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St Peter's Church, Stourton

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Much of the commentary below is edited from, and with acknowledgement to, "Britain Express" and David Ross (Editor)

The medieval church of St Peter stands immediately outside Stourhead Gardens, looking out over the neo-classical 18th century landscape designed by Sir Henry Hoare II.

The earliest record of a church here dates from 1291, and it seems likely that the north nave arcade and tower date from that time. The Lords of the Manor were the Stourton family, and their family vault is under the present north aisle.


























In 1717 the Stourton estate was purchased by Henry Hoare who renovated the medieval church in 1722.

The architect and mason Nathaniel Ireson was churchwarden in the 1720s and may have done work on the church himself.

The antiquarian, William Coxe, was rector from 1801 to 1811.

Hoare built a large altar piece to span the entire east wall, and built his own family vault.

The next alterations took place in 1848 when the south aisle was added to provide more seating. The Hoare family pew was also created at this time.

Further restoration took place in 1878. An oak screen was built between the tower and the nave. An organ chamber and vestry room were added on to the south side of the chancel.

The floor was re-tiled, new nave furnishings provided, an oak lectern and a new stone font with an oak cover. The entire cost of the work was ₤1,000. In 1880 the project was completed after the whole church was decorated.

Alterations continued into the 20th century when improvements to the chancel and sanctuary were undertaken by Sir Henry and Lady Hoare to commemorate their Golden Wedding in 1937.

The work included removing the wooden reredos and altar; the provision of a new altar comprising a single stone slab on wooden legs, so that it could be removed at any time; a figure of Christ to replace the reredos and east window; a new altar cross, candlesticks and altar rail.



In the north chapel is a large altar tomb to the 5th Lord Stourton and his wife (circa 1536).

The effigy of Lord and Lady Stourton (left) are wonderfully sculpted, with small effigies of their children kneeling in an unusual position behind the couple's heads.








The first historic feature one sees on entering the church is the worn effigy of a woman lying on a stone table (below) which is thought to be of Lady Stourton who died in 1403.



St Peter's Church interior in 2014 (above)




Victorian stained glass windows date from 1859 (left and below) and pictured at the time of the 2014 'Harvest Festival'.







"As satisfying as the 16th century Stourton tomb is, it pales in comparison to the large Hoare family memorials in the south aisle.

"Against the east wall of the aisle is a memorial to the first Henry Hoare, who died in 1724, (left) with urns spouting gilded flames and flanking a very large inscribed tablet listing Hoare's lineage and accomplishments."











On the south wall is a memorial to Henry Hoare II (1705-1785), the creator of Stourhead Gardens. (The memorial is shown on the right of the left hand picture)

Above the inscription are two cherubs (pictured below). One bears a scroll and the other an urn.

The memorial is signed by C Harris and dated 1789.





























Various plaques, such as that above, decorate the walls of the church.

High on the nave arcade is a gilded cartouche (pictured right) dedicated to Mary Ireson (died 1723).

Mary was the daughter of Nathaniel Ireson, mason at Stourhead House, and his wife, Mary.









The 1877/8 vestry and organ chamber (left) and with its polygonal east end (seen in the exterior church east view above) contains the organ and is fronted by pews from that era.










Part of the retiled floor dating from 1878 is shown immediately below.

The picture at the bottom of the page is a close-up view of the 'new' sanctuary which dates from 1937.