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Introduction:

The history of the schools in Hungerford Newtown is intricately connected with the history of Hungerford Newtown School.

The Infant National School - used for services:

The earliest mention of a school in Newtown is in 1842, when a Grant of a site, with land for a school for poor persons, was made by Richard Compton (or Crompton?), Esq, of Eddington House to Revd William Cookson, Vicar of Hungerford, and his successors, for the provision of a school for poor persons. This was the Infant National School. It was "sited on the east side of the Turnpike road, comprising all the tenement and ground with the blacksmith's shop therunto adjoining the road leading from Hungerford to Wantage. The cottage and blacksmith's shop having recently been in the occupation of William House, deceased, to whom it was leased." [BRO D/P/71 25/1-13]

On 28 Sep 1854, the curate of St Lawrence Church Hungerford, the Rev George Pearse, wrote advocating the holding of a Sunday service in the school: "The hamlet of Newtown is situated 2½ miles from the Parish Church and has a population of 300. People generally are ignorant, and on Sundays are left to the teaching of Ranters and other sects. If a service could be established, it would be hoped, byt God's blessing, to counteract the evil". The proposal was welcomed, and divine service was first celebrated at Newtown School on 29 Oct 1854. The school was used as a school during the week, and for services on Sundays.

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- St Mary's Church, Hungerford Newtown

- St Mary's School Chapel, Hungerford Newtown, c1900

A separate church is proposed:

A letter was sent in 1866 from George Cherry (of Denford Park) to Windsor, appealing for money towards the provision of a separate church at Newtown. The Parish Magazine (31 Dec 1867) records that the offertory received during the year from Newtown School totalled £1 3s 0d.

In 1869 it was felt "most desirable that a building more suitable to the purposes of a Village School and at the same time affording for the devout ministration of God's Holy Word and sacraments should be provided for the use of the poor people of the district. An excellent site was offered by F Lovelock Coxe, Esq, of Eddington House."

An appeal for funds was made, and £500 was collected. Plans were prepared by Arthur W Blomfield (later Sir Arthur Blomfield), and the contract (in the sum of £350) was awarded to Mr Wooldridge (of Hungerford Wharf). In the end the contract was increased to £493 3s 9d by the additional provision of outbuildings and a boundary wall, and interior fittings.

St Mary's School-Chapel is built:

The foundation stone was laid by Mr F L Cox on 20 Jul 1869, the first anniversary of the Consecration of St Saviour's Church in Eddington.

The School-Chapel was opened with a service of celebration on Easter Tuesday, 19 Apr 1870. It was licensed for the celebration of Divine Service, but not for the publication of Banns, not for the Solemnisation of Matrimony. [BRO DP71 1C/2]. The church was never consecrated (Diocesan Register 8 Aug 1966). The Vicar of St Lawrence Parish Church at this time was Revd Joseph Ball Anstice, Rural Dean of Newbury.

An article in the Newbury Weekly News of Thursday 21 Apr 1870 recorded the opening of Hungerford Newtown School Chapel:

The opening of this new school chapel, the foundation stone of which was laid on the 20th of July last, took place on Tuesday.

For nearly 30 years school and service have been carried on in a small building, but now the work has outgrown its original limits, and by the liberality of the neighbourhood a larger and more fitting schoolroom has been provided.

The Committee, who have furthered the work by their active support and advice, are the Mayor of Hungerford, the Vicar, H E Astley Esq, G C Cherry Esq, F L Coxe Esq, W R Hall Esq, W Honywood Esq, Rev John James, G E May Esq, Rev F Menzies, Rev T H Michell, Rev J L Popham, G S Willes Esq.
The services connected with the opening commenced at five o'clock on Tuesday morning by a celebration of Holy Communion, to suit the convenience of the working population of Newtown, and we learn at their own desire; the second at nine o'clock; followed by morning prayer, with sermon by the Rev E Slater Browne at 11 am. The rev gentleman preached an eloquent and appropriate sermon, and the service was numerously attended by many of the clergy and gentry of the neighbourhood. Among those present were noticed the Revs J B Anstice, W F Drummon, - Campbell, W Coleman, S Brown, J W D Dundas, J Butler, T H Michell, W R Dickson, J Starton, F Menzies, Mr amd Miss Dunell, mrs Dunn, Mrs Whinyeats, Miss Campbell, Mrs Blackgrave, Mrs Binney, Mrs Mitchell, Mrs and Miss Cochrane, Mrs and Miss Owen, Mrs Sturton, Mr Bacon, Dr and Mrs Major, Mr and Mrs Cundell, Mr and Mrs Astley, &c &c.

