St Stephen's Sparsholt with Lainston
This is the official website of The Downs Benefice Winchester, Hampshire.

St Stephen's Sparsholt with Lainston

Notices in brief...

For all the notices and more information, please see our Notices page



NSPCC - For adults concerned about a child: 0808 800 5000

ChildLine - For children and young people on: 0800 1111

Action on Elder Abuse helpline: 0808 808 8141

24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline: 0808 2000 247

NAPAC – Offer support and advice to adult survivors of childhood abuse: 0808 801 0331

Stop It Now – preventing child sexual abuse: 0808 1000 900

Cruse – bereavement helpline: 0808 808 1677

The Downs Benefice Summer Walks

19th to 24th August 2019



Put these dates into your diary and join us during our week
of walks this summer.


See Week_of_Walks for full details and forms


It is for all of the communities of Chilbolton, Crawley, Littleton, Sparsholt and Wherwell: all are welcome.


There will be six full-length walks of between 8.5 and 9.5 miles and also eight half-day walks of about 4 to 5 miles.
Two years ago, we had about 100 walkers who each walked on average 2.2 walks.

It is hoped that all five communities will support this initiative.

Citizens Advice - Winchester District

has now officially opened its doors at their new location on Colebrook Street in Winchester, next to Winchester City Council offices. 

If you need advice you can visit the office during the following times:

Monday: 10:00-16:00

Tuesday 10:00-13:00

Wednesday 10:00-16:00

Thursday 10:00-16:00

Friday 10:00-13:00

Or alternatively call the Adviceline on: 03444 111 306

or visit 

Parish Magazine Deadline

Copy for October/November edition of the Benefice Parish Magazine should be submitted by 12.00 noon - Friday 6th September.

St Stephen's Sparsholt with Lainston

Church Lane Sparsholt Hampshire SO21 2NJ


The church, a typical Hampshire structure of flint and stone, is very prominent on raised ground in the centre of the village. Pagan inhabitants may have used the site for worship before the Saxons constructed a simple wooden building, which began the tradition of Christian worship in that place. Its dedication to St Stephen is not common in the British Isles. 


The present church is essentially the result of the Victorian renovation and expansion in the 1880s, when William Butterfield, architect of the Royal Hampshire County Hospital in Winchester, was employed by the Rev. E.D. Heathcote, then fairly recently arrived as vicar, to remedy the ruinous state of the old building. The tower was strengthened and topped by a wooden belfry and spire, now covered with cedar shingles. The chancel was extended and a north aisle built to include space for the organ and a vestry. The old wooden gallery was taken down and part of it used as a screen between the organ space and the chancel.

During this work several intriguing and interesting discoveries were made. The bones of a horse, which might have been buried alive, were unearthed at the east end in what may well have been early rites connected with churchyards. A chalk coffin containing the burial wrappings of a medieval priest, a pewter chalice and paten were discovered in the region of the pulpit. The coffin can be seen outside the church by a blocked up entrance to the chancel. The pewter ware is in the treasury of Winchester Cathedral. The medieval church had been brightly painted and a fresco was revealed behind the altar showing St Stephen. This could not be preserved but there is an extant contemporary watercolour of it and the stone canopy over the original was repositioned above the south door. 

Notes: The Church can comfortably seat 115 congregation, mainly in pews; with additional chairs, a maximum of 161 guests could be seated in addition to the Bride, Groom and Bridesmaids. 



Outside the church, the churchyard contains some interesting nineteenth century tombs on the bank at the west end and also an eighteenth century chest tomb to John Locke to the north-east of the chancel. An ancient mass dial can be seen on the south wall of the chancel by a blocked up doorway that once gave the priest direct entry into the chancel. The churchyard is also of interest as a site of ancient meadow and produces a wealth of flowers, encouraging wild life, and a range of mosses and lichens.

Memorial Windows

There are several attractive memorial windows, including two in the south aisle. One commemorates Major-General Sir Herbert Stewart, son of the vicar and a distinguished soldier, who died in the Sudan in 1885 and the other, based on a Burne-Jones design, was commissioned by Samuel Bostock of Lainston House following the death of his infant son in 1893. The space over the panelling separating the nave from the bell tower has been filled with a magnificent modern engraved plate glass memorial to Brian Sutton Downward of Deane House, who died in 1980. 

On the wall of the south aisle is a memorial to Helen, who was born in Sparsholt and sent by the vicar to train as a nurse in London where she met and married Sir George Buxton Browne, a highly respected surgeon. The earliest memorial in the church is on the north wall of the chancel and records the Rev. Edward Stewart, born in1808 and vicar from 1842-1875.


The 1887 Walker organ was moved to the northwest end of the church in 1957 and a Lady Chapel established in its place. In 2007 the organ was returned to its original position, making it more user-friendy for the choir and congregation. This has opened up the west end of the north aisle and created opportunities for further development of the church space in response to the changing needs of the twenty-first century. 

Following a recent restoration, our acclaimed example of a traditional pipe organ leads the music; a sound system with microphones and inductive hearing loop is installed.


Bell Ringing

The church has an enthusiastic band of ringers and a fine ring of six bells, whose history dates from 1742 when three bells were hung in an oak frame of typically vernacular construction. In 1829 an fourth bell was added and the frame extended. In the twentieth century, as part of the coronation celebrations for Edward VII, a fifth bell was added. Ninety years later, in 1995, the old wooden frame was replaced by a metal one and a sixth bell added creating a distinctive and improved ring.


Contributed by

Elizabeth May



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