109. St Mary’s Hale
Photo by permission. Copyright Alan Soedring. www.astoft.co.uk
This 18th century church lies just below Hale House on a hillside overlooking the Avon valley just across the river from Braemore. Hidden among trees it is only approached from the road by a steep footpath making its setting very secluded and private.
The original chapel of 1633 was extended in classical style by Thomas Archer soon after he purchased Hale House in 1715. Cruciform in plan the church has pedimented gables with an expansive north doorway and a south door in Baroque style with pilasters.
The interior with its barrel roof (restored in 1895) is plain and white. A circular window above the west door and plain glass windows on the south side give very good light.
The Victorian glass of the east window portrays Christ the Good Shepherd. On the north side of the chancel is a large window depicting Joshua and opposite one of St Michael. They were given as a memorial to Lt Col Gerald Goff killed at the Battle of Magersfontein in 1900 whilst leading the 1st Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. Many other goff family memorials can be seen in the north transept. Two modern windows can be seen there. One portrays the angel Gabriel and the other Mary kneeling in a blue dress with a dove flying overhead.
A prayer desk at the entrance to the chancel is a memorial to the four men from the village killed in the First World War. Their names are carved ont he top. Close by a brass on the floor commemorates Sir John Penruddoche who died in 1600. Another memorial in the chancel is of John May, an English merchant of “unspotted integrity” who died of a good old age in 1854 leaving four children. His wife Suzanna Frances is commemorated on a separate memorial.
But dominating everything else in the church are two imposing Archer memorials in classical 18th century style, to be seen in the south transept close to the organ. The biggest is of Thomas Archer, the architect who designed the church, who died in 1763 aged 75. There he lanquidly reclines in a Roman toga holding a book and attended by two Graces on either side. He wrote his own florid epitaph. After attending Trinity College Oxford he embarked on a four year Grand Tour of Europe. Later he was appointed Groom Porter to Queen Anne in 1703 and then Praefect of Customes at Newcastle. A sad reflection of 18th century mortality is provided by the reference to his first wife Eleanor who ‘before she completed the first year of her married life was taken by the scourge of smallpox almost in childbirth’.
Alongside is another large memorial to Henry Archer (possibly Thomas’s son), who died in 1768 aged 68 after ‘24 years of conjugal harmony and having been M.P. For Warwick in five successive parliaments’. His grieving widow Elizabeth is portrayed standing forlornly in classicla robes clasping an urn.
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