A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
Steventon is situated 3½ miles south-south-west from Oakley station on the Salisbury and Exeter line of the London and South Western Railway, and 7 miles south-west from Basingstoke. The parish is on high ground, rising generally from north to south and ranging from 343 ft. above the ordnance datum at Street Farm in the north to 536 ft. above the ordnance datum at Misholt Copse on its south-eastern borders. St. Nicholas' Church is on the eastern boundary of the parish, and near it is Steventon Manor, the residence of Mr. Mills, standing in a well-wooded park of 170 acres and commanding pleasant views of the surrounding country. Among the woods on this fine estate is still to be found at a distance of a mile from the house one which goes by the name of Brocas Copse, thus preserving the memory of the family which held the manor so long. The rectory standing in very pretty and well-wooded grounds of 53 acres is some distance north of the church. The novelist Jane Austen lived at Steventon for the first twentyfive years of her life (1775–1800), her father, the Rev. George Austen, being rector of Steventon for over forty years, and it was here that she wrote Pride and Prejudice, 1796–7 and Northanger Abbey, 1798. (fn. 1) The rectory-house where she lived has been pulled down for more than fifty years, the present one being situated about 500 yards distant from where the old one used to stand. At present no vestige of it remains, but up to within the last twenty years garden flowers used to bloom every season in the meadow where it formerly stood. (fn. 2)
The Salisbury and Exeter line of the London and South Western Railway traverses the north of the parish. The area is 2,155 acres, of which 1,066¾ acres are arable land, 426½ acres permanent grass and 271½ acres woods and plantations. (fn. 3) The soil is clay and gravel and the subsoil chalk. The chief crops are wheat, barley, oats, turnips and sainfoin. Among place-names in Steventon mentioned in the 16th century are the following:—Cockley Land, Why teland, Isvangers, Halefield, Cwenton field, (fn. 4) The Parsonage Piece, Graunge Haye and Oldberie Piece. (fn. 5)
At the time of the Domesday Survey there were two estates in STEVENTON—one assessed at 3 hides and worth £4 and the other assessed at half a hide and worth 4s. The former, which had been held of Edward the Confessor by Elfelm, was the property of Alsi Berchenistre, while the owner of the latter was Godwine the Falconer, who had remained in possession for over twenty years. (fn. 6) The two estates subsequently coalesced, the owner of Steventon in 1167 being a certain Geoffrey, (fn. 7) possibly father of the Geoffrey de Luvers (fn. 8) who in 1231 was summoned to show by what warrant he held the manor of Steventon, which was alleged to be the escheat of the king of the lands of the Normans. (fn. 9) He apparently failed to make good his claim, as two years later Henry III granted the land which had belonged to Geoffrey de Luvers in Steventon to Geoffrey des Roches to support him in the king's service during the king's pleasure. (fn. 10) In 1234 Geoffrey des Roches obtained licence to lease the demesnes of his land in Steventon to the men of that vill or others at métayage or at farm as he preferred, (fn. 11) but in the same year the heirs of Geoffrey de Luvers—his sister Annora wife of Hugh de Wengham and his nephew Philip de Sandervill—paid the king a fine of £80 and recovered possession of the manor. (fn. 12) In 1249 Steventon was held jointly by Manser de Sandervill, probably son and heir of Philip de Sandervill, and Hugh de Wengham, the son and successor of Hugh and Annora. (fn. 13) The following year Hugh de Wengham guaranteed that after his death his property in Well in Long Sutton and Steventon should descend to his son Geoffrey, and promised that in the meantime he would provide sufficient food and clothing for him and his children and Egelina his wife. (fn. 14) Manser de Sandervill apparently sold his moiety of the estate to Martin des Roches, son and heir of Geoffrey des Roches, (fn. 15) who purchased the other moiety from Geoffrey and Egelina in 1260, at the same time promising that as long as Geoffrey and Egelina lived they might take yearly by view of his forester twelve cartloads of wood in his wood of Sterenton. (fn. 16) In 1275 Martin des Roches was holding Steventon of the king in chief for 2½ hides of land, (fn. 17) and two years later he died seised of a messuage and 2 carucates of land in Steventon, leaving as his heir his brother Hugh. (fn. 18) In 1285 Hugh granted the reversion of the manor on the death of Lucy widow of Martin to his son John, (fn. 19) who shortly before his death in 1312 settled Steventon in tail upon his son and namesake. (fn. 20) In 1337 the latter settled the manor upon himself and his wife Joan in tail-male with contingent remainder in fee-tail successively to his daughters Mary the wife of John de Boarhunt and Alice