Dame Margery Freeland was born in 1592, during the reign of Elizabeth I, the eldest daughter of Elizabeth (née Uvedale of Colemore) and John Freeland, London of the Manor of Greatham. Baptised in the Old Church on 27 June 1594, she married, at the age of 17, Sir Richard Caryll of Lady Holt, South Harting on 14 April 1610. Their marriage was short-lived, Sir Richard dying when Margery was 24. Dame Margery lived till the age of 40, and died in London on 11 May 1632, possibly as a result of blood poisoning caused by pricking her finger whilst sewing.
The monument comprises a fine panelled altar tomb, with an alabaster detailed effigy of Dame Margery on a black marble slab. Above the tomb was an arched pediment with black marble columns, topped with a shield bearing the coats of arms of the Caryll and Freeland families. A photograph taken in 1942 shows the tomb in its former glory with a close-up of the coat of arms.
Her effigy was probably carved in London, as it has the trademarks of the London School, and then taken to Greatham for installation. It was erected by her cousin Johannes Love, who became Rector of Greathm on 26 June 1662 following the death of the previous Rector Nicholas Bayley.
The alabaster is from the Fauld quarry in Staffordshire with the slab of Ashford Marble and the inscriptions in slate. The carved folds of her dress which suspend her feet in the air are a London trait. Her fine carved puffed up sleeves are slightly out of date for the period.
The churchyard was significantly expanded in 1869 to the south west and north thanks to land gifted by Sampson Foster Esq of Le Court. This land almost doubled the size of the existing churchyard. An area marked on a map of 1869 shows an area of 50 square yards to be reserved for a large Foster family vault, complete with iron railings and steps. The remains of this vault are visible in the existing courtyard, but the iron railings have been removed, and the access steps filled in. Sampson Foster’s wife, Mary, died on 13 March 1869 and Sampson on 9 August 1870.
The old churchyard contains a number of headstones and tomb-chests, an ancient yew tree, and the tomb of a Knight Templar.
No longer used for regular worship, this peaceful corner of Greatham is cherished as a place for quiet contemplation.
Please come and enjoy this beautiful church and churchyard. There are wild flowers in abundance in the spring and summer to appreciate.
The Old Church will be open at the weekends during the spring and summer months (weather permitting), for special events, or by requests at other times.
Visitors are welcome to this beautiful church and ancient site but please be aware that all of the stonework is unstable. Children must be accompanied by an adult at all times.
For access to the Old Church, please contact Boopie Cope on 01420 538 241 or the office at L’Abri on 01420 538 436.
If you would like to help with maintaining the churchyard or help decorate this beautiful old church for special events please contact Anna Dale-Harris on 01420 538 029.