The parish church played a central role not only in religious services but as the community centre of the whole parish. For a PDF of ‘A Short History of All Saints’, click here.
The original Saxon minster church was replaced in the 11th and 12th centuries by a simple church comprising today’s central nave, chancel and a square tower; a process probably started by Bishop Walkelin, 1070 – 1098, who also rebuilt Winchester Cathedral.
In the 12th century, Bishop Henry of Blois enlarged the church by adding the south nave and transepts, and the steeple; he also donated the Tournai Font, the church’s greatest treasure, and one of only four in Hampshire.
The church was one of three seats of local government, along with the manor court and the Archdeacon’s court (which met from time to time in the nave, and heard cases relating to church attendance, payment of tithes, marital matters and probate.) The equivalent of today’s Parochial Church Council met in the vestry and was named after it. Prominent villeins and other worthies were elected to it annually as church wardens, sidesmen, overseers of the poor and surveyors of roads and bridges; they were unpaid and were responsible for raising parish taxes (‘church scots’) to maintain the church, for looking after the poor and for employing the clerk, sexton, constables and other officers including the ‘beggar-banger’,who ensured that migrant poor were moved on from the parish, and the ‘knock-knobbler’, whose job it was to drive dogs out of the church and graveyard.
The bishop was rector of East Meon and in addition to rental income collected the ‘rectorial’ or ‘greater’ tithes, one tenth of the produce of his tenants; the grain was delivered to ‘tithe’ barns built in strategic locations around the parish, milk, meat and wool delivered to the episcopal palace at Wolvesey.
The vicar officiated ‘in vice’, vicariously, for the bishop; he received the ‘lesser’ tithes, a miscellaneous assemblage of garden crops, animal products, poultry, timber, turf and hay; he also received fees for ceremonies he performed on behalf of parishioners and was also entitle to the produce of ‘glebe’ land, which he farmed himself; the vicar of All Saints owned glebe land throughout the extensive parish, including Froxfield and Steep and even Ambersham, which must have been farmed by hired labour.