the wife of Henry Romyn, (fn. 21) and he had died before 1346, in which year his relict Joan was stated to be holding half a fee in Steventon. (fn. 22) On the death of Joan in 1361 Steventon Manor passed in accordance with the settlement of 1337 to her daughter Mary, by this time a widow, (fn. 23) who brought it into the Brocas family by her marriage with Sir Bernard Brocas the same year. (fn. 24) From this date Steventon followed the same descent as the manor of Beaurepaire in the parish of Sherborne St. John (fn. 25) (q.v.) until about 1584, (fn. 26) when, on the coming of age of Sir Pexall Brocas, there seems to have been some arrangement made whereby Lady Eleanor gave up the twelfth part of the manor which she and her husband Sir John Savage had purchased from John and Elizabeth Jobson (fn. 27) in return for a life interest in Beaurepaire. (fn. 28) Sir Pexall also apparently bought up Oliver and Margery Beckett's twelfth part, for he did fealty for the whole manor of Steventon at the view of frankpledge held at Basingstoke on 14 January 1587, (fn. 29) and he lived, or rather was supposed to live, at Steventon—for he really resided chiefly in London—until he passed it over to his son and heir Thomas Brocas and shifted his country quarters to Little Brickhill. (fn. 30) Thomas Brocas mortgaged Steventon to Sir Thomas Jervoise of Herriard (co. Hants) and Sir Henry Browne of Writtle (co. Essex) in 1622, (fn. 31) and three years later conveyed the manor to Thomas Coteel of London. (fn. 32) Of this Thomas very little is known. At this date there were two Thomas Coteels living—father and son—London merchants of Dutch extraction—but the purchaser of Steventon was most probably the son, for he was high sheriff of Hampshire in 1630. (fn. 33) In 1626 Thomas, as lord of Steventon, made a loan of £20 to Charles I. (fn. 34) He was residing at Steventon in 1631, (fn. 35) and held a court there in 1632, (fn. 36) but the following year reconveyed the manor to Thomas Brocas, who in 1635 mortgaged it to Sir John Baker and Richard Parkhurst, trustees of George Mynne, lord of the manor of Epsom (co. Surr.). (fn. 37) George Mynne died in 1648, and in the following year his widow Anne finally purchased the manor from Thomas Brocas. (fn. 38) George Mynne, the only son of George and Anne, died without issue in 1651, and thereupon Steventon passed to his sisters and co-heirs Anne and Elizabeth, (fn. 39) the former of whom married (1) Sir John Lewkenor, K.B. of West Dean (co. Suss.) and (2) Sir William Morley of Halnaker (co. Suss.), while the latter became the wife of Richard Evelyn of Woodcote in the parish of Epsom, younger brother of the author, John Evelyn. (fn. 40) On the death of Elizabeth Evelyn without surviving issue in 1692 (fn. 41) her moiety of the manor passed to her sister Anne, who died in 1704 and was succeeded by her son John Lewkenor of West Dean, M.P. for Midhurst in 1661 and 1681 to 1705, and knight of the shire in 1679. (fn. 42) John dying without issue in 1706 bequeathed Steventon to William Knight (heretofore called William Woodward) and Elizabeth his wife. William died in 1721 and four years later his widow Elizabeth re-married Bulstrode Peachey, who assumed the name of Knight. (fn. 43) Elizabeth by will left the manor to her second cousin Thomas May of Godmersham (co. Kent), (fn. 44) who changed his name to Knight on succeeding to the estate in 1738. (fn. 45) He died in 1781 and was followed by his son Thomas Knight, who died without issue in 1794, leaving his estates to his kinsman Edward Austen, the second son of the Rev. George Austen, rector of Steventon, (fn. 46) who changed his name to Knight in 1812. (fn. 47) From this date the manor remained in the Knight family until January 1855, when Edward Knight son of the last-named Edward sold it to Arthur Richard second Duke of Wellington. (fn. 48) From the latter it passed by sale in 1877 to Mr. Henry Harris, on whose death in 1898 it passed to his widow, Mrs. Harris, for her life and then to her son Henry, who this year (1910) sold it to Mr. Robert Mills. (fn. 49)
Steventon Manor House is a good red brick building by Waterhouse; the old hall, which Sir Richard Pexall was engaged in rebuilding when he died—a pretty flint and stone building with mullioned windows—stands to the south-west, and is now used as a stable. It contains no old fittings except a single fireplace now in the harness-room, but has at the north end a projecting two-story bay with large mullioned windows, and on the east side a small porch running up the full height; in its outer archway are spandrels containing blank shields. To the south is a part of the garden known as the nuns' walk, and in a fernery here are several fragments of 12th and 13th-century masonry found on the spot, while in the stable-yard is a large respond capital of c. 1130. In the wall of an outbuilding of the new house is part of a large cross shaft with interlacing patterns, probably of 10th-century date, also dug up here.
