THE CHURCH OF ST MARY THE BLESSED VIRGIN
HARTLEY WESPALL


The date of the original building is unknown, but there is evidence of the existence of a timber-built Nave in the 13th century, possibly the, oldest example in the South of England. Much of the woodwork is notable. The beams of the roof and the four moulded supporting pillars, and the woodwork of the doorways, is late -13th or early 14th century.

The unique half-timbered construction of the west wall, seen from the exterior, has been dated by experts as 1320-1330. The massive beams are sometimes thought to be 'ship's timbers', but the craftsmanship and the cusping give reason to believe that they are of West Country origin; and this is likely to be so as, John Drokensford, Bishop of Bath and Wells, one of the Bishops of whom Edward. II wrote to the Pope, saying that he would no longer tolerate him in his kingdom, held the Manor of Hartley Westpall and exercised his patronage in 1324.

The first Rector was Edmund de Bedewyn. He was given charge of the Church on 2nd January, 1286 by Isabella de Cadurcis, Prioress of Hartford Priory (near Hartley Wintney), to which the Rectory of Hartley Wespall was annexed, and was instituted by the Bishop on 10th May in the same year.

An extract from a record of Vestry Meetings in 1758 reads:

'Arid it was recommended to the consideration of all persons entitled to seats amicably to agree to such a distri- bution of the pews, as that a man and his wife and family be not separated during Divine Service as at present, the wives and all females being now unreasonably and unsuitably
thrust down to the very bottom of the Church into the most cold and disagreeable places!'

In 1868 the Church was fully restored under Sir Gilbert Scott. (This also applies to the organ casing). The Bell-tower and Spire were removed from the west end, where they obscured the timbers of the west wan. and were replaced where they now stand. The stone flints which face the outer walls were taken from the Roman wan at Silchester,

The marble memorial on the North wall of the Nave commemorates the Rt. Hon. Abigail, who. by the death of her five brothers, became the heiress of William Pitt of Hartley Wespall. She married Raiph, Baron Stawell of Somerton in Somerset, and died in 1692. Her memorial is a typical example of the classical style and workmanship of the 17th century.

The window on the North side is the memorial to William Grant Broughton, Curate of this Parish in 1818. He became the first Bishop of Sydney, N.S.W., and later, the first Archbishop of Australasia.

 
The Crucifix hanging above the Screen is our village War Memorial : the names of the Fallen appear on the plaque on the North wall.   The stone tablet immediately below the Sanctuary, on the floor of the Quire, has now only two portions of the original brasses.

The inscription reads on the Quire tablet reads

'John Waspail, sometime Patron of this Church, who went the way of all flesh on 20th November 1448, and Jane, his widow, relict of John Pakenham, who died 20th May 1452 are buried here, upon whose souls may GOD have mercy. Amen.'

Hartley Wespall derives its name from the Waspail family, one of whom, Nicholas, was Rector in 1349. He died six months later, probably a victim of the Black Death. John Pakenham *, mentioned above. became Recto;' in 1454, after the death of Jane. In 1806, a Lady Catherine Pakenham, married Sir Arthur Wellesley, then Major-General, afterwards Field Marshal The Duke of Wellington, K.G.

 
On the South side of the Sanctuary stands the tomb of John Keate, D.D., Canon of Windsor. For 24 years he was the 'flogging' Headmaster of Eton College; and for the following 24 years Rector of this Parish. On his death in 1852, Old Etonians rebuilt the Chancel as his memorial. His son, John Charles, succeeded him and held the Benefice for 45 years, and on his death in 1894. parishioners erected the alabaster Reredos. and Richard Durnford. Esq.. the Lychgate. to his memory.

The Rector in 1750. The Hon. Frederick Keppel, was consecrated Bishop of Exeter in 1762. and John Fisher. Rector in 1796, was also consecrated Bishop of Exeter, in 1804.


The Organ is by Hedgeland, built in 1873. and the casing designed
by Sir Gilbert Scott.


Two of the three bells have summoned parishioners to worship for over 500 years. They were cast by Robert Crowch of London, some time between 1439 and 1450. The Tenor bell (3cwt.) is by Samuel Knight of Reading, 1688. The tenor bell was recast by Mears &: Stainbank in .1883. The bells can no longer be rung full circle, but are , chimed by hammers operated from the vestry.

The Font was installed in 1842. The earliest baptism in the Church, of which we have record, reads:

'Nota Mirabilis. Hartley Wespayll. John the sonne of John Stirt was christened the 25th day of October A,D. 1540. Joen, daughter of the said John was christened the 29th day of October A.D. 1540. John another sonne of the said Stirt was christened the 30th day of October 1540.'

 

 

The Pulpit is Jacobean. It was retained from  the old Church on the rebuilding in 1868.

The original parchment Register, opened in 1558. is still in possession of the Church. The Registers are complete since this date, although the Register of 1677 was lost for a long period, until it was found in an empty house in Pentonville in 1852 and returned to the Rector. The entry concerning the death of Lord Stawell had, for no known reason, been cut from this page.Since 1974 the ancient Parish Registers have been in the custody of the Diocesan Archivist at Winchester.

The oldest inscription in the Churchyard is on the gravestone of William Payees, who died in 1640. Gravestones of this age are uncommon. It Iies at the East end, close by the wall.

Hartley Wespall has enjoyed the Patronage of the Dean and Canons of Windsor since 1482, and from 1950. Stratfield Saye, in the gift of the Duke of Wellington, and Hartley Wespall have been served by one incumbency. In 1973 the Parishes were formally united.

Stratfield Saye with Hartley Wespall with Stratfield Turgis now form a United Benefice with Sherfield-on-Loddon under one Rector.

The cross and candlesticks were designed by John Lough borough fearson» architect of Truro Cathedral. The alabaster reredos over the altar is the work of
Temple Moorey a pupil of G. G..Scott.

The Porch showing the stained glass windows inside

 
     


Dedicated to the Duke of Wellington

 


Dedicated to Henry III

In the adjoining pariah of Stratfield Turgis, united with Hartley Westpall since 1935, the parish church of All Saints was declared redundant having been disused since 1970. Stained glass windows from that church are now in the porch. The font of pre-Reformation date can be seen outside the South door, and the stone War Memorial tablets have been placed near the North
door.

The plane tree beside the lane North of the Lych Gate was planted in 1977 to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

* :It has been brought to my attention that there may be an error on this page. where it says: "John Pakenham, mentioned above. became Recto;' in 1454, after the death of Jane." Clearly this could not have been the case, as on the inscription Jane, who is described as the "relict" (widow) of John Pakenham. The information I have seen is that Joan's (2nd) husband John Pakenham died in 1420, and she then married John Wespall. Her son Hugh Pakenham (died about 1478) gained his stepfather's lands at Hartley Wespall. However John had a brother John (d 1477) so perhaps it was he who became became Recto;' in 1454? He was cleric, and was Treasurer of York Minster, and an executor of the Will of Cardinal Kemp. I hope this is useful.
Richard Hodgson
www.ancestorsearch.co.uk