St Mary’s is a splendid church at the edge of the village next to an equally splendid manor house. St MAry’s is unusual as it has two towers. The central square, battlemented tower has a tall spire. At the west end is another, later, square tower with open carved balustrade and crocketed pinnacles. There are figures carved on either side of the west window and Mary with the Christ Child above. As well as side aisles, there are two large chapels off the south wall of the chancel.
This seems to have been a site of worship since Saxon times. The present church dates from 13-15thC. There was a major restoration in the 19thC.
Inside it feels a big church. Round columns with pointed arches separate nave and side aisles. The painting on the arches is Victorian. There is a very tall and narrow pointed arch into the transept crossing with a carved zig zag pattern. Beyond is similar arch into the chancel.
The high altar has a painted panel front. Behind is a wooden reredos with painting of the Last Supper. This was painted by a 17thC Dutch artist, Jacob Jordaens and given to the church by the dowager Duchess of Shaftesbury in 1782. The painting was stolen in 1994 and was replaced by a painting by a local artist. The original was recovered badly damaged from the States in 2001. It has been restored and replaced. The replacement painting is now at the back of the nave. On either side of the stained glass east window are statues of bishops, set under crocketed canopies and pinnacles.
On the south side of the chancel is the Lady Chapel. The altar has an embroidered cloth and the carved wooden reredos has an icon of the Virgin and Child. The beautiful 14thC wall painting on the south wall represents the Dormition (falling asleep) of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This is very unusual as the Dormition is more usually seen in eastern Orthodox churches. The window next to it contains fragments of Medieval glass.
Next to the Lady Chapel in the south transept is the Chapel of St Nicholas. This has a squint between it and the Lady Chapel. The altar came from Braydon Church when it closed. There are memorial tablets on the walls to the Maskelyn family. Nevil Maskelyn was Astronomer Royal in the 1760s and is buried in the churchyard. On the archway above the chapel is another wall painting. There are two superimposed paintings here. In the centre on a dark background are a group of angels playing musical instruments. On the left is the kneeling figure of Mary Magdalene. On the right is St Michael weighing souls with the Virgin Mary tipping the balance in their favour.
Above the south door is the Royal Coat of Arms. To the right of it is the remains of a wall painting, thought to be Christ of the Trades with all the tools banned for use on the Sabbath.
The remains of the painted rood screen can be seen across the the back of the west tower. The font is 13thC and was used as a horse trough for many years before being returned to the church in 1907.
This is an interesting church with some very nice wall paintings, in particular the Dormition.
The church is open 9-5 daily and there is parking on the road by the church.