The church of All Saints at East Meon in Hampshire dates back to the Norman Conquest and probably stands on the site of an earlier Saxon church.
Nestling beneath a hillside, it is unexpectedly large and dominates the village. The bishops of Winchester were the lords of the manor of East Meon, and the church was probably built by Bishop Wakelin, who also rebuilt Winchester cathedral.
The church booklet and Simon Jenkins in his Thousand Best Churches say that the greatest treasure in the church is a Tournai font of black marble, made in Belgium in about 1150 and transported down the Scheldt river, across the North Sea and the English Channel, then up the river Itchen before the challenging final miles overland to East Meon. The four faces of the font are carved, two of them depicting symbolic designs, the other two the story of the Creation and Adam and Eve’s expulsion from Eden. Simon Jenkins describes the carvings as ‘Bayeux Tapestry in stone’. Personally I find the font rather ugly – too large and in a material unsuited to an English country church.
The original Norman church was of cruciform plan, with large north and south transepts. An early Gothic south aisle and Lady Chapel were added in about 1230, as was the pleasing broach spire.
The eastern wall of the south transept, once an outer wall and four feet thick, features a variety of windows, arches and a little gallery en route to the tower. The two smaller round-headed windows once admitted daylight from the outside.
Elsewhere in the south transept, a ship’s bell commemorates the long association between the church and HMS Mercury.
In the north transept there is an impressive community tapestry, made for the Millennium, depicting the village in panorama.
Throughout the church many of the hassocks (kneelers) have bright and cheerful embroidered covers, no doubt the work of the ladies of the village.
My visit to East Meon was on a cold, grey February day whose flat light did nothing for the photographs. An album of them can be seen here.