A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1908.
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The parish of Steep formerly included a strip of land called Ambersham in the county of Sussex situated near Midhurst and Petworth, but under the Acts 2 and 3 Will. IV, cap. 64, and 7 and 8 Vic. cap. 61, Ambersham was detached from Steep and became part of Sussex. (fn. 1) For ecclesiastical purposes it was divided into two portions, North Ambersham and South Ambersham, the former being annexed to Fernhurst and the latter to Easebourne. South Ambersham contains 1,497 acres of land and 7 acres of land covered by water, while North Ambersham has 1,169 acres. The parish of Steep contains over 700 inhabitants, and occupies the rising ground north-east of Petersfield, its western boundary running along the brow of the high table-land and including within it the steep wooded eastern slopes of Stoner Hill and Wheatham Hill. The parish is watered by a small stream which rises not far from Ashford Lodge and flows thence east to Steep Marsh, and a second stream rising at the foot of Wheatham Hill follows the north and east boundaries of the parish, joining the first stream close to the village of Sheet. Two main roads run through the parish, that from Petersfield to Farnham on the east and the Petersfield and Ropley road on the south-west, the latter winding up the steep slopes of Stoner Hill with a skilfully engineered gradient through beautiful hanging beechwoods. It was laid out by private enterprise early in the last century in the expectation of a grant of the tolls on it, but this being refused by the government the promoters lost heavily by their undertaking. There is no regular village, the houses being scattered here and there over the parish, but the principal group lies along the road from Sheet, which crosses the main Petersfield and Ropley road on the lower slopes of Stoner Hill. Here are several shops and some modern villas which are increasing in number, owing no doubt to the close proximity of Petersfield. All Saints' church stands on the south side of this road about half a mile east of its junction with the main road, on a site from which the ground falls steeply to the south and east, the vicarage lying below it on the east, while on the north are the voluntary schools built in 1875, (fn. 2) and the almshouses erected and endowed by Mr. William Eames in 1882. On the eastern boundary of the churchyard is an old red-brick house with a picturesque chimney-stack, dating in part from the latter half of the sixteenth century, and the churchyard contains two very fine yew-trees, that on the south of the church being specially notable, even in a district where nearly every parish can show a large tree of the kind, confidently claiming for it the conventional thousand years of growth. There are several good modern houses standing in their own grounds in the parish, the most important being Ashford Lodge on low ground near Stoner Hill, the property of Miss Hawker; Stonerwood, a large brick house in about the centre of the parish to the west of the Ropley road, built about thirty years ago by the Rev. J. Tasswell and sold at his death ten years ago to Mr. J. Waller; Coldhayes in the north of the parish, a large handsome stone house built about twenty-five years ago by the late Rev. George Horsley-Palmer, a brother of the late Lord Selborne, the architect being the late Mr. Waterhouse, R.A., and at present occupied by Mrs. Horsley-Palmer; Collyers, a large brick house built about twenty years since by the late Colonel Ughtred Shuttleworth, and now owned by his widow and occupied by Major Adam Bogle; Dunnanie, a modern stucco house owned by Mrs. Shuttleworth; Island, a large brick house built four years ago and owned and occupied by Mrs. Falconer; Bedales, a large school built six years ago at a cost of about £60,000, with accommodation for 160 boys and girls; Little Stodham, a stucco house belonging to Mr. Money-Coutts, and occupied by Colonel Sir St. Vincent Hardwick, bart.; and Stoner House, built by the late Mr. Keeley Halswelle, a well-known artist, and now occupied by his widow. Bowyers Common lies in the east, and is intersected by the main road from Petersfield to Liss. Ashford, Forcombe or Foxcombe, and Aldersnapp were formerly tithings of East Meon, the two former being in the north-east of the parish, (fn. 3) while the latter is now represented by Aldersnapp Farm in the south. There was a watermill a little to the south of Ashford Lodge, representing one of those formerly belonging to the manor of East Meon, and held of it by rent of 3s. It has been pulled down, however, during the past winter (1906), and the water-power is now used only to work a turbine and supply water to Coldhayes. Sheet Upper Mill is partly in Steep parish and partly in the parish of Sheet. The various fulling-mills in Steep, of which mention is made in connexion with the industries of Petersfield, have long ago fallen into decay. (fn. 4)
The soil is marl, clay, and sandy loam, the subsoil gravel and sand. The chief crops are wheat, barley, and oats, and a few hops are also grown. The area is 2,658 acres, including 443¾ acres of arable land, 1,222¼ acres of permanent grass, and 233½ acres of wood and plantations. (fn. 5) Steep Stroud, Steep Marsh, and Bowyer's Common were inclosed in 1866.
