The Parish Church of St. Lawrence stands in The Croft, and somewhat unusually is well away from the centre of the town.
There are over 14,000 parish churches in England - about 12,000 are pre-Reformation, and about 2,000 were built in a burst of church building during Queen Victoria's reign - mostly in the new Gothic Revival style.
However, the present Parish Church of St Lawrence does not fit this pattern - it was built between 1814-1816, and is on the site of two earlier churches. St Lawrence church is Grade II* listed.
Follow this link for the extensive St Lawrence Church Photo Gallery.
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There is no mention of Hungerford in the Domesday survey of 1086. The community of Hungerford was first mentioned by name in a document dated between 1103-1118 when Robert de Beaumont granted "a manor near Hungerford, Edenetona by name" to the church of the Holy Trinity at Beaumont in Normandy. (Follow this link for more on the Manorial History of Hungerford).
By 1147 there are definite records of a parish church at Hungerford, which appears to have been in existence for some years previously. The Priory of St Frideswide at Oxford exchanged the church of Beaumont in Normandy for the "Manor of Hudden and the vill of Edineton", one third of the tithings to be reserved for the church at Hungerford on the understanding that no church be built at Eddington. This became a simmering dispute, and mediation and advise was sought of the Pope (Blessed Eugene III) who was in Paris on 25th May 1147. The agreement makes clear that Robert de Beaumont (2nd) who was lord of both Eddington and Hungerford, wished to prevent the development in Eddington of a rival church to that at Hungerford. It suggests that he was wishing to promote the further development of Hungerford as a developing trading community - a developing market town.
The church and manor at Hungerford (as well as the manor of Eddington) were assigned to the Abbey of Bec Hellouin in Normandy, as part of its endowments. This meant that the Abbey received the great tithes and the advowson (the right "of presentation" - to nominate the parish priest). The Abbot was in effect in the position of Rector, was required to keep the chancel in repair and to provide a Vicar to conduct divine service and to minister to the spiritual needs of the parishioners.
Dating from the early 1100s, this first church would have been a Norman structure.
The first recorded Vicar was Ralph (Presbyter de Hungerford 1148-c1160) who was witness to a grant of land from John de Folga to the Knights Templar in c1194. Follow this link for a full list of Vicars of Hungerford.
It is not clear why the Parish Church at Hungerford is dedicated to St Lawrence. There may well be a link with the Leper House in Hungerford, which was staffed by the "leprous sisters of St Lawrence".
St. Lawrence, patron saint of the Parish Church of Hungerford, was the Archdeacon of Rome in the middle of the third century, a time when Christians were being grievously persecuted. He was especially responsible for the treasures of the churches in the City. When the prefect of Rome called upon him to surrender them, he asked for three days grace. He then distributed the gold and silver in his care to the needy of the City, and on the third day he collected together all the poorest Christians, including the halt, maimed and the blind, and, presenting them to the Prefect, said, "Here are the treasures of the Church of Christ".
For this he was condemned to death and suffered martyrdom on the gridiron on August 10th AD258.
The bust shown in the Photo Gallery is a plaster copy of that by Donatella in the Sacristy of the Church of San Lorenzo at Florence. Donatella (born 1386, died 1446) was one of the greatest sculptors of medieval Italy. His "St. Lawrence" was made about 1440. The bust was present to the Church of St. Lawrence, Stratford sub Sarum in 1958, and was dedicated on the 1700th anniversary of the martyrdom of the Saint.
In 1208 the Abbot of Bec, in his official capacity, was made a prebendary of Sarum. The prebend was that of Okeburne (ie Ogbourne) and was endowed with the church of the two Ogbournes and those of Wantage and Hungerford. (The prebend was the stipend or salary assigned to the Abbot from the tithes of those churches).
This did not alter the fact that the Abbots of Bec were still Rectors of Hungerford and bound to provide Vicars. There was a priory at Ogbourne which was a "cell" of (i.e. subsidiary to) the Abbey of Bec, and records state that the Prior of Ogbourne "held" Hungerford Church for two periods during the fourteenth century: this was perhaps due to some arrangement between the Prior and the Abbot of Bec.
Around this time there was a connection with the local Leper House, run by the "Leprous Sisters of St Lawrence". This is mentioned in a perambulation of Savernake Forest in 1199, and it received letters of protection from King Henry III in 1232. Follow this for more on the Leper House.
The Abbey of Bec continued to hold the right to appoint Vicars until 1381 (during the Hundred Years War with France, 1337-1453), when it is recorded in Patent Rolls that the right of presentation had passed to the Crown (Richard II) "by reason of the temporalities of the prior of Ogbourne being in his hands on account of the war with France".
Subsequently, in 1404, the Abbey's possessions in England were passed to John, Duke of Bedford.
In 1421 the Duke of Bedford transferred the former spiritualities of the Abbey to the Royal Chapel of St George in Windsor, and after his death in 1435 the temporalities were dispersed among other ecclesiastical foundations.
As a result of these transfers the present patrons of the living (who hold the advowson or the right to appoint a Vicar) are the Dean and Canons of Windsor.
However, the rectorial tithes are by exchange transferred to the Dean and Chapter of Winchester, who are therefore the Rectors.
To read about two misbehaving vicars at Hungerford see:
During the ensuing century - perhaps after the church was made part of the endowment of a prebend of Sarum, the original Norman church was replaced by an Early English building.
A drawing (in the Photo Gallery) by Samuel Prout of the medieval church from the north side, executed immediately before its demolition, shows that it comprised chancel, clerestoried nave with aisles, north transept and embattled west tower. The clerestory (with three windows on each side) appears to have been a Perpendicular addition, but other parts of the church were of earlier periods.
