Hampshire churches 7 – St Mary, Avington

The church of St Mary, Avington, is a marvellous example of a Georgian church, which mercifully escaped Victorian ‘restoration’.

Built of brick in 1771, it looks like a municipal waterworks complete with water tower. Just the sort of church I’d normally drive straight past. So thank you, Simon Jenkins, for making sure I didn’t, because within is a gem. The church is a simple rectangle with a high barrel-vaulted ceiling painted blue.

Huge mahogany box pews. Almost no stained glass (praise be), so quite a lot of light, though somewhat restricted today by cloud as well as by the trees on its northern side.

Wonderful triple-decker pulpit, with a worryingly precipitous staircase. One hopes the incumbent is not too old.  A barrel-organ was installed in the west gallery in 1849 and is still in use, despite its musical limitations.

In the sanctuary is a disproportionately large memorial to Margaret Marchioness of Carnarvan, whose money built the church. The memorial has a very long text, including a new paragraph with its own subheading “But reader!” It continues, “Commiserate not her Fate (who doubtless is Compleatly blest) but the unhappy Husband in losing, in the Prime of Life, the virtuous Partner of his Bed and Heart – Best of women! Most unfortunate of Men!” She was only 34 years old when she died in 1768, two years before work on the church began and a further three before it was complete.

Web album here.

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