St. Agnes Church
Built in 1908, St. Agnes Church in Freshwater was built whilst Hallam, Tennyson’s son, and his wife Audrey, lived at Freshwater. Audrey suggested naming the church after St Agnes, who was a virgin martyr during the Roman Period. Inside the church there are also memorials to Tennyson and to Thackeray’s daughter Anne Ritchie who knew both Alfred and Hallam Tennyson, as well as being a renowned writer in her own right, her most famous works were ‘Mrs Dymond’ and ‘The Story of Elizabeth’. Like Hallam and Alfred Tennyson, who were both well known in literary and artistic circles, she had correspondence and connections with Leslie Stevens and Virginia Woolf, and the character from Virginia Woolf’s ‘Night and Day’, Mrs Hilbery, is considered to be inspired by Ritchie. The Church itself has a highly decorated interior, and the carving was done by the curate T.G. Devitt during the Second World War.
All Saints’ Church
St. Agnes’ Church is paired in a Parish with All Saints’ Church, also in Freshwater, a far older Medieval Church featured in the Doomsday Book. The Tennyson family, including Hallam, Hallam’s son Harold, his wife Audrey, his brother Lionel and his mother, Baroness Emily Tennyson are buried here. Many of Tennyson’s poems contain atmospheric references to churches, and, written in Freshwater, it is hard not to believe that these poems reference All Saints’ Church, whose medieval walls would no doubt have appealed to Tennyson, a poet so frequently returning to the literature and mythology of the Middle Ages in works such as ‘The Idylls of the King’.
The moon is hid, the night is still;
A single church below the hill
Is pealing, folded in the mist. – In Memoriam