Another lithograph (in the Photo Gallery) of 1809 signed "C.W." gives further detail of the exterior.
Little detail is known of the interior of this church, but we are aware of three Chantry Chapels in the church.
The earliest was Chantry of St Mary (pre-1279 - 1454), available for anyone who paid a small obit "for the celebration of the mass in the chapel of St Mary and for one wax light before the altar of St Anne in Hungerford church". [Hastings Mss no 1176. BRO H/RTa 32]. This chantry was re-established as a new foundation - the Chantry of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in 1457.
In 1325 part of the south aisle was made into The Chantry of the Holy Trinity by Sir Robert de Hungerford, who owned Hopgrass, on the north side of the marsh - to maintain a Chantry priest and Obit for his wife Geva, his ancestors and all the faithful departed. The Indulgence Tablet, still in the church today, promises that whoever prays for the soul of Sir Robert shall have 550 days of pardon.
In 1457 the Chantry of St Mary was re-established, as The Chantry of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Follow this for more on the Chantries.
For much of this period therefore, it is likely that there were two Chantry priests as well as the Vicar, all celebrating mass in Hungerford church.
In a Terrier dated 1533, just prior to the Reformation, held in the Chapter Library at St George's Chapel, Windsow, the church was holding over 200 acres of land, along with "10 closes, 1 croft, and a parcel of land by the barne on the scite of the Parsonage House". In addition, the church owned 9 tenements, which were bringing in rents of between 5s and 6s 8d, as well as the revenue of all tithes from crops, and tithes of two parts of the parish of Standen. The majority of this income would have been paid to the Dean and Canons of Windsor, leaving the incumbent with sufficient for his needs.
All was to change with the Reformation. What had been church lands held by the incumbent became leased to lay people appointed by the DCW. In 1535 the rectory was leased to James Harvie for 30 years, in 1565 to Mr John Hungerford, and later to Sir Anthony Hungferford, who held the lease until 1642 when it passed out of the Hungerford family. In 1710 the rectory passed to Francis Stonehouse (owner of Hungerford Park), and it stayed with the Stonehouses until 1844, when it passed to the Rev Thomas Penruddocke Michell, who held it until the church lands were divided in 1867. For more see "The History of St Lawrence Church", by Fred Bailey.
There is an interesting account of the Church property in 1552-53, as reported by the two Churchwardens, William Cannon and Ralfe Faller. This was, of course, just after the dissolution of the monasteries, and occurred at a time that Edward VI was keen to know just what property was still held by each ecclesiastical group. Follow this link to see the entry in Church Goods in Berkshire, by Walter Money, 1879.
By the early 1800s this building had become so dilapidated that parts were in danger of collapse and it was difficult to hold services there in bad weather. It was hoped that the trouble could be overcome by rebuilding the tower and some other parts, and by thorough repairs elsewhere. A print (in the Photo Gallery) shows the crumbling church and tower, its bell now removed to a wooden gantry under the trees on the left.
In 1811 a special Act of Parliament was obtained permitting the Vicar (Rev John Cookson), the Churchwardens and other Trustees to raise £3,000 for necessary repairs, alterations and improvements - chiefly the re-building of the tower. A Committee of 22 Trustees was formed under the chairmanship of the Curate Rev John Bradford. They first met on 2 Jan 1812. The bankers appointed were Messrs Vincent, Bailary and Vincent of Newbury, and the architect appointed to rebuild the tower was Mr Poole of Manchester Square, London.
However, the minutes of 29 Jun 1812 reveal that Mr Poole no longer wished to continue as architect, and the plans by Mr John Pinch of Bath were accepted as the best way forward. His fees were to be 5% of the contract value, plus 10 guineas for the cost of the drawings and specification, and 3 guineas for each site visit.
The architect John Pinch (c1770-1827) began his career as a builder, but went into bankruptcy soon after 1800, and thereafter practised as an architect and surveyor with considerable success. His domestic architecture is distinguished by great elegance and refinement, and represents the final phase of Georgian building in Bath. Pinch died at his house in Duke Street on 11 Mar 1827, aged 57. His practice was continued by his son, John Pinch, junior. (From Howard Colvin's Biographical Dictionary of English Architects).
Mr Pinch said that the original estimate could not be met, and that the total cost was now expected to be £2,220. The builders appointed were Messrs Provis and Cambridge of Chippenham, Wiltshire. In Jan 1813 the contract was delayed because several parishioners were refusing to pay their dues atated under the Act.
The estimated cost of the work had now increased to £2,556 13s 6d, as Mr Pinch had decided to build the tower on new foundations rather than the old.
A start was made: through 1813 the tower, already partly demolished for safety, was rebuilt and the north aisle of the nave was enlarged.
However, disaster struck in early 1814 - when much of the ancient part of the old church started to collapse. Urgent meetings were held in May and Jul 1814. A further Act was applied for, raising an additional £6,000. Mr Pinch submitted new plans for re-building much of the main part of the church to "bring the building within the rules of architecture". Further funds were raised by selling off some of the church lands. The new seating and the gallery would require £1,200.
Funding was getting difficult. The Trustee minutes of Dec 1814 and Jan 1815 reveal that the Dean and Canons of Windsor were being reluctant to fund their obligation of rebuilding the chancel, and they were prepared to offer only two thirds of the cost. However, after Rev Bradford had gone to WIndsor in person, they finally agreed to pay £750 towards the cost of rebuilding the chancel, less £100 they had already offered "as a voluntary donation".
