earliest surviving part of the ‘old’ church is the 12th
century nave of what is now dedicated as the Lady Chapel (the monks’
priory church as well), which served as the tiny parish church until
the 13th century. It was then that a narrow ‘lean-to’
aisle was added to the north. It is also possible that the chancel
and sanctuary was added at that date; looking westward from the
outside, there is a distinct arch shape high up, which could have
been the place for the east window.
three lancet windows on the south side replaced a larger porch structure
in the 1874 restoration. The porch was moved westward; this was
demolished when the 1968 extension was built. The window in its
place, designed by Francis Skeets, depicts John the Baptist, and
is a memorial to Hugh Prideaux-Brune. The mediaeval stone font used
to stand before it (this was destroyed in the 1990 fire).
Lady Chapel’s East Window, an ‘Annunciation’ scene
(Ecce ancilla Domini - behold the servant of the Lord) is a memorial
to his brother Sir Humphrey, both sons of the Rector. The Chantry
Chapel of the Brune family had been added as well to the north-east.
Although the last of their Rowner estate was finally sold for housing
in 1948, the family still holds the Lordship of the Manor of Rowner,
and Richard Prideaux-Brune is patron of the benefice, thereby appointing
the Rector, continuing 7 clear centuries of connection.
Chapel was incorporated into the main church in 1874 (Rector Richard
Foster Carter) as the chancel, without, it seems, the goodwill of
the Lord of the Manor! The architect was Mr Frank Thicke of London.
in 1890 the Rector asked the Patron (his father) for financial assistance
to repair the chancel roof, he was told, in no uncertain terms,
that as permission for the alterations had never been granted by
the owner of the Chantry Chapel, future liability for repairs was
therefore denied. A motion in the parish meeting states that the
Rector would be responsible for the Chantry’s maintenance,
with the Churchwardens bearing the responsibility of the south chancel
roof. Happily future generations have got on better with eachother.
medieval manor house stood to the west of the church, and was destroyed
in the 16th century. The lawn to the south of the Church is shown
on old surveys as ‘Manor House field’. Some stone was
used in the church, and a piece was incorporated into the sacristy
extension in 1950. Archaeological digs for the 1997 car park revealed
imported 13th century pottery and porcelain, more likely destined
for the manor house table, than for the farm cottages.
northern section of the graveyard (the only one in Gosport still
open for burials) lies where carp ponds once stood. A covered well
exists on Manor House field on Rowner Lane, and is made safe by
the tombstone to Henry Cunningham, the inventor of the Self-reefing
Topsail, having been laid over it. The tree planting scheme was
devised in 1973 by Mr G K Coombs, Garden Adviser to the Royal Horticultural
Society at Wisley Gardens, with further planting in 1977 and 1997.
rare solid limestone sepulchre tomb in the Chantry is to Sir John
Brune, Lord Chancellor of England, who died in 1559, and is one
of two such structures in the country. Its escutcheons reveal the
careful marrying that went on to secure the family’s mighty
wealth, linking with de la Rokele, Bamfilde, Ticheborne and Knowles.
John had left money in his will for the tomb’s construction,
and provided for his wife to live at The Grange as a dower house.
That house still stands today, and is part of Gosport Borough Council’s
Grange Farm complex. Their eldest son would have succeeded to the
manor house. After Sir John’s death, and until 1683, the Crown
appointed rectors to the living on several occasions - see the list
of Rectors at the end of this guide book (they had also done so
in the early 15th century).
the rectorship of Edward Prideaux-Brune from 1884-1919, further
restoration of the old church took place, supervised by the London
firm of Blomfield, who were also rebuilding S.Mary’s Portsea
at the time. An Antiquary with a parish of less than 150 souls,
Mr Prideaux-Brune had much time to devote his energies to this work,
as well as totally transcribing the parish registers, which date
back to 1580. These are now deposited for safe keeping in the Diocesan
Register Office at Portsmouth City Museum, where they are available
was greatly loved as a parish priest, and he and his wife would
be seen regularly around the parish in pony and trap and on bicycle.
