77. St Mary the Virgin, Old Alresford
The present church with its imposing tower dates from the eighteenth century. The existing chancel and nave were rebuilt in 1753 at a cost of £284.1s.5d whilst the large red brick tower was added in 1768 for an additional £774.5s.10d. The interior today is largely the result of Victorian restoration. The east window is particularly disappointing and the overall impression is one of dull respectability.
Nevertheless the church has one special claim to fame. It contains the memorial to Mary Sumner, wife of George Henry Sumner, Rector 1851-85, who is famous as the founder of the Mothers' Union in 1875. It is now a world wide organisation with over a million members devoted to the upholding of Christian marriage. The memorial on the south nave wall was placed there in 1936. In the south transept are photographs relating to Mary Sumner and the Mothers' Union as well as the banner of the Winchester MU.
Dominating everything on the north wall of the nave is the huge coloured marble memorial erected by Admiral George Rodney in memory of his first wife Jane "the delight of all who knew her". She died in January 1757 at the early age of 27. It is one of the largest memorials I have seen in a country church. Sculpted by Sir Henry Chelve it has a bust of Jane supported on either side by depictions of Faith and Hope. Both Jane and her husband the Admiral, who died in 1792, are interred in a nearby vault, though there is a memorial to the Admiral in the crypt of St Paul's Cathedral. Memorials to George (2nd Lord Romney) who died in 1802 and George (3rd Lord Romney) who died in 1842 can be seen alongside.
A smaller World War II memorial near the pulpit commemorates Major the Hon Arthur Spencer Chichester of the Coldstream Guards who died of wounds on December 23 1942 at Medjez-el-Bab Tunisia. Opposite, near the chancel steps is an attractive memorial to Sir Francis Lindlay (d.1950) one time Ambassador to Japan and Portugal.
In the south transept a pretty stained glass window relates to Henry Perin (1697) who left money for the foundation of Perin's School near Alresford, and also George Wither a poet (1688). Two further memorials on the east wall of the transept commemorate 18th century Perin family members. Alongside is a memorial to Capt. Perin Hopkins of 27 B.B.N. killed on 11 January 1842 in the retreat from Cabul 'when in sight of Jellalabad' during the First Afghan War. This is a most interesting reference to one of the greatest Victorian military disasters when Surgeon Brydon of the Medical Corps was the only survivor out of 14,000 men.
A memorial on the north wall of the chancel refers not to an aristocrat or military hero but to Anna Davenport housekeeper to Dr John Hoadley (Rector 1737-76) and largely responsible for rebuilding the church. She is described as a 'good friend and faithful servant' and she is shown with her feet resting on a dog at the base of the memorial.
On the south wall of the nave is an early 19th century memorial to Esther, wife of Lord North, Earl of Guildford and Rector 1797-1850, who died in 1825. The Rector, son of the Bishop of Winchester, was a notorious pluralist who held livings in Alresford, Medstead and Southampton as well as being appointed Master of St Cross in Winchester in 1808. Trolloppe's famous novel 'The Warden' is partly based on him.
From the west door a fine view can be obtained over watercress beds and farmland. Notice the Portland stone sun dial a few yards from the church. On the south side is the Mausoleum built by Mr Schwerdt. Headstones of the Perin and Rodney families can be seen as well as a stone slab to the Revd Needham dated 1732. An oval stone memorial to his first wife Margareta, who died in 1693, can be seen on the south wall of the chancel close to an Italian statue of the Virgin and Child commemorating Olive Montagu Linderley Diocesan President of the M.U. 1928-31.
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