Among place-names occurring in the seventeenth century are 'Kettle House, Tankerdells, The Moore, Coleheye and Dundhill' in the tithing of Forcombe or Foxcombe, and 'Stoner Hill, Coaks, Coaks Great Wood and Ridge' in the tithing of Aldersnapp. (fn. 6)
STEEP is not mentioned in Domesday Book by name, and it is most probably included in the entry under 'Menes,' as in after times most certainly it formed part of the great episcopal manor of East Meon. (fn. 7)
The first mention of Ambersham is in 963, when King Edgar granted land in Ambersham to the church of St. Andrew the Apostle at Meon. (fn. 8) It is not mentioned in Domesday, and the next mention of it seems to be in the reign of Henry II, when the king confirmed the agreement made between the brothers Robert and Andrew Taillard with reference to the land of Ambersham. (fn. 9) Andrew Taillard was to hold half of the manor of the king in chief for the service of 50s. a year. Robert was to hold the other half with soc and sac, toll and team, &c., just as his father Durant Taillard had held it in the reign of Henry I. In return for this agreement Robert gave Andrew 20 marks of silver. Shortly afterwards Ambersham was included in the grant made by Henry II of East Meon to the bishop of Winchester. (fn. 10) From this time onwards the manor of Ambersham was held of the bishopric, and its holders appear as free suitors at the courts of the manor of East Meon. (fn. 11)
The manor of Ambersham seems to have remained in the family of Taillard for about four hundred years, although there is not much documentary evidence of this, the only mention of a Taillard of Ambersham between the twelfth and sixteenth centuries being in 1327, when a certain Thomas son of Thomas Taillard of Ambersham is mentioned as owing 100s. to William la Zousche of Assheby. (fn. 12) In 1500 Nicholas Taillard and Alice his wife by fine granted messuages, lands, and rents in Ambersham to John Onley and his heirs. (fn. 13) It was no doubt the manor of Ambersham that was thus conveyed, since in 1537 Thomas Onley and Clemence his wife were seised of the manor of Ambersham, conveying it by fine in that year to Lady Katherine Arundel, one of the daughters of William, earl of Arundel, (fn. 14) who four years later sold it to William Yonge of Petworth, clothier, and Anthony his son. (fn. 15) The manor remained in the Yonge family for over a century, at length passing to Thomas Bonham of West Meon, by his marriage with Alice, sister of Anthony Yonge, from whom it was purchased in 1700 by Anthony Capron, of the parish of Easebourne (co. Sussex). (fn. 16) Anthony Capron, a descendant of the last-named, sold it towards the end of the eighteenth century to William Stephen Poyntz. (fn. 17) On his death it became vested in his three daughters, by whom it was sold in 1843 to George James, sixth earl of Egmont, whose nephew, Charles George Perceval, seventh earl of Egmont, is the present lord of the manor.
ASHFORD manor is a sub-manor dependent upon the great episcopal manor of East Meon, (fn. 18) and was held in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries by the Baker family. (fn. 19) In the beginning of the nineteenth century the then holder, who is said to have become bankrupt in making the Stoner Hill road, sold the property to Mr. Wentworth, who in his turn sold it to Lady Williams. Lady Williams married Admiral Edward Hawker, and left Ashford to his younger son, who was curate of Steep, and on the parish being separated from East Meon became the first vicar. It is now held by his grand-daughter, Miss Hawker, who comes of age October, 1907. (fn. 20)
The church of ALL SAINTS, STEEP, has a chancel 16 ft. by 13 ft., nave 50 ft. 6 in. by 16 ft., north and south aisles 13 ft. and 5 ft. wide respectively, with north and south porches, and a tower at the west end of the north aisle. All measurements are internal.