In 1814 a further Act of Parliament was obtained, authorising the vicar, churchwardens and trustees to raise a further £6,000 for the task.
Messrs Provis and Cambridge were appointed as builders for the main part of the church (so that there were not two groups of builders on site), although in Apr 1815 Mr Cambridge withdrew from the contract leaving Mr Provis to complete the work on his own. Interestingly, Mr Provis is only described as a builder in his will. In trade directories of the time he was described as carpenter, joiner and timber merchant. He is know to have built The Bear Hotel in the Market Place in Chippenham.
Work progressed slowly through 1815. In August the Trustees told Mr Provis that no further stage payments would be made until the church was covered for the winter weather.
Many of the Hungerford family monuments were removed to Salisbury Cathedral.
There were additional disputes about the siting and occupation of the pews in the new church. This dispute rumbled on into 1816, when it was decided that the church was sufficiently complete to allow it to be opened for divine service on Sun 30 Aug 1816 - but without any pews! The Trustee minutes of 9 Aug 1816 state that "the whole of the church will be used promiscuously in the same way as the Town Hall"! The apportioning of the family pews was only resolved in Mar 1817.
The church was very similar to another church designed by Mr Pinch in 1817-20, The Church of St Mary the Virgin, Bathwick, on the outskirts of Bath. Standing so close to the Kennet & Avon Canal which was opened just a few years earlier in 1810, it is not surprising that it was built in Bath stone. Transporting the Bath stone to Hungerford was the largest of the early contracts for the new canal company. The west tower is of three stages and has an embattled parapet with angle pinnacles.
Many of the monuments present in the Early English church were preserved and transferred into the new building, the most notable being the mutilated effigy of Sir Robert de Hungerford, founder of The Chantry of the Holy Trinity and the Indulgence Tablet from the chantry. See also Church Monuments.
The new church opens:
By 9 Aug 1816 it was noted that "Whereas the new church of Hungerford having now been sufficiently completed to allow Divine Service to be performed therein, such church will shortly be opened for that purpose, but as the pews and sittings in the church cannot be set out and allotted to the different owners of pews in the old church for some length of time, and no individual can possibly therefore have a pew allotted to him notwithstanding, the church may be opened for service. Notice is hereby given that until the pews can be set out and awarded,by the Trustees and be confirmed by the Bishop of Salisbury and the Deans and Canons of Windsor and the Ordinary, the whole of the church will be used promiscuously in the same way as the Town Hall now is, every person attending Divine Service sitting in any part thereof that they think proper, and as some time must elapse before the final arranegment may be made and confiormed so as finally to set out to the owners their respective seats, the Trustees rely on the good disposition of the inhabitants to act so as to avoid all appearance of having taken possession of any particular seat, and recommen the individuals therefore not to sit twice in the same seat."
The new church was re-opened (according to W Money) at a special service "with a grand selection of sacred musick" on 30 Aug 1816.
The Organ: In Jun 1817 it was ordered that the old organ should be replaced in the gallery, as there was no money for a new one.
The font: Also in Jun 1817 the font was re-sited to the position it is in today (central, in line with the south door). The ancient font from the old Parish Church of St Lawrence was set aside, and in May 1871 it was restored to sacred use at the Newtown School Chapel (Parish Magazine, and Inventory 1940-90, p.86). Five pine pews were also transferred to St Mary's Newtown 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 new church was essentially complete. In the end, the total cost of the new church was around £30,000, the balance being raised partly by private donations, and partly by a tontine, a form of cumulative insurance rarely heard of nowadays.
In 1820 the churchyard was enlarged by 2 rods, 5 perches, using land given up by the Personal Representatives of Catherine Pearce in exchange for other land in Honeylands (towards Freeman's Marsh). See the Photo Gallery for the plan (by Abraham Dymock of Albourne, 1820) of "Hungerford Church Yard" showing this detail.
By 1823 serious structural faults had developed, and it became necessary to erect cast iron arches between the pillars on each side of the centre aisle at a cost of £224.
A Report on Avington Church in 1976 by the Council for Places of Worship, 83, London Wall, EC2N 5NA, includes the following comments on St Lawrence Church, Hungerford: "The church was rebuilt in a big bland neo-Perpendicular style, by John Pinch of Bath (the west tower in 1812-13 and the aisled nave and chancel in 1815). The nave was restored and remodelled in 1879, the chancel in 1889, both by Norris and Stallwood. The east window is by Lavers and Westlake, 1887." [Note- much of this is at variance with other sources - for example the east window is thought to be by Heaton, Butler and Bayne, 1895 as a memorial to Rev Anxtice, who died 1894 - HLP]
The original building, completed in 1816, seems to have embodied many serious faults typical of Georgian Gothic. Externally not only the tower but other chief portions of the church were finished off with heavy embattled parapets. Internally there were flat plaster ceilings and high pews and, in place of arcades, painted cast iron pillars supporting clerestory and roof.
Twenty years later, in 1836, Hungerford was transferred from Sarum diocese to Oxford; and Bishop Wilberforce, never afraid to speak his mind, expressed strong disapproval of the building, which was, he said, both inconvenient and unecclesiastical; and in his time Hungerford candidates for Confirmation actually had to attend other churches for the Sacrament.
The design by Mr Pinch had been unsatisfactory in many ways (see Parish Magazine Jan-Sep 1879). Taste in ecclesiastical architecture was constantly improving and knowledge of it spreading. Leading parishioners of Hungerford began to feel that their church was aesthetically unsatisfactory, and that drastic improvements were called for. Under an energetic and business-like vicar, the Rev. Joseph Ball Anstice, a committee was formed in 1879 and within eighteen months raised nearly £2,500 by subscriptions.
