White Hart Crest of the Royal County of Berkshire David Nash Ford's Royal Berkshire History

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St. Mary's Church, Beenham - © Nash Ford PublishingBeenham
St. Mary's Church 

The site of Beenham's church is very ancient, though the present building is not as old as might first appear. For the building has suffered a number of serious fires.

The medieval church, with wooden bell turret, was struck by lightning in 1794 and burnt to the ground. Even the bells melted. It was soon replaced with a new structure featuring large Georgian windows and a bold Berkshire brick tower. However, this, in turn, caught light - cause unknown - in 1856. Only the tower survived. The rest of the building dates from 1859, but was subsequently embellished in the Arts and Crafts style by Miss. Mary Sharp of Ufton Court who wrote a history of the parish. Her beautiful murals, in blue and cream, surround the nave. Those in the chancel are more colourful but the saints flanking the altar are difficult to see in the usual darkness. The stained glass is also very striking, particular the west window; though the east is not so good.

Some interesting monuments survive from the old church. There is a memorial to Sir Charles Hopson (1824) of Beenham House who was responsible for much of the woodwork in St. Paulís Cathedral. Most notable, however, are the two large monuments to the Berrington family, with Greyhound emblazoned coats of arms. Unfortunately, they are somewhat hidden away under the tower, behind the ladder to the ringing chamber. Note the fine trumpeting victory at the base of John & Katherine's mural tablet (1738). It is very similar to that appearing on the gravestone just outside the porch. This and the adjoining memorial, featuring old father time, are said to be the best carved tombstones in the whole of Berkshire. They commemorate members of a local wealthy family of yeoman farmers called Iremonger. 

The church's great claim to fame is that Thomas Stackhouse was the vicar in the 1730s and he wrote his 'History of the Bible' while in office there. However, it is said that he liked a drink and his great work was mostly written at the 'Three Kings - Jack's Booth' (the Spring Inn) at Sulhamstead, rather than the vicarage. He would get inebriated on a Saturday night and then preach to his flock on the evils of drink on the Sunday morning! The church displays two ancient, but recently discovered, volumes of his book.

This is not the official Beenham Church website. Please do NOT mail me about use of the church. Visit the C of E's Church Near You website instead.

    © Nash Ford Publishing 2004. All Rights Reserved.