Hamstead Marshall
St Mary’s Church history
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The arched doorway (pictured left) inside the Victorian porch of St Mary's Church dates from the end of the twelfth century, around the time when William the Earl Marshal of England became lord of the manor. Edward III visited here in the mid-14th century, and would have entered through this doorway.

However, it is likely that worship took place on this spot many centuries earlier. The Saxon village of Hamstead has been located close by and, like so many English churchyards, St Mary's has an ancient yew, thought by some to indicate a place of pre-Christian worship.

St Mary's first appears in the records as a field church (distinct from a chapel by virtue of having its own burial ground) reporting to the mother church at Kintbury. In 1241 Hamstead church gained parish status and its first rector, Hugh of St Theodoric.
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The tower was built in the 1620s, although it has sometimes been mistaken for later work. It probably replaced an earlier tower, because one of the two bells which hang today is dated 1592. The pulpit, font, communion rail and box pews also date from this period. The west gallery and reredos were added later.
The north aisle was added around 1350, when many local churches were benefiting from prosperity in the wool trade. However by 1393 the church had fallen into disrepair, and the incumbent was threatened with a 20-shilling fine if he failed to put matters right by Michaelmas.
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Viewed from outside, the east wall of the main aisle shows clear evidence of a window long since filled in with flint, brick, mortar and rubble. It appears glazed in a sketch of 1780. The straight-headed windows of the nave and chancel are thought to be early sixteenth-century.
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A major refurbishment took place in 1893, when the present porch was built, though the church is considered to have been relatively unspoilt by Victorian renovation. More restoration in 1929 by Sir Charles Nicholson revealed two long-lost tombs in the nave, and uncovered an Early English chancel arch. At this time the gold-lettering on the reredos (the Lord's Prayer, Creed and Ten Commandments) was painted over.
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The most recent addition to the church's ornament is a stained glass window, commissioned to commemorate the millennium. The artist was Mark Angus, whose work incorporated visual references to local topography and history. The window was installed into the medieval stonework of the east-facing windows of the north aisle, where it is splendidly illuminated by the morning sun.
 
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Copyright Penelope Stokes 2012