Mr Joseph Morris (of Morris & Stallwood, Reading), the County Architect, was appointed. See the Photo Gallery or follow this link to see the Architects drawings of 1879, (including the original painted cast-iron pillars supporting the clerestorey. In 1880 very extensive reconstruction and alterations were undertaken by Messrs Wooldridge of The Wharf. The church was handed over to Mr Wooldridge on Monday 5th April 1880, and whilst closed, the Sunday services took place in the Union Chapel, and the weekday services in St Saviour's.
The main changes (grouped as Class C at a cost of £830) included
- the removal of the heavy exterior battlements (except those of the tower), which were replaced by plain coping, the rebuilding of the clerestory, fitting wooden panelling to the ceilings, changes to the seating, and the replacement of the "unsightly" painted iron pillars supporting the roof by arcades of "Decorated-style" Bath stone columns. The foliated capitals of the arcade pillars were individually carved by Monsieur Devine, a French artist living at Reading. The corbels that carry the main supports of the roof - angel figures bearing shields changing alternately with the arms of the town and the badge of St. Lawrence - were similarly carved by M. Devine.
- The flat ceilings of the nave and aisles were replaced by roofs of pitch-pine, panelled, with moulded ribs. The raising of the roof and installation of the new Bath stone pillars was a work of great skill.
Further changes (grouped as Class A), and costing £1,150 included:
- The church was reseated throughout, the old heavy pews, except one (subsequently removed) occupied by the Willes family of Hungerford Park, were demolished. The Kelly Directory of 1891 states there was seating for 700 people! The changes to the layout of the paid pews caused considerable discussion - and a new list of Faculty Pews was published in the Parish magazine of April 1885.
- All aisles were re-paved with stone, and the chancel with encaustic tiles. New doors were fitted in the south porch.
- The vestry was removed from its old position at the west end of the nave, near the tower and a new vestry was fitted in the tower basement. A new staircase to the gallery was installed, and a new doorway at the east end.
- Heating and lighting arrangements were improved.
Class B, at a cost of £800 included paving the passages of the nave with encaustic tiles, building a new porch at the east end of the nave, reglazing the windows, and installing new gas fittings.
Finally, (Class D, for an unrecorded cost), was the rebuilding of the chancel.
All the good work nearly went to waste, however, because of a fire - as reported in the NWN 11 Nov 1880: "A man working on the floor of Hungerford Parish Church unknowingly drove a nail through a gas pipe below. Presently there was a smell of gas and another man sought to find the leak with a lighted candle. There was a flash and soon the floor was ablaze. The flames were put out before much damage was done."
The present organ, by Messrs Forster and Andrews of Hull, was installed in the west gallery at a cost of £540, and first used on 12 Oct 1880 (Inventory 1940-90, p.62)..
The building work was completed and the church re-opened on Tuesday 12th October 1880 with many special services, through the day, and luncheons and teas in the Corn Exchange.
The total cost (including the organ) was £2,858; all but £240 had been collected by the re-opening date.
In 1887 the work of 1880 was completed by repairs to the chancel and the rebuilding of its roof in similar style to those of the nave and aisles by the Dean and Chapter of Windsor.
As completed and reconditioned the plan of Hungerford Parish Church comprises nave and four bays with aisles, sanctuary with shallow apsidal east end of semi-circular outline, west tower, south porch, and small porch in the angle between the apse and the south aisle.
To celebrate the completion of the restoration, a set of new gates was installed at the churchyard entrance. These double gates, with adjacent kissing gate, were donated by the Town and Manor of Hungerford in July 1886. The gas lamps were replaced in 1940 by an electric light on an arch over the gateway, a gift of Mr and Mrs Astley.
The most ancient piece of furniture (moved from the earlier church) is the fifteenth century font, octagonal in plan with panelled bowl and shaft: the bowl is carved on each face with a quatrefoil within a circle. It is lined with lead, and has a waste sump. There is a flat wooden cover, crossbraced with wrought iton, from the centre of which a circular handle stands up.
A few years later. the Parish Magazine of September 1889 records:
"The Dedication Festival of the Parish Church, in connection with the reopening of the Chancel, was held on Thursday August 8 (1889), under very favourable circumstances.
The repairs to the Chancel effected by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners consist of a new lead roof, and a ceiling of pitch pine panelled in accordance with the ceiling of the rest of the Church; a new East Window with beautiful tracery has been filled with tinted Cathedral glass; the plaster has been removed from the walls so as to shew the masonry; the floor of the Chancel has been re-arranged and laid with Minton tiles of a tasteful pattern; a new Altar rail with polished brass standards has been provided, and new seats for the officiating clergy.
On the same day two new stained glass windows were unveiled:
- The subject of the first window is the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor. Our Lord appears in Glory between Moses and Elijah, attended by the three chosen Apostles - St. Peter, St. James and St. John.
- The subject of the second window is our Lord as Healer. In the central light, He is depicted in the act of giving sight to the blind; in the right hand division, He is healing the sick of the palsy; and on the other side, He is shown cleansing the leper. Below is the legend "J.B.A. Dominus illuminato mea, 1889".
The windows are the work of Messrs. Lavers and Westlake. The treatment chosen is quasi fifteenth century, the first window being composed of single groups under sparkling canopies of white, and the second window under one canopy extending throughout the three lights and combining the whole into one picture."
For more on the Stained Glass windows see Church Windows.