There was also evening prayer with sermon by the Rev W R Dickson at seven pm.

The amount of the collections we have been unable to learn, but we should think they would nearly amount to the £30 or £40 required to defray all the expenses.

The building, which has cost about £600, was designed by A W Blomfield Esq, and the contract carried out by Mr Wooldridge, builder of this town. The measurement of the new building is 44ft 6in by 18ft, with an apse at the east end of 10 feet. The building is of red brick and grey bands, and surmounted with a small bell turret. The fittings in the interior are of a suitable character. Various articles of church furniture have been presented by ladies of the neighbourhood. The chapel was prettily decorated with flowers and mottoes painted by Mr Lowe of this town.

Evening prayer and sermon take place on each day during the week, and three full services on Sunday next.

A long list of donations appears in the Parish Magazine of August 1872, including four benches, lectern and candlesticks, Altar piece, brass Corona, Bible, Altar desk, and cushions. The slates had been donated, and the fees of the architect had been defrayed.

The building consisted of a large room used as a Schoolroom on weekdays, and as a Church on Sundays - to which was added an apsidal Sanctuary separated by an open wooden screen with shutters, surmounted by a wooden cross. The screen could be taken down for services.The bell-turret housed one bell.

The school was attended by about 60 children, and was "certified as efficient by H M Inspector."

The ancient font from the old Parish Church of St Lawrence had been set aside when that church was rebuilt in 1814-16, and was restored to sacred use at the Newtown School Chapel in May 1871 (Parish Magazine). Five pine pews were transferred from St Lawrence Parish Church in 1814 - four had carved fish ends, and one was plain. Three were installed at the back of the church, and one at the front. The Priest's stall of limed oak was transferred from Holy Trinity Church at Denford when it was closed in 1952.

The Parish Magazine also records that during Lent, services were held at Newtown on Wednesday evenings at 7.30pm, with sermons on the Passion.

The building had a dual purpose for 30 years, during which the number of pupils remained at about 70. Sunday School was held in addition to daily services, and a clothing club was instituted, started by Rev Anstice in 1868, to help parents save for their families' needs.

In 1896, a separate schoolroom was set up, opening on 13 Apr, with Miss Lucy T Rigby as head teacher. For more see Hungerford Newtown School.

The new school is built along the road:

A new school was opened along the road from the chapel in December 1900, paid for by the great local benefactress Lady Pearce of Chilton Lodge, and the chapel could be dedicated to the sole use as a church.

A number of changes were made at this time, and the whole church was re-decorated. The builders' work was carried out by Mr Middleton of Eddington, and included moving the vestry from the south side to the whole length of the west wall; moving the Font from "its practically useless, and certainly inaccurate, hiding place on the North side of the Sanctuary screen to its proper position in the West end"; removing the old chandeliers and candle-branches, replacing them by wall lamps, renovating the Lectern; putting the roof, pipes and guttering in order, repairing the outside walls, and renewing the "Entrance Gate posts and palings".

Mr Middleton had completed all his work by July 1901, and Mr Low (of 12 Bridge Street) was commissioned to paint the screen in terracotta and gold, along with "cleaning and strengthening in tone the wall-paintings inside the Sanctuary." The total cost of the work mentioned above was £25. A further £10 was required to replace the "unsightly and awkwardly inconvenient Pulpit by a more suitable structure," along with whitewashing the ceiling and re-varnishing the seats and other woodwork.

Two stained-glass windows (depicting "The Virgin Mary", and "Christ calling little children to Him") were made by A L Moore, or 89 Southampton Row, London WC, and were installed in June 1909, the gifts of Mr Nevill-Bennett (who lived at Hidden Cottage) and Mr Mervin Robert Portal (who died 3 Mar 1909, and was brother of Lord Portal of Eddington House). A further window ("St John the Divine") was added in November 1909 in memory of Rowland Nevitt Bennett (who had died 12 Aug 1909 at his home, Hidden Cottage).

The closure of the Church:

During the mid 20th century, congregation numbers dropped, but local resident Mary Lawrence and friends looked after the church in many ways. Pat Gray took a service of Evensong on a monthly basis between 1991-1997. After that, there was no regular worship, the only service being the annual Carol Service. The last Carol Service was taken by Eric Haydon in December 2005.

The church was sold in 2006, and converted to a private house.

See also:

- Parish Magazines esp May 1871, August 1872 and July 1901

- St Mary's, Newtown [HHA Archive B37]

- Hungerford Newtown School