The springs rising at the south of the village hold the key to the establishment of a settlement at Ecchinswell and they would have been worshipped in pre-Christian times. It was for this reason that the first chapel was built in the most unsuitable place, close to the water’s edge. The original building stood behind the old Vicarage, near the footbridge that crosses the village stream.
In 1446 the chapel was acquired by the benefice of St Cross in Winchester, probably because of some income attached to it. Its comparative affluence after that is clear from the fine chalice dating from 1570, which is sadly no longer in use.
Following this, the church lost its importance and it became an appendage of Kingsclere until 1852. Then the parish of ‘Itchingswell and Sidmonton’ was formed, with its own incumbent. This was probably due to the influence of the two main local families, the Kingsmills of Symdonton and the Digweeds of Ecchinswell House. At the same time, dissatisfaction with the church at Ecchinswell increased and plans were made for a new one, on a drier site, about half a mile to the north.
The old church eventually had to be demolished in 1854 but the site is marked by the gravestone of John Digweed of Ecchinswell House, who was the churchwarden. He was interred in the old church in 1844, the only person to be buried within it.
Services were held in the old tanning barn, accessed off Mill Lane until the new church was consecrated on 15 October 1856. The new church is dedicated to St Lawrence, who was a 3rd century martyr in Rome, and was designed by Victorian architect G F Bodley in the then fashionable Gothic revival style. The absence of pulpit and pews shows the influence of the Oxford Movement. The organ was made by Henry Bevington. The Tudor font is the only item that was saved from the old church.
If you have an enquiry about any aspect of church life please contact the Rector, David Bartholomew on 01635 278470.
St Lawrence's Churchyard
St Lawrence's Church as it is today...
... and as it was in the 1950s