"The Tea, which was held in a field adjoining the Church Croft, kindly lent by Mrs Wooldridge, was very successful, 472 tickets being sold. It is proposed to hold the Tea in future years at the Dedication Festival of the Parish Church and St. Saviour's alternately.
The second window was dedicated to the Vicar, Rev. J. B. Anstice, who had regained his sight after a long illness."
The pulpit, which is beautifully crafted of Caen stone with alabaster cornice and bosses of foliage, was presented in 1891 by the two Misses Lidderdale (who are thought to have run a girls' school in Hungerford) in memory of their parents John and Ann Lidderdale, and brother (see Parish Magazine May 1891). It was probably designed by Mr Stallwood of Reading, and made by Messrs Earls & Hobbs of Lambeth. A brass plate is inscribed "To the Glory of God and in loving memory of their parents John & Anne Lidderdale and of their brother Charles Henry, this pulpit was erected by Elizabeth Pearce Lidderdale and Eleanora Lidderdale, AD 1891". It was first used on Easter Day 1891. The old carved wooden pulpit was presented to Combe Parish Church. An electric light was given in 1966 by Rev F C Bonner. (Inventory 1940-90).
The aumbry: On the north wall of the Sanctuary is an aumbry given by the Rev B D Gotto in memory of his father. On the top cill of the inner door is the carved inscription "To the glory of God and in loving memory of His servant Donald Gotto, Priest, R.I.P.". It was dedicated on 26 Oct 1930 by the Rt Rev T B Strong, Bishop of Oxford. (Inventory, 1940-90, p.112).
A lectern was presented in 1932 by Miss Lockett as a memorial to Dr R H Barker, MD. It was of wainscott oak, and took the form of a buttressed column springing from a triangular base and supporting a revolving desk, on which rested the Old Testament and the New Testament with the Apocrypha, both volumes being richly bound.
This lectern was replaced by the current brass eagle lectern, which came from St Saviour's Church after it closed c1956.
In 1940 a bronze font ewer was presented by Miss Low, in memory of Frederick Low.
The present belfry now contains a peal of eight bells, installed in 1978.
In Edward VI's time the church had three bells and a sanctus bell, and this was the situation when the tower started to collapse in 1811.
As plans were made to re-build the tower, an order for a peal of five bells was made to James Wells in the nearby village of Aldbourne. This small village produced two notable dynasties of bell-founders—the Corrs, who started in 1696, and the Wells.
They were asked to recast the four old bells into a new ring of six bells, with a tenor of 15cwt. Evidently the bell frame was not suitable for these, and required modification. The new bells were cast in 1816 and were hung in the new tower in two tiers. Mr Well's estimate of 1812 and all fittings amounted to £251 0s 0d.
In 1830 the tenor bell was recast by Thomas Mears II of Whitechapel, and in 1847 a "little" bell (the present Sanctus bell) was added by William Taylor of Oxford, member of a firm that is now world famous as Taylors of Loughborough.
These six bells were rehung on a single level steel frame in 1927, quarter-turned and re-tuned (in F), and two light (treble) bells were added to make up the peal of eight. This work was carried out at a cost of £590 by Messrs Mears and Stainbank of Whitechapel. The timber of the old bell-frames was used to make the present west door.
The treble bell was given by Major Edward Robert Portal in memory of his son Nigel Hugh, killed while flying in 1926; the second bell by John H Wooldridge and his sisters. It was Mr Wooldridge's father who carried our the work of the 1880 restoration.
The Sanctus Bell, triple toned, of lacquered brass, was given by Mrs Thomas Barnard and dedicated by the vicar on Easter Day, 2 Apr 1961. (se Inventory 1940-90, p.59)
New bells, 1978: In 1977, following advice from the Whitechapel Bell Foundry concering stress on the tower fabric, the PCC agreed to have the bells recast into a lighter ring of eight. Fund-raising began in Feb 1978, and within ten weeks a total of £10,000 was raised. The old bells were rung for the last time on 23 Apr 1978 before being taken down and transported to Whitechapel. They were returned to St Lawrence church, re-hung and were re-dedicated at a special service on 16 Jul 1978 by the Dean of Salisbury. A Commemorative pamphlet was produced for the Service of Dedication. It includes the history of the bells at St Lawrence, photographs, list of donors, and the order of service.
See long article "Hungerford's bells a joy to ring and hear" - NWN 24 Jul 1980.
The War Shrine, originally erected at the east end of the north aisle has, since the conversion of the latter into a Lady Chapel (see below), been stationed in the south aisle. It consists of a triptych supported on an oak pedestal decorated with linen-fold panelling. In the central panel, below a foliated canopy, is the Crucifix with the two attendant figures, all being richly coloured and gilt; below is a suitable inscription. Names of the fifty-nine Hungerford men who gave their lives in the Great War are inscribed in Gothic lettering on the flanking panels, which are headed by the arms respectively of St. George and St. Nicholas, patron saint of sailors. The shrine was designed by Messrs. Rogers & Howard of Oxford.
In 1950 was added the date of the Second Great War, 1939-45 and a list of those who gave their lives in that great conflict.
The altar: After the 1880 restoration a temporary Altar with a painted reredos was placed in the sanctuary. However, in 1930, the present Altar, a beautiful piece of ecclesiastical furniture, designed by Mr. H. S. Rogers of Oxford. It is of oak, with turned legs and moulded rails and stretchers. A handsome red frontal — three panels richly embroidered with various silks and gold thread — was remade for this High Altar, the panels being worked by the late Miss Monrice, who lived at Hungerford Park. The church possesses also other beautiful frontals and a Lenten Array, which, with the fair linen for the altar, were gifts of various devout parishioners and friends, and were also designed by Mr. H. S. Rogers.
