How All Saints began
The church was built in 1880 to serve the new village of Denmead, which brought together five hamlets in the ancient Forest of Bere, all originally part of the parish of Hambledon.
All Saints’ was built on half an acre of land donated by William Griffin Snr. of Yew Tree Farm, Southwick Road. The architects were Messrs S Fowler and CR Pink, and the contract was awarded to Walter Hensman Bros. of Horncastle, Lincolnshire at an estimated cost of £1539. The foundation stones in the east wall were laid on 1 June 1880 by Colonel Butler of Bury Lodge, Hambledon and Dr Thomas White, Vicar of Hambledon. 400 tons of flint, to be used in the construction, was donated by four local farmers. The church was consecrated on 22 November 1880 by the Lord Bishop of Winchester. The first Vicar was the Reverend FC Green, who served for fifty years in Denmead. The original building faces due east – west. Vestries were added in 1959, but were demolished in 1996 as part of a major extension project.
Denmead’s population today is over 6000, and the original church was increasingly proving too small for modern needs. In August 1996 work started on an extension to designs by Ralph Ball RIBA, which rotates the principal focus to the north. The main contractor was Richardsons of Nyewood, Petersfield, who completed the project for £226,783. The foundation stone in the north wall was laid by the Bishop of Portsmouth on Saturday 2 November 1996, the day following All Saints’ Day, and the extended Church was consecrated, also by the Bishop of Portsmouth, on Sunday 4 May 1997. The flints used on the west and north walls of the extension were salvaged from the north wall of the original church. Many of the tiles on the east elevation of the Extension were signed by parishioners.
The only object of any antiquity in the church is the font. It is from the 14th or 15th century, and was originally the font of St Peter & St Paul Hambledon, the mother church of All Saints’. During the restoration of Hambledon church in the 1870’s it was removed to make way for a new font in memory of the Reverend Thomas Patteson. In 1880 the ancient font was rescued from Hambledon churchyard, cleaned and presented to All Saints’ where it was used for the first christening on 8th May 1891.
Parish records show that in April 1907 it was agreed that a screen should be placed between the original Chancel and Nave. In 1910 a design by W Kitchen was adopted, and the screen was built. It has a memorial plaque to Ellen Cordery who is described as a ‘most liberal benefactor’, and to her mother Mary Ann Lashley. Installation of the oak reredos behind the original altar was agreed in 1911. In June 1917 it was decided that a crucifix should be placed on the Chancel screen.
The brasses in the original nave have all been re-installed in their original positions except the one in the centre of the west wall, to Sir William Pink, one of the first Churchwardens. This memorial was originally on the north wall, which has been demolished. The other memorials are self-explanatory. Just inside the Chapel screen on the left are two plates recording the donation of the present bell which replaced two smaller bells in the original bell-cot, in memory of Captain & Mrs De Pass of Forest Gate. A full catalogue of all the memorials in the church and the village Burial Ground, which they manage, has been prepared by Denmead Parish Council.
Chapel of Healing and Unity
This was the original Chancel of the 1880 church, and has been retained largely as it was, with the original Choir stalls. On the right-hand wall between the windows hangs the Denmead Covenant, agreed in 1985 between the Baptist, Roman Catholic and Church of England communities in the village, and renewed annually. To the right of the Altar is an icon painted in 1988 by Elizabeth Reyntiens in memory of Mabel Bowen Jones and her son Robert Bowen Jones. It represents the story – in St John 5 – of Christ Healing at the Pool of Bethesda. On the wall just to its right is a ceramic tile which is a souvenir of the First Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Amsterdam in 1948. This was given to Canon John Herklots, Vicar of Denmead from 1972 – 1997 by his father, Canon HGG Herklots, who wrote the preparatory book for the UK before that first meeting, and was also the Times Correspondent there. This tile and the Denmead Covenant represent elements of Unity in the Chapel, whilst the Icon represents the Church’s Healing mission.
To the north of the Chapel of Healing and Unity are two Vestries which have been created in the space previously occupied by the organ. The Vicar’s Vestry is upstairs and the Choir Vestry downstairs.
In the north wall, to the right of the Altar Dais, can be seen a small stone inscribed with Arabic characters. The inscription says Beitin. This is the Arabic name of Bethel, the Hebrew word meaning ‘House of God’, which Jacob gave to the place where he had his dream of a ladder from Earth to Heaven. The full story is told in Genesis 28. On a visit to Palestine in 1954, Canon John Herklots, Vicar of Denmead from 1972 to 1997, met Stewart Perowne, a well known author and expert on the Holy Land, who took him to Bethel where Canon John picked up this stone. Mr Perowne was working with refugees at that stage, and knew a refugee stonemason, who shaped it and carved the Arabic inscription. It has been displayed frequently in recent years, and particularly when prayers have been said for the extension project. It was blessed as the Consecration Cross of the extended All Saints’ by the Bishop of Portsmouth.
The sanctuary furniture and the Cross on the North wall are by Graham Laird, who has been designing and making fine furniture for nearly thirty years. He was taught by Robert Ingham, principal of Parnham College (formerly The John Makepeace School of Craftsmen in Wood). Previous commissions have included work for more than twenty other churches. The inscriptions on the individual pieces show the details of donors and memorials. The Altar Dais has been bought with donations from couples who have been married in All Saints’ in the last few years.
Outside the Church
New Foundation Stone
The new Foundation Stone is in the north wall. The text on the stone was written by Ramon Lull who lived from 1232 to 1316. He was a remarkable man. After a dissolute life as a courtier, he was converted and devoted his life to Christ. He wrote many books and traveled widely. He pressed the church of his day to be a missionary church. Our text is taken from his book The Tree of Love. It has been chosen because it says we have built the extension for the love of Christ (the Beloved); and that we intend to make him better known in Denmead and in his world; we intend to serve him by the way we live our lives; we intend to honour him in our worship; and above all we love him and wish all people so to do.
Ramon Lull came from Majorca. His great vision came to him in a cave on Mount Randa on that island. A small piece of stone from that cave has been inserted in the pointing at the top right-hand corner of the Foundation Stone. The stone also carries the Logo of a radiant cross which has been used on church publicity material since the launch of the Appeal for funds for the Extension on All Saints’ Day 1993.
The Appeal remained open to finance a major upgrade and refurbishment to the adjacent Hall, and construction of a two-storey link building between Church and Hall to include an additional meeting room upstairs and storage, office and utility space downstairs. This was achieved in 2003 with the refurbished and extended Hall being formally opened by the Bishop of Portsmouth on the 31st January 2004, providing a wonderful new facility to serve the community.