Touching Place

ST ETHELDREDA'S, HORLEY, OXON

Horley is so far north in Oxfordshire that it is virtually in South Warwickshire, an ironstone village for Banbury commuters. The church is a tripartite Norman building of chancel, central tower and nave (the latter widened in the later Middle Ages); it received a restoration in 1949-50 by Lawrence Dale, which somehow typifies the confident spirit of the post-war CofE.

This gave it a wrought iron screen in the western tower arch, topped by loft and canopied rood, with figures of Our Lady and St John half-turned towards the suffering Christ. Tasteful stencilled decoration covers the underside of the loft; the 19th c. pulpit is painted with the legend of the patron saint (1950). Note a curious medieval TTT motif on the return of the tower arch. Pass through to the chancel, noting the Creed and Commandment boards moved to the side walls; turn, and espy in the NW corner a small statue of the Virgin teaching the Infant Jesus to read.

But perhaps the most interesting features of Horley are in the N aisle, which retains fragments of 15th c. glass, particularly two kneeling donors. A large 15th c. St Christopher on the N wall reminds us of the medieval belief that, if you looked on an image of the saint, you were safe from sudden or evil death that day.

More unusual is the representation of St Zita of Lucca (d. 1272) on a pier of the N arcade. The patroness of domestic servants, she spent nearly fifty years in the service of the Farinelli family, her name becoming a byword both for patience in the face of abuse, and for the prayer and faithfulness that underpinned her life.

Recall that we are all called to serve others, and pray for all those who serve others, especially those who are ill-treated.

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