In the north wall of the sanctuary is an aumbry given by the Rev. B. D. Gotto, assistant priest 1928-31, in memory of his father. Its oaken door conceals a safe in which the Blessed Sacrament is perpetually reserved for the Communion of the Sick by the sanction of the Bishop of the Diocese. The new Altar and the aumbry were dedicated on 26th October, 1930, by the Rt. Rev. T. B. Strong, D.D., then Bishop of Oxford.
The chancel screen was erected in 1923 It is modelled on a parclose screen in Slapton Lea Church (south Devon) and is richly carved, mostly with the vineleaf motif prevalent in Devonshire screens. It consists of four panels, two on either side of a central arch. Along the top cill (on the east side) is a Latin inscription "Multa beneficia recipit (A.D.G.) oblationem facit E.R.P.". The creen was the gift of Major E. R. Portal, late of Eddington House, and it was made by Messrs Wooldridge & Son of the wharf to a design of Mr H Kitchen of Winchester. It was dedicated by Bishop Shaw on Sun 10 Jun 1923. (See Inventory 1940-90, p.60). The screen was re-sited to the west of the church under the gallery in 1978 as part of the alterations .to the church interior..
The Lady Chapel in the north aisle: As a thank-offering for the Silver Jubilee of King George V, parishioners undertook the rearrangement and furnishing of the east end of the north aisle as a Lady Chapel. The oak Altar, credence table and kneeling rail were given by Mr. J. H. Wooldridge and were made by Messrs. Wooldridge and Son from designs by Mr. H. S. Rogers of Oxford. The Altar is similar in general design to the High Altar. Dorsal and curtains, frontal, and of the congregation, and the wrought iron curtain rods and candle-prickets were made and given by Mr. Fred Oakes, a local craftsman. The silver-plated altar cross was given by the Hungerford branch of the Mothers' Union; candlesticks to match by members of the Guild of St. Agnes. The Chapel was dedicated on the Feast of The Falling Asleep of the Blessed Virgin, 15th August, 1936.
The prayer desk was made from the old lectern and decorated with panels carved by the Rev. T. Hungerford Michell, to whom the glass of the chapel east window is a memorial. Two relatives of Sir Ralph Sadleir, the Tudor statesman, are commemorated by inscribed brasses on the floor of the nave near the prayer desk.
In 1901 a new lighting system was installed "in an effort to give greater comfort, both in the matter of increased illumination, and in the diminution of heat. This latter benefit, we believe, has been at once acknowledged, at least by the occupants of the gallery, who formerly were inclined to complain much of the prospect of asphyxiation on account of the gaseous fumes from the unguarded burners immediately below them."
A new heating apparatus - the MacClary Pipeless System - was installed in the church in 1929, and electric lighting in 1930. (Prior to that, Mr Frewin had to light the gasoliers). In 1938 certain small changes made the south porch more convenient. In 1962 the worn-out hot-air system of heating was replaced by an oil-fired system of hot-water radiators.
The Hungerford Service: The Church Plate of Hungerford includes a handsome and valuable service presented in 1736-7 by Mrs. Mary Hungerford, widow of John Hungerford.
John Hungerford was the last Hungerford to own the local manor of Hungerford Engleford. He had bought the estate in 1724 from William Hungerford, but after his death in 1729 the estate was broken up and sold in 1742-43.
John Hungerford, of the Cadenham branch of the Hungerford family, was son of Walter Hungerford, grand-son of Sir George Hungerford. He was a barrister at Lincolns Inn, a Bencher, Counsel for The East India Company & Member of Parliament for Scarborough 1692-95 and 1702-05, He died on 8 Jan 1729, and was buried in St Lawrence’s Church Hungerford one week later.
He left £16,000, and his extensive library went to Kings College, Cambridge, where there is a monument in his memory.
There is a memorial in St Lawrence’s Church to his manservant, Henry “Trusty” Capps.
In 1736-37 John Hungerford’s widow, Mrs Mary Hungerford, donated a service of five silver pieces to the church in his memory - two flagons, a large chalice, a paten, and a bread-holder. She died in 1739.
The service is of five pieces: a large chalice, a paten, two flagons and a bread-holder. Each piece is inscribed with the words "The gift of Mrs. Mary Hungerford, widow of 'John Hungerford, late of Lincoln's Inn, Esquire, deceased, who was Lord of this Mannor (sic!) of Hungerford: 1737", and bears also the maker's initials, "G.F." and a lozenge containing the Arms of the town quartered with a saltire in an engrailed border impaling a boar's head razed and erect, dripping blood.
The Parish Magazine of October 1890 records: "The following extract is from the Hungerford Churchwardens Book, 1737: To be remembered on Sunday, the 27th day of March, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and thirty-seven, Mrs Mary Hungerford, widow of John Hungerford, Esq, late of Lincoln's Inn, gave to this Parish two large Silver Flagons, Chalice, Cover, Salver. At the same time agreed by the Parishioners then assembled in the Vestry that they will grant her that piece of ground under her husband's monument for a burial place for herself when she dies, and for her husband to be removed thither."
Other pieces are an eighteenth century cup, a chalice of 1891-2, a paten of 1897-8, and a ciborium of 1935. John Hungerford was a member of one of the branches of the noted Wiltshire family so called, which originally took its name from this manor of Hungerford: there is a mural monument to him and his wife on the south wall.
