Hamstead Marshall, St Mary

Hamstead Marshall’s Anglican parish church is that of St Mary the Virgin. It stands on a hill overlooking the river Kennet, close to the site of the former manor house, but relatively isolated from the village, which migrated a mile or so to the south in late medieval times.

Hamstead_Marshall_St_Marys

Architectural history

Built in the twelfth century, the original structure is mainly of flint and rubble, extended by the addition of a north aisle around 1350, and a brick bell tower in the 1620s. Major renovation took place in 1893, when the present porch was built, although the church is considered to have been relatively unspoilt by this. Yet another restoration was carried out in 1929, revealing some lost features, but also removing most of the seventeenth-century pews. St Mary’s is detailed in Simon Jenkins’ 1000 Best churches, Mark Chatfield’s Churches the Victorians forgot and Nikolaus Pevsner’s Berkshire.

Registers

The registers go back to 1612, but the Commonwealth period is missing. West Berks Library has a typed and indexed transcript of BTs, and the Berkshire Record Office also has the registers on microfilm. Some copies are also held by Swindon and Wiltshire History Centre reflecting Berkshire's former allegiance (up to 1836) to the Salisbury diocese.

Available from Berks FHS Books:

Berkshire Marriages 3rd ed CD covers St Mary's 1605-1837

Berkshire Burials 12th ed CD covers St Mary's 1605-1867. 

Hamstead_Marshall_St-Marys-church-font

The font cover, pictured above, is Jacobean.

Churchyard

St Mary's graveyard is small and ancient. The earliest legible memorial is 1666, although many later inscriptions have become difficult to read. An informal survey of burial entries and MIs from 1837 to 1901 indicated that roughly one in four burials was memorialised on a headstone. Fortunately St Mary's MIs were recorded in 1929, and copies of this handwritten transcription are filed in the Berks FHS library as well as in the Berkshire Record Office and the public libraries of Reading and West Berks (Newbury). A Berks FHS project is under way (summer 2018) to check and update this work, and to publish a full transcription of the MIs on CD.

Administration

St Mary’s was at first a field church attached to the parish of Kintbury, becoming in 1241 a parish church in its own right, with its own rector. A parsonage was recorded in a terrier of the mid-seventeenth century, and is marked on a map of the early eighteenth century. From then on the rectory was occasionally held in plurality with the next door parish of Enborne (both livings being in the gift of Lord Craven for centuries). In 1926 the two benefices were formally united. This was expanded in 1981 with the addition of West Woodhay, Inkpen and Combe, and in 2005 doubled in size with the further addition of Kintbury with Avington. The united benefice falls within the deanery of Newbury, which in turn comes under the suffragan bishop of Reading. Overall, the church in Hamstead Marshall is administered by the diocese of Oxford. (In 1836 this arrangement replaced the historic affiliation of Hamstead Marshall with the diocese of Salisbury.)

The church is ususally open (as indicated by a "church open today" sign outside). At other times visitors may gain access by contacting one of the churchwardens (see below) for a key.

More information

More detail on the architectural history, past rectorslocation of the parish registers and more pictures of St Mary’s can be found on the church pages of the village website. Service times and contact details of clergy and churchwardens can be found on St Mary's own website.

Additional information