IT ONCE stood proudly in the centre of town but then, on one night in 1940, the church where Jane Austen once worshipped was destroyed and never rose again.

In March 1954 four people, the then Rural Dean, Canon Harold Caesar, Marjorie Waller, a former churchwarden and a Daily Echo reporter and photographer, picked their way through what little remained of the church.

It had been decided not to rebuild the historic church and and so the purpose of the visit was to hold a service of deconsecration.

Previously, passers-by of ruins were informed of the demolition of the ruins and clearance of the site by an official notice placed on the door of the church, complete with the seal of the Bishop of Winchester.

On the grass-grown floor of the church near to where the altar once stood, Canon Caesar read the following: “Good people: seeing that the remains of this building and this ground, which, in other days were consecrated and set apart for ever for the worship of God according to the rites of the Church of England, can no longer fulfil the purpose for which they were consecrated, and have been surrendered by due process of the law to secular use.’’

As the church was swept away, only memories remained of the elaborate frontage, a copy of the Temple of Minerva of ancient Rome.

Some Sotonians may remember the roofless burnt-out nave, shattered walls and broken pillars – all that was left of the church at the end of the Second World War.

Some may even remember the tragic morning of Monday, December 1, 1940 when they were struggling to make their way down High Street and saw the smoke and flames bursting out here and there all through the bombed church.

There had been an All Saints or All Hallows on that site since the 12th century and Henry II granted it to the monks of St. Denys. The church register was begun in 1653 and was described as: “A booke of registers for the parish of All Hallows in the town and county of Southampton for the registering of marriages, births and burialls according to an Act of Parliament dated August ye 24 Anno Domini 1653.’’

One entry said: “Elizabeth Loder, barberously murthered in ye Porters Field, whose body was diged up for John Norborn and others to touch her body.’’

This demonstrated how strong the belief was in the 17th century of the benefit of touching the bodies of murdered people as a cure for certain diseases. Two other entries said: “This day a man was found dead in the town ditch’’ and “Today a man crossing under the Barre (Bargate) was knocked down and killed by a stage coach.’’

It's likely nobody will remember the small All Saints’ burial ground off Eastgate Street and Back-of-the-Walls. In fact most people will probably never have even heard of the graveyard.

In the early part of the last century tombstones were removed and by the 1960s the area had become a car park. These days there is a multi-storey carpark on the site.