The 1931 lych-gate stands as a memorial to him, planted at the end
of the lime avenue which he planted at the beginning of his ministry
here in 1884. The lych-gate was restored in 1999. He extended the
Jacobean and Queen Anne rectory, which until its sad demolition
in the 1960s was set in 10 acres of grounds (where Green Crescent
and Rectory Copse now are) for use by parishioners. Fortunately,
the planning authorities would not allow such an act today, and
would have ‘listed’ the house.
old church contains beautiful Victorian stained-glass, and three
modern windows by Hugh Easton (look for his distinctive and ingenious
monogram on two of them), replacing those blasted out in the Second
World War, when a plane from RAF Grange, where the Grange County
Schools now stand, crashed. Some of the crew are buried in the churchyard.
Other notable burials are of the Brunes, the Henvilles, the Fosters,
and Martin Snape, the famous Gosport artist, and a great friend
of Rector Prideaux-Brune. There is also the grave of Captain Sir
Frederic Thesiger, RN, Lord Nelson’s ADC at the Battle of
Copenhagen, who later became governor of the naval brigs of Portsmouth
and Gosport, being responsible for many of the prisoners of war
kept here at that time.
Many other naval and military tombs exist. Some important monuments
and tombs have been listed by Hampshire County Council as or architectural
importance. The church itself is allocated a Grade One listing,
the only church to have that in the borough, and only one of two
such listed buildings in Gosport. The royal arms (1705) above the
Lady Chapel chancel arch are that of Queen Anne, and bear the name
of John Stares, Churchwarden, and tenant of Grange Farm.
the 1960s the parish’s population had exploded to 24,000;
a daughter church had been built at Bridgemary, this later becoming
a separate parish in the late 1970s, and was reunited in 2004. Our
present population is 25,000. A huge extension, made of pre-cast
concrete, was designed by Robert Potter, and consecrated in 1968
by Bishop John Phillips. The Rectory was brought on site, and the
church hall (where Rowner Health Centre now stands) was sold. The
church facilities were thus amalgamated on one site. Re-ordering
had also taken place in the 1950s, again with financial backing
from the Patron and his family.
extension you see today replaced the old one destroyed by fire on
19th May 1990, when a stray flare landed on the wooden roof. Potter’s
firm (by then The Sarum Partnership) was responsible, via Mr Chris
Romain, for the project. The rebuilt church was consecrated in November
1992, on the Feast of Christ the King, by Bishop Timothy Bavin.
Rector Roy George was inducted in October 1990 in the old church,
which miraculously survived the fire, with the majority of the congregation
in an army marquee! Rector John Draper was inducted in October 1996
by Bishop Kenneth Stevenson.
new church, not yet completely furnished, contains many fine features,
perpetuating the Church’s patronage of the Arts through architecture
and art forms. The Lantern spire was lifted into place over the
Consecration Stone. The Belgian ‘Stations of the Cross’
were consecrated in 1997. The western end of the building comprises
halls and offices, and when not being used by the church, is set
aside for community use, being regularly used by groups and organisations.
Font, replaced its mediaeval forebear destroyed in the fire. The
new Font is made of 3 cwt of Bath stone, on a brick pillar and York
stone platform, and was consecrated in February 1999. The cast-iron
‘corona’ of the Crown of Thorns over it was given by
Old Alresford Place, the Winchester Diocesan Retreat House.
The‘Christus’ behind the High Altar - The Risen Christ
of Easter Morn - was dedicated by the Bishop on Easter Eve 2000,
celebrating the Millennium. It is 5 feet high, made of wood, overlaid
with copper sheet and gold leaf, and was specially commissioned
from the sculptor Peter Eugene Ball as a fine example of modern
art, and symbolising the openness of Christ’s welcome to all
who come to Him.
church is at the centre of the Rowner Conservation Area, but is
far from being a museum: it is the centre of a praying and worshipping
community of Christians, who also seek to serve the whole community
of Rowner. Please take time to stop and reflect before you leave
this building, giving thanks to God for His creation and goodness.