St Mary's Church, Itchen Stoke, Hampshire

Itchen Stoke, Alresford, Hampshire, SO24 0SX
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A jewel inspired by the chapel of French kings

St Mary's was built in 1866, by Henry Conybeare for his brother who was the Rector of the church, and felt the previous church was cold and damp. He himself bore most of the cost, with the parishioners contributing £50 towards the cost of the windows, as a mark of their regard for him.

This dazzling and colourful Victorian jewel of a church overwhelms the senses -it is a truly exhilarating building, tall and imposing, especially as you approach it up a steep path from the road. Its design is clearly inspired by the soaring elegance of the thirteenth-century Sainte Chapelle in Paris, chapel of French kings.

The church is a dazzling kaleidoscopic wonderland of pattern and colour. The roof is richly painted, the font is inlaid with a variety of marble, the floor near the altar is decorated with sparkling tiles laid out in the form of a maze, the pulpit has five panels filled with scrollwork and foliage in cast iron (the same design is repeated on the ends of the pews). Best of all however is the stained glass, especially in the west window. The elegant arched windows contain small pieces of clear red, blue and green glass arranged in geometrical patterns.

Try to visit on a sunny day, when the church is bathed in gloriously coloured light - an unforgettable sight. Two memorial brasses remain from the previous medieval church.