The west and north gallery appears to be an eighteenth century composite piece, the two sections of which may or may not be exactly contemporary.  Both are  supported on square posts with chamfered corners but the western half of the north gallery is segmentally-arched beneath, to provide headroom for worshippers passing in and out the N. door.  The high upper gallery forming a second tier to the west 'was added in 1818 to house children, poor people and others the Victorians [but actually not the Victorians, as is evident from the date] were keen to include… only at a distance'  (church guide).  (See the photographs of the galleries below, taken from the chancel and N. transept respectively.)  The S. transept is fitted with box pews as might be expected,  and the three-decker pulpit with its irregular polygonal tester is set at the corner between the transept and the nave in order to be visible from both.  The font is probably Norman and has a square bowl carved with two lions with a single head to the north, Christ with two supporting figures to the west, and a pair of angels to the south.  The S. transept roof is supported by an iron column at the entrance to the nave (shown in the photograph, below right) and the interior as a whole has the crowded, muddled appearance that was probably typical of many small churches before the wholesale clearances effected under the influence the Victorian Ecclesiologists.