The church has been little altered since its first building, c. 1200, and is a very interesting building, the stone being of excellent quality, and chiefly from Binstead in the Isle of Wight. The ashlar angle quoins of the nave are two and sometimes three stones wide, and show the original tooling. An unusual feature is the inclosed tower (little more than a bell turret) which stands partly on the west wall of the nave and partly on an inner wall pierced with three arches. These make a balance to the chancel arch and its flanking arched recesses for nave altars, but are of more equal spans. The chancel is slightly wider at the east end than the west, and its north and south walls are set with a regular outward inclination; the stone is inferior to that used in the nave, and has been retooled at a late date. The east wall and possibly both side walls have been rebuilt. The east window is a partly restored insertion of the 15th century of three cinquefoiled lights under a traceried two-centred head with a moulded label outside. In each side wall are two small lancet windows, chamfered and rebated outside and splayed inside. There is apparently a piscina in the south wall, but it has been covered by the plasterwork.
The chancel arch is original but partly of modern repair; its jambs are slightly chamfered and have chamfered abaci; the arch is two-centred and chamfered. The two arched recesses flanking the chancel arch are similar in detail but narrower and have no abaci at the springing. They are 10 in. deep and that on the south shows many traces of ancient colour decoration where the modern plaster has been broken away. On the jambs is a running pattern in red of 13th-century date, and on the back of the recess an arcade of five arches, that in the middle wider than the others, with a figure standing under each. The principal figure is that of a deacon, St. Laurence or St. Stephen, but the others are too faded or covered by plaster to be identified.
The nave is lighted by three windows on each side, the middle ones being original lancets; that on the south has a round head, but seems to have been altered. The other windows are square-headed, of two cinquefoiled lights, the eastern pair being 16th-century work and the western pair modern copies of them. There were probably north and south doorways where the modern windows now are, and the present west doorway has a sundial cut in its south jamb and was doubtless once in the south wall of the nave.
The wall below the window is recessed and contains the remains of a pointed piscina. The arcade of three bays across the west end, already mentioned, resembles in detail that at the east end of the nave; the two outer arches are now closed up by thin modern walls, and in the middle one is a modern doorway and partition. From the two piers cross walls run to the west wall of the nave, pierced at the ground level by chamfered pointed arches, and above by similar rebated arches; the space closed in on the north side is used as a store and also to take the ladder to the bells; the other inclosure on the south serves as a vestry. The west (and only) entrance to the church has jambs and two-centred arch of two chamfered orders with moulded abaci and label; it is clearly an insertion, and its head cuts into the sill of an original lancet window, now blocked and only visible from the inside. Above it is a modern lancet, and on either side modern twolight windows; they are partly blocked inside by the springing of the pointed barrel vaults which form the ceiling of the side chambers; the bell turret stands above the nave roof and is lighted by modern lancet windows; the parapet is embattled, and from inside it rises an octagonal slated spire. The walls of the nave and tower are all cemented like those of the chancel.
In the south-east corner of the nave is a 17th-century pew with high sides, the upper part with very well-designed open tracery; it is of very light construction, the tracery cut out of thin oak boards. The font is a white marble one of 1868 and the other furniture is also modern.
There are three bells; the treble has no mark or inscription, the second is by Henry Knight, 1670, and the third is mediaeval, but bears only the stamp of the lion's face, groat and floral pattern found on the bells of Roger Landon.
There are three books of registers, the first containing baptisms, burials and marriages from 1604 to 1725; the second contains baptisms and burials from 1738 to 1812 and marriages from 1738 to 1753; the third contains marriages from 1753 to 1812.
The first mention of a church at Steventon is in 1238, in which year it was arranged that Hugh de Wengham and Annora his wife should present a clerk, and that on his death Philip de Sandervill or his heirs should present a clerk, and so on de clerico in clericum, (fn. 50) Hugh and Annora, and Philip, and the heirs of Annora and Philip presenting in alternate turns. The advowson of the church followed the descent of the manor until about 1860, (fn. 51) when Arthur Richard second Duke of Wellington sold it to the Rev. Gilbert Alder, rector of Hurstbourne Tarrant. He gave it in 1868 to his son the Rev. Herbert Alder, who was rector of Steventon from 1875 to 1889. (fn. 52) The Rev. Edward Alder purchased the advowson from his brother in 1888, and was rector from 1889 until his death in 1901, when he left it by will to his widow Mrs. Alder, of Amoril House, Batheaston, Somerset, who is the present patron. (fn. 53)
William Henry Digweed by his will proved at London on 22 July 1881 bequeathed to the rector and churchwardens the sum of £100 upon trust to apply the income for the benefit of the poor. This sum was invested in the purchase of £99 2s. 8d. consols in the name of the official trustees, producing yearly £2 9s. 4d., which is applied in the distribution of coal.