A splendid Georgian brick built church with associations to the Carnarvon’s, the Shelley family and possibly the Armada
From the exterior St Mary’s church Avington has a little of the industrial look about it. Red brick with a dominant tower, it seems a little austere but inside presents a beautiful Georgian interior.
The Marchioness of Carnarvon rebuilt the church at Avington but alas did not live long enough to see it completed, she died in 1768 aged just 34 years old. It is filled with the warm glow of mahogony from the great box pews, the reredos and the pulpit. It is not a dark and gloomy church because the barrel ceiling of the nave is painted a light summer blue.
A musicians gallery gazes down on the congregation and upon a delicate little font. It is not hard to imagine the Georgian congregation sitting in this little church. There are even small pegs in the pews for gentlemen to hang their wigs on.
The Armada connection
The Spanish mahogany from which the pews and pulpit are made is said to come from a ship captured in the Armada by the Duke of Effingham. Where the wood had been in the intervening years is not explained.
There is a large monument to Lady Carnarvon with an inscription that tells us that the young lady was blessed with beauty, rank and fortune.
The more interesting perhaps is the memorial to the brother of Percy Bysshe Shelley, one of the major English Romantic poets, whose wife Mary Shelley wrote Franenstein. Sir John Shelley bought the estate of nearby Avington Park in 1847.
Close by is the amazing Gospel Oak of Avington.