About this church
The church of St Mary the Virgin is lovely ancient feeling church, with a chancel, nave, south aisle and a fine square tower containing one bell. The churchyard screams countryside, with sheet tensing to the grass and a wide vista of fields on most sides.
St Mary’s is a sturdy aisled and clerestoried building, built of flint walls with stone dressings and slate roofs. Much of it is from the decorated period, though there is a perpendicular arch and light and airy feel thanks to an 1880 restoration. Inside the church, there is much to discover, despite the feeling of sparse decoration and furnishing.
The south arcade and aisle, along with piscine, are all 12th century. The font is marble and probably 13th century. The pews have beautiful poppy headed ends from the 15th century, having been reused on the Victorian pews. Over the door is a huge 18th century decalogue board containing the Ten Commandments. Across from it is a rare James II Royal Coat of Arms (rare because he had a rather popish reputation).
The chancel has a lovely 15th century rood screen, with two painted panels that survived the Reformation. One depicts the Holy Trinity in the form of God the Father holding the crucified Christ while a dove descends. The other depicts Mary and the infant Christ, at once tender and beautiful.
Fragments of medieval glass are set into the chancel windows and there are several 17th century monuments on the chancel wall. On the sanctuary floor there is a damaged brass to Sir Ralph Shelton (d1424) and his wife Alice. There is also an alabaster wall monument and a touching memorial to brothers who died of smallpox.
More moving still is a surviving battlefield cross. These were the original gravemarkers on the battlefields of France, returned to the home parishes of the dead when more permanent memorials were built. There used to be thousands in churches, but what makes this one especially powerful is that it was varnished as soon as it was lifted, and the Flanders mud is still there, under the veneer.