The eastern bays of the south arcade of the nave, c. 1180, are the earliest pieces of detail in the building, but it seems probable that the oldest masonry on the site belongs to a church of the Colemore and Ropley type, and probably of the first half of the twelfth century, with aisleless nave and chancel, and a small transept chapel at the east of the nave on the north; perhaps also on the south. There may also have been a north-west tower, probably of wood, with a masonry base as at present, before the addition of the north aisle. This church was enlarged about 1180 by the addition of a narrow south aisle, and some twenty years later the north aisle was added, its width being determined by the projection of the north transept chapel, whose west wall, together with the east wall of the north-west tower, was taken down at the time and the area thrown into the aisle. The different wall-thicknesses in the arcade and aisles suggest that the wall for the length of the first three bays of the arcade was taken down and rebuilt of a less thickness when the aisle was added, the thicker wall being retained at the east and west. The rebuilding of the chancel, probably of a slightly greater width than the old chancel, followed in the first quarter of the thirteenth century, and no further structural additions took place. There is nothing to show at what time the wooden upper stages of the tower were made. The church has undergone 'restoration' in 1839, £370 being spent, and in 1875 at a cost of £2,377. A plan of the building, as it was before 1839, is in the library of the Society of Antiquaries, and shows the west bay of the south arcade blocked with a thick wall, and the east bay of the south aisle destroyed, a wall being built close to the east bay of the arcade. There is also no chancel arch. The destruction of the eastern bay of the aisle suggests that there may have been a transept chapel here which had fallen into decay and been pulled down.
The chancel has a modern triplet of lancets on the east, a single modern lancet on the north, and two widely splayed lancets on the south, which are ancient though patched with new stone in places. The chancel arch, of thirteenth-century style, dates from 1875, and is said to replace a plain round-headed arch, which, if the plan already referred to can be trusted, was not older than 1839.
The nave has arcades of four bays, the north arcade having semicircular arches of two orders with edge chamfers, and circular columns with circular moulded capitals and bases. The third column, at the point where the wall thickens, is of larger diameter than those to the east of it, and the west respond has a plainer capital, with a square-edged abacus chamfered below, the other abaci in this arcade having a roll and hollow in place of the chamfer. The variation may be merely the result of repair, but the respond is thus given an earlier character, and may have belonged to an arch opening to the north-west tower from the original aisleless nave. The two east bays of the south arcade have semicircular arches of one chamfered order, and circular columns with scalloped capitals and abaci chamfered above and below. The arch in the third bay is of two orders with quarter-round mouldings, and it is evident from the claw-tooling of the inner order that it has been added in the thirteenth century to an arch of a single order like those to the east, but worked at the date of the addition with a moulding corresponding with the new order. The west bay is imitated from this, and with the west respond is modern. The north aisle is lighted on the east by a fourteenth-century window of two trefoiled lights, and has in its north wall three lancets of thirteenth-century style, of which only the eastern one and the west jamb of the next are ancient. The north door comes between the second and third windows, and has a pointed arch of two chamfered orders and a round-headed rear arch; it is probably thirteenthcentury work, and over it is built a modern wooden porch. The west window of the aisle is modern, of two trefoiled lights. All windows in the south aisle are modern, but the south door is of thirteenth-century date with two moulded orders and a label with human heads for dripstones, which seem to be secondhand. The west window of the nave is of two trefoiled lights and fourteenth-century date, and over it is a modern round window, cinquefoiled.
The bell tower has a lower stage of masonry, but above the roof is of timber, hung with weather-tiles in the lower part, and finished with a shingled spire. Externally the church is entirely plastered, except over the brown sandstone quoins, and its roofs are red-tiled.
The chancel has an old timber roof with arched braces, and the nave roof is in the main old, with new tie beams. The north aisle also has an old roof; probably all are of the fifteenth century, but in the aisle the plates, ties, and king posts are new.
There are no old wood fittings in the church, the altar rails of seventeenth-century date having been lost in 1875; the north door, however, is of the fifteenth century, with applied tracery on its outer face.
The font at the west of the nave has a tapering round bowl, becoming hexagonal, with six projecting trefoiled arches on its sides, the capitals of which are shown in profile only. It stands on six modern dwarf columns and a central shaft, and is of early fourteenth-century date.
There are five bells, all of 1745, by Robert Catlin. The plate consists of a Communion cup and cover paten of 1568; a chalice, flagon, and paten of 1876; a seventeenth-century pewter dish, inscribed 'the church bason of the parish of Steep,' and three pewter plates and a flagon; also a plated paten.
