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The Parish of Rufford
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St Mary the Virgin
in the Parish of Rufford

The church existed in 1346; Re-built in 1734 and 1869

St Mary the Virgin, Rufford
St Mary the Virgin, Rufford
St Mary the Virgin Church Board. Photograph supplied by and © of Brian Young
St Mary the Virgin Church Board
Photograph supplied by and © of Brian Young

The church of ST. MARY THE VIRGIN is situated on the east side of the village and is a modern building of red brick and stone erected in 1869 in the Gothic style of the day, replacing an older chapel built in 1734/6, and then demolished. Of the original and still earlier chapel which is known to have existed in the 14th century no traces remain, with the exception, of two moulded capitals, now on either side of the porch, which may have been the responds of a later chancel arch built in the 16th century.The form and appearance of the first building and the position of the chancel—apparently a private mortuary chapel— made by Sir Thomas Hesketh in 1588 are unknown. The 18th-century chapel was a plain parallelogram with two tiers of windows and west door, with an octagonal bell-turret on a square base over the west gable.

The present building consists of a chancel, with a north chapel, and south vestry and organ chamber; a nave, with north and south aisles 8 ft. 6 in. wide, west porch and tower with short stone spire at the west end of the north aisle. The chapel north of the chancel is called the Hesketh chapel and contains a recumbent marble figure of Sir Thomas Hesketh (d. 1872). The Hesketh vault is below the chancel. It contains an alabaster slab and other fragments belonging to the first church and some fittings from the 18th-century structure. The slab is to the memory of Thomas Hesketh (d. 1458) and Margaret his wife. It was until lately in the floor of the nave lying north and south, in four pieces, but was removed to the Hesketh chapel in 1907. It has incised on it the figure of a man in armour with his lady and underneath the figures of eleven children, together with the coat of arms of Hesketh. The inscription runs round the slab, 'Domine miserere animabus Thome Hesketh et Margerie | uxoris ejus qui quidem Thomas | obijt xviij die mensis Decembris ao dni mcccclviij: a litera dominicali.' At the bottom are the names of eleven children—Robert, William, Margery, Thomas, John, Hugh, William, Geoffrey, Richard, Henry and Nicholas.

The churchyard contains a number of 17th-century gravestones with good lettering, the oldest being 1632. On the south side is the base of an old cross.

The following have been among the Curates and Rectors:-

 oc. 1610–19  Lawrence Bradshaw
oc. 1632   Thomas Kirkham
oc. 1650   ? Woods
oc. 1671   Thomas Thompson
oc. 1674   James Thompson
1676   Richard Croston, B.A
1684   Edward Atherton
1706   John Wright, B.A
1734   John Gray, B.A.
1752   Thomas Barker, M.A.
1757   John Kynaston, M.A.
1758   Samuel Smith
1790   William Ion
1793   Robert Master, D.D. (Rector of Croston)
1798   Edward Master, B.A. (Balliol Coll. Oxf.)
1835   Edward Moorhouse Hall, M.A.
1843   Thomas Foster Chamberlain, M.A.
1868   James Frederick Hogg-Goggin
1905   William George Procter, B.A. d. 1911
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