St Mary & St Hardulph is a remarkable church not least for its setting, dominating the local landscape and towering above the surrounding countryside.
Its builder was Robert Shirley, and inscriptions in the church tell much of the story. Over the chancel arch is written: 'Sir Robert Shirley Baronet Founder of this church anno domini 1653 on whose soul God hath mercy'; and over the entrance: 'When all things sacred were throughout ye nation Either demolisht or profand Sir Richard Shirley Barronet founded this church whose singular praise it is to have done ye best things in ye worst times'.
In other words Sir Richard built his chapel in direct and public defiance of the Commonwealth and Oliver Cormwell. Cromwell was outraged and demanded that Shirley make compensation; Sir Richard refused, was imprisoned in the Tower of London and died there aged only 27.
Completed after Sir Richard's death, and following his detailed plans, the chapel is as handsome inside as out, with its 17th century fittings surviving, astonishingly in light of the story above, virtually intact.
Staunton Harold Hall and its estate are privately owned, but the chapel was given to the National Trust in the 1950s when the estate was up for sale.