St Margaret’s Church, Harpsden-cum-Bolney

St Margaret’s Church, Harpsden-cum-Bolney

St Margaret’s Church, Harpsden-cum-Bolney


Our beautiful church serves the worshipping needs of a thriving and friendly community, drawn from the village of Harpsden and the surrounding area.




For Children
Sunday School is held on the first and third Sunday each month, at 9.30 am in St Peter’s Vestry at St. Margaret’s Church in Harpsden.

Parents who don’t wish to attend the church service are welcome to leave their children.  Parents may also stay with their children and join in the fun!

Church history

The parish of Harpsden, as it has existed for the last 500 years, is an amalgamation of what were once two completely separate places: Harpsden and Bolney, both of which are recorded in Domesday Book. The present church, approximately two miles from Shiplake Church is believed to date from the 12th century. Although it has been restored, it still retains the common Norman plan of a nave (aisle-less before the 19th century), which is separated from the chancel by an arch. The chancel would then have taken the form of a Norman round-headed apse, which was developed into the present chancel in the 14th century.

The church is built of local flint and was originally entered from the south through a round-arched doorway of chalk, which still exists: one of the original consecration crosses was discovered when this doorway was opened up for access to St. Peter’s Vestry, which was added in 1973. This room and kitchen are in the modern style and used by the choir for their storage, the Sunday School children during the morning service, as well as the various groups for their meetings – e.g. prayer groups and PCC meetings. The congregation is encouraged to get together here after the service for coffee and chat. It is approached through the Norman arch via a hall in which is a cloakroom and storage cupboard.

Originally the church was lit only by small round-headed windows, all of which have been replaced and the church notably brightened by the insertion of larger Gothic-arched windows, in the 14th century. The tub-shaped Norman font and round-headed piscina are still in regular use, the latter having relocated to its present spot when the chancel replaced the Norman apse.

Traces of colourful medieval interior decoration and mediaeval monuments still survive today. On the north side of the chancel is an effigy of a knight, said to have been carved by Abingdon masons in the 14th century. Three pre-Reformation brasses name members of local families dating from 1460 to 1511, one of which shows Sir Walter Elmes, the Rector, seen wearing eucharistic vestments. There are several references to the Elmes family, lords of the manor of Bolney, in the parish registers.

A small Priest’s Vestry is approached through an archway to the north of the chancel.

In the grounds of the church stands The Oratory. This has been created from the original Lich, which led into the grounds of the Manor House behind the church. Permission was granted by the owners of the house to build the room, and it has been used as a quiet place of prayer over many years. The door is kept open at all times and on occasions has been used as an overnight refuge. Last year lights and power were installed in the room so that it can be used as an overspill area for the Sunday School children as they have outgrown the vestry. Plans are now in the early stages for the building of a separate building in the church grounds for multi-purpose use but primarily for the Sunday School activities.

Getting Involved

St Margaret’s has an experienced wedding flower team who donate their reasonable charges to the Flower Fund to decorate the church throughout the year. Please contact Susan Vimpany through the Parish Administrator on 07496 695660 or by email to arrange a meeting at the church to discuss ideas for flowers at your wedding, colour schemes and an estimate of costs, as soon as you are able to do so. We look forward to meeting you. St Margaret’s Flower Team also decorates the church throughout the year, and are happy to mark anniversaries by arranging donated flowers.

We come together at Easter, Harvest Festival and Christmas to decorate, and always welcome anyone who would like to join us on these occasions, or who would like to go on the Flower Rota to do an arrangement for the church once or twice a year.

We will aim to show here pictures of the current flower arrangements, for the benefit of those who cannot get to the church. Your requests and comments relating to flowers in the church will always be welcome.

The Prayer Group meets every Tuesday at 10.00am in the church. If you know of someone who would like to be ‘Held in Prayer’, please contact the current organiser, whose details will be found on the weekly pewsheet. Alternatively you can leave a message through the Parish Administrator (07496 695660 or email) or place a card at the back of the church.

We have an enthusiastic choir who sing at Eucharist and festival services, and at wedding and funeral services by arrangement. Choir practices take place at 12.30pm on Wednesdays and 7.00pm on Thursday evenings, and new members are always welcome.  We’d love to hear from you about what we’ve done well, and not so well! If you would like to sing with us, please contact the Parish Office (07496 695660 or email).