The first book of the registers, copied in 1644 from an older book now lost, begins in 1610, the second running from 1633 to 1673. There are no baptisms from 1637 to 1651. The third book goes from 1695 to 1774 (baptisms), 1754 (marriages), and 1780 (burials); while the fourth contains baptisms 1780–1802, and burials to 1812, and the fifth baptisms 1803–12. The sixth and seventh are marriage books, 1754–1812. There are churchwardens' accounts from 1707 to 1735.
Steep vicarage was from very early times annexed to the vicarage of East Meon. The advowson has consequently followed that of East Meon (q.v.). The living is at the present day a vicarage, net yearly value £170, with residence (erected in 1882), in the gift of the Lord Chancellor.
In 1678 there was a dispute as to the tithes belonging to the rectory of Steep, which Robert Mills and John Restall then held on lease from Dorothy Sessions, who held of the bishop of Winchester. The depositions of many of the inhabitants of the parish of Steep were taken, and the general opinion was that the tithes of wheat, barley, vetches, oats, rye, pease, field-beans, wool, lambs, apples, and pears (fn. 21) belonged to the proprietor or owner of the rectory of Steep, and not to the vicar of the parish church of East Meon, even though the parish church of Steep was a member of the vicarage of East Meon. It was also ascertained that owners and occupiers of land in the tithings of Langrish and Froxfield in the parish of East Meon paid tithes of apples and pears to the proprietors, tenants, or farmers of the rectories of Langrish and Froxfield, and not to the vicar of the parish church of East Meon, and that this was done in the whole hundred of East Meon, where parsonages were distinct from vicarages. (fn. 22)
Three years later occurred a dispute between Richard Downes, the vicar of East Meon and Steep, and John Clements, the lord of the manor of Rothercombe, as to whether the vicar of East Meon and Steep ought to have the tithes of 'all coppice, woodrise, or tytheable wood' cut down within the parishes of East Meon and Steep. The parishioners, on oath, with one accord, asserted that the tithes of copsewood were as due as any other tithes to the vicar of East Meon. It seemed to be the general opinion, however, that the parishioners had the right to compound for their tithes of copse-wood, since, although the former vicar had received tithe-wood in kind from several persons of the parish of East Meon, he had usually compounded with his parishioners for the vicarage tithes in which the tithes of copse-wood were included. (fn. 23)
In former times there was a great tithe-barn of two bays immediately adjoining the west end of Steep churchyard, but it was sold (presumably after the Commutation Act), and was included in Mr. Wentworth's sale of Ashford in 1842. The field adjoining the tithe-barn is known as Parson's field, but there seems to be no trace of the date at which it was alienated. A little house to the east of the churchyard is marked on some old maps as 'the old vicarage.' If so, it was alienated 150 years ago and made into cottages, and has recently been reconverted into one house. It was probably occupied by the parish priest, the vicar being vicar of East Meon. The present vicarage was built twenty-seven years ago on land bought for that purpose at a cost of about £2,300. (fn. 24)
In 1843 the bishop of Winchester, as lord of the manor, by statutory grant (duly enrolled) granted to the minister, churchwardens, and overseers of the chapelry of Steep, 10 roods, part of the common, as a site for a national school. On the inclosure in 1866 3 acres of land on the common were awarded to the trustees for the benefit of the school, of which 2 r. 10 p. was in 1872 exchanged for 1 a. 2 r. 12 p. of land adjoining the recreation ground. A new school has been erected upon the land acquired by exchange, and the remainder of the allotment was sold in 1875, and one-half of the proceeds applied towards the cost of erecting the new schools, and the remaining half in the purchase of £210 16s. 1d. consols with the official trustees.
In 1872 the Rev. Henry Hawker by deed granted a piece of land to trustees to be used as a site for almshouses for poor people of the parish, or otherwise for the benefit of its inhabitants, or the inhabitants of any other parish at their discretion, and William Eames by his will, proved in 1879, bequeathed his residuary estate for the erection and endowment of the almshouses. In the result of proceedings in the High Court £1,000 was expended in the erection of the almshouses, and a sum of £2,321 4s. consols was transferred to the official trustees of charitable funds. (fn. 25)