In 1940 there was an addition made to the list of sacred vessels; by the beneficence of Mrs. Giles, a chalice and paten made in handmade beaten silver was presented to the Church in memory of her husband, William Henry Giles.
A bronze font ewer was given by Miss Low in memory of Frederick Low.
In the north-east corner (of the north aisle) is a banner of the Madonna and Child, with applique figures inscribed in gold braid "St Lawrence, Hungerford" and "M. U.". It was designed by the Faith Craft Works, Ltd. of Leighton Buzzard. It is the property of the Mothers' Union (see Inventory 1940-90 p.59).
In the south-east corner (of the south aisle) is a banner of St Lawrence, an applique figure vested as a deacon with his emblems of book and gridiron, inscribed in glod braid "St Lawrence, Hungerford". It was designed and made by the Faith Craft Works Ltd of Leighton Buzzard, paid by donations, and dedicated by the Lord Bishop of Oxford (the Rt Rev K E Kirk) on the Feast of Dedication, 5 Oct 1952 (see Inventory 1940-90, p.59).
The most ancient and remarkable monument preserved in the church is the mutilated effigy of Sir Robert de Hungerford (died 1352), who founded the Chantry of the Holy Trinity in 1325 for Masses to be sung for the soul of his wife Geva. Much more on both of these topics can be found through the links.
On the wall of the north aisle is a mural monument — the oldest in the church except for the Indulgence Tablet — surmounted with coat-of-arms, helm crest and mantling, and recording the burial in 1673 of Henry Hungerford of Standen, a son of Sir Anthony Hungerford of Black Bourton (Oxon).
Other notable monuments in this aisle are that of Eliza Lucas (d. 1804), one commemorating an aged couple, William and Anne Cheyney, barbarously murdered in their own home (1762) and a beautiful modern monument to Captain Edward Dugdale D'Oyley Astley, consisting of the figure of St. George in mosaic work framed in alabaster.
On the west wall near the gallery stair are interesting memorials to Thomas E. Blackwell (d. 1863), engineer of the Kennet and Avon Canal, and to Henry Capps (known as "Trusty"), a faithful 'servitor' of the Hungerfords of Standen.
In the south aisle are several monuments to members of the Willes family, of Hungerford Park, ranging in date from 1796 to 1921.
The Whitelocke family, for centuries in possession of the Chilton Lodge Estate, are represented by a panelled slab in memory of six ladies of the house (1777 to 1812).
Note: Much more information can be found in the special article Church Monuments.
There are many fine stained-glass windows in St Lawrence Church. None pre-dates the re-building of 1816.
They are were mostly installed between 1880 and 1897, and are by three firms.
Follow this for much more on the Stained Glass windows (and photographs).
In September 1890 a Home Office officer inspected the Parish churchyard, and it was expected that the church yard would be closed to burials before the end of the year (with certain exceptions). Two acres of additional ground was about to be added to St Saviour's churchyard. The official notice was received in December 1890. The churchyard was closed to burials on 3 Feb 1891 (according to the church Inventory 1940-90) and levelled in December 1892. Rows of pollarded limes lead to the church doors.
Follow this link for a full list of the Monumental Inscriptions at St Lawrence's Churchyard.
The entrance-gates were donated by the Town and Manor in July 1886. In 1939 a scheme to provide light for worshippers approaching and passing along the long-shaded pathway to the principal church door was devised by Miss Packard in the shape of an arch over the entrance gates, carrying an electric light. The funds were provided by the late Mr. H. D'O. W. Astley.
In 1973 many of the headstones and memorials were cleared from the churchyard by the Town Council, in an effort to reduce the maintenance costs of the churchyard.
A large number were retained, including that of James Dean, the Bath Coachman who was killed in a coaching accident on 10 Jun 1827.
Another important headstone is that of John Butler, Constable in 1688. Robert James adds (Oct 2016) "He was the man in high office who would have welcomed William Prince of Orange 7th December to Hungerford. He must have met all James II's representatives to negotiate the terms that he and Mary would accede to the throne of England. The heavy weight commissioners were Marquis of Halifax, Earl of Nottingham and Lord Godolphin were appointed by King James to “treat” with William. There were nobles and troops all over the place. 600 Irish Dragoons faced up to William’s 250 soldiers. After a short skirmish in the High Street the Irish were beaten off leaving 20 killed and 40 prisoners captured. John Butler died I think 4-5 years later at only 49 or so. His grave is on the right of the door of the church. A few years ago I got Barry Humphries to clean it off so the inscription could be seen and to prop it up for the rain to run off. It needs doing again. The Yew tree stump, the tree could have been planted by the grave in acknowledgement of this man. It was cut down by the HTC without any thought about 20 years ago. Since we complained another tree was planted by whom I do not know.". For more on this see William of Orange meets Commissioners of James II at The Bear, 1688.
Another feature of interest is the very ancient "tumble stile" which terminates the path on the vicarage side.
In 1987 a new vestry was formed in the south west corner of the church, replacing the one at the base of the tower, which was turned into a kitchen and toilet.
In 1992 the roof of the north aisle needed to be completely replaced. Further major problems were reported by the Quinquennial Report of 2001, and £135,000 was spent repairing the apse roof, re-leading the gutters, and restoring the east window. The memorials in the chancel were cleaned as part of this work, and it revealed the poor condition of the other memorials. A further £35,000 was spent cleaning the memorials through 2007-08. The west windows of the tower have since been re-leaded and cleaned.
The Breeches Bible:
The church is proud to possess a historic "Breeches Bible".
