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St Mary the Virgin, Hurley
The first church was probably built c.700 AD when St. Birinus passed up the Thames.
During the next 200 years the Danes may have sacked Hurley during their occupation of Reading and the battle of Danesfield. Next mention is in 894 when the Danes are reported to have "Traversed Herlei" during their march from Essex to Gloucester.
The village grew around the small Saxon church and the lands came under the control of Esgar (Asgar), the Chief Staller and Master of the Horse to Edward the Confessor in the middle of the 11th Century. After the Conquest, William I confiscated all the lands at Hurley and gave them to his trusted supporter, Geoffrey de Mandeville, for services rendered.
In 1086, at the request of Geoffrey de Mandeville's second wife Leceline, Bishop Osmund of Old Sarum dedicated the rebuilt church at Hurley as a Benedictine Priory, a cell to Westminster Abbey.
Domesday Book, compiled during this time, states that the village of Hurley consisted of a church together with a mill, 2 fisheries, 25 villagers, 12 cottagers and 10 slaves.
From this time Hurley Priory grew in importance and during the remainder of the llth and 12th centuries the Priory Church became cruciform in shape, situated on the south side of a cloister garth which was bounded by the chapter house and dormitory to the east, refectory and kitchens to the north and various offices to the west. A tythe barn and dovecote were also built.
Further enlargement by the 14th century had extended the church eastwards to double its present length and side aisles were added to the eastern half.
1536 saw the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII and Hurley Priory did not escape. The entire eastern end of the church and the transepts were demolished until only approximately the present day building was left.
In 1545 the estates passed to John Lovelace and much of the materials from the Old Priory were used to build the first Ladye Place Mansion. At this time the east end of the church was filled in and repaired to the shape it is today. At the turn of the 17th century, Richard, 1st Baron Lovelace of Hurley, installed the bell turret and the largest bell.
A major restoration took place in 1852 when the large porch over the South West Door was removed. The east end of the church was completely rebuilt and the existing east windows and the bath stone screen behind the Altar were installed.
In 1987, after many years of planning, thought and prayer, the Priory Room extension was built and dedicated by the newly enthroned Bishop of Oxford, Richard Harries, on 2nd July 1987.
Extract from "The Church of St Mary The Virgin - a Short History and Guide" Courtesy of David Burfitt