These rare and historic bibles are an interesting variation of the Geneva Bible, which was first printed in 1560. The Geneva Bible is one of the most historically significant translations of the Bible into English, preceding the King James translation by 51 years. It was the primary Bible of 16th century English Protestantism and was the Bible used by William Shakespeare, Oliver Cromwell, John Knox, John Donne, and John Bunyan. It was one of the Bibles taken to America on the Mayflower. This version of the Bible is significant because, for the very first time, a mechanically printed, mass-produced Bible was made available directly to the general public which came with a variety of scriptural study guides and aids (collectively called an apparatus), which included verse citations that allow the reader to cross-reference one verse with numerous relevant verses in the rest of the Bible, introductions to each book of the Bible that acted to summarize all of the material that each book would cover, maps, tables, woodcut illustrations, indices, as well as other included features — all of which would eventually lead to the reputation of the Geneva Bible as history's very first study Bible.
The Breeches Bible is a variant of the Geneva Bible. They first appeared in 1579. The name arises from the inclusion of the word "breeches" in Genesis Chapter III Verse 7: "Then the eies of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked, and they sewed figge tree leaves together, and made themselves breeches." In the King James Version of 1611, "breeches" was changed to "aprons". Geneva Bibles with the "breeches" passage continued to be printed well into the time of the King James Bible of 1611.
The Breeches Bible in St Lawrence Church (published by Christopher Barker of London and intriguingly dated 1578, when the vicar was Edward Brouker, a year earlier than the normal earliest date of printing) was found by the then vicar Rev David Salt in 1980 whilst clearing out a vestry cupboard shortly after his arrival in the parish. When found, it was wrapped in an old cloth and was in remarkably good condition. It was completely restored by Geoff Honeybone and re-dedicated by the vicar Rev David Salt in June 1984. It is now displayed in a cabinet made by Rev Salt's son Stephen. It is thought that many copies of Breeches Bibles have survived, as people were too scared to throw away unwanted Bibles!
In 1952 the Parish of Denford was united with the Parish of Hungerford - the full name becoming "The United Benefice (or Parish) of Hungerford and Denford". Follow this link for the full list of Vicars of Hungerford since 1148.
For over 700 years the Parish of Hungerford was in the Diocese of Sarum (Salisbury), but in 1836 it was transferred to the Diocese of Oxford (where the Bishop was Rt Revd John Pritchard from 2007 until 31 Oct 2014).
The Diocese of Oxford is split into four Episcopal Areas - Oxford, Buckingham, Dorchester and Reading (where the Bishop, Rt Revd Andrew Proud, was installed in Apr 2011).
The Episcopal Area of Reading is split into six Deaneries - Bracknell, Bradfield, Maidenhead & Windsor, Newbury, Reading and Sonning.
The Newbury Deanery (where the Area Dean is Revd Canon Rita Ball ) includes 43 churches including St Lawrence, Hungerford.
In the 1950s an annual "Church Diary" was published by Service Publications of Hove. Ann Smith kindly presented the Church Diary of 1959 to the Virtual Museum (Aug 2016). This small booklet (only 8.5cm x 12.6cm) gives an interesting insight into parish and town life at the time.
The 200th Anniversary:
On Sunday 28 Aug 2016 the people of Hungerford celebrated the 200th anniversary of the present church of St Lawrence with a special service with the Bishop Andrew Proud of Reading and vicar Mike Saunders. The occasion was marked by the blessing by the Bishop of 200 bibles, birthday gift-wrapped, and distributed to the congregation. Following the gift unwrapping and distribution, there followed a more normal communion service with readings from the new bibles and a sermon by the Bishop on the theme of goodwill to your fellow man and you too may unknowingly ‘entertain angels’. After the service the Vicar presented the Bishop with a St Lawrence coffee mug in order that he may be reminded of Hungerford when partaking of his chosen Ethiopian coffee.
Follow this to see photos of the 200th Anniversary Service (by kind permission of Tony Bartlett).
- Parish Magazines (various), esp Jan-Sep 1879, Dec 1879, Oct 1880, Jul 1886, Sep 1890, Dec 1890, May 1891, Dec 1892.
- "The History of St Lawrence Church, Hungerford" by Fred Bailey (Mar 2011)
In HHA Archives:
General items & Church Wardens [B1]
Accounts 1879 [B16]
Centenary Memorial [B14]
Church and Vicarage Rebuilding, 1815
Collects, Epistles, & Gospels - Hungerford Parish Church, 1871 [K]
Fabric - 1930 [B14]
History of St Lawrence Church, Hungerford, by Fred Bailey, 2011 [S55]
Hungerford Parish Church 1939 [B21]
Lady Chapel - designs for [B14]
Letters - 18th century [B9]
Lighting - proposed 1929 [B14]
Monument Inscriptions (Betty Clark) [N4]
Monumental Inscriptions in St. Lawrences and graveyard lists, by A.T.Finch 1939 [B2]
Pew Book [B5]
Pews: 1825 document in book form re details of gifts of 122 pews [D2]
Plans of church and proposed alterations by Morris Stallwood, Architects, Reading, 1879 [Tube 21]
Rebuilding 1814 & Repairs 1811 [B13]
The Story of St. Lawrence Church - Vicars of Hungerford [N27]
The Story of Hungerford Parish Church, 1938 [N103]
The Story of Hungerford Parish Church, c1950 [S108]
The Story of Hungerford Parish Church, c1970 [S109]
The Story of Hungerford Parish Church – reprinted c1990 [S86]
Vicars and Assistant Priests of Hungerford [B17]