History of the church buildings

The ancient church (demolished 1790)

A church has stood on or near the present site certainly since the year 1122 and probably longer, possibly preceded by a pagan temple. Little is known of the old Saxon/Norman church as it was pulled down in 1790 and all that now remains are some parts of the tower, a 12th Century tapered circular font, some mediaeval tiles and a 14th Century bell. It is known that the church had a short low nave, a high chancel with a clerestory and aisles, a central tower and a small transept. The pulpit had a canopy. The pews were open except for two large square ones in the chancel belonging to Mr Greatheed of Guy’s Cliffe and Mr Winter of The Grange, or Wootton Grange. It is possible that at least the lower stones of the tower were not destroyed, but remain in the present tower.

The Faculty dated 23 March 1790 states, “The Church together with the chancel and tower thereof is a very ancient building and is by the length of time become so very ruinous and dilapidated that it is absolutely necessary the whole structure should be taken down and rebuilt.”

At the demolition of the old church, a rope was tied round the ‘spire’ and the boys of the parish pulled it down. They were allowed to take part in the demolition of the church so that the memory of the event would not be lost when the new church was finished.

The history of our church buildings
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History of the church buildings

The present church (built 1790)

This was built on the same site as the earlier church, funded largely, though not entirely, at the expense of The Honourable Mary Leigh, who inherited the Stoneleigh Abbey estate from her brother, Edward Leigh, in 1786. She contributed £500. Other contributions are recorded from local dignitaries and parishioners including:

The church, designed by Hiorne of Birmingham, when first built consisted of the tower with a height of forty-eight feet, which was separate from the nave accessed by the west door (now blocked up). The nave measured forty-one feet by twenty-seven feet and was eighteen feet high. The span of the chancel arch was ten feet and the height fifteen feet. The contractor for the stone work was Brown of Kenilworth who was assisted by his son, a mason.

Since the building was completed scarcely a decade has passed without some sort of extension or improvement being made, but this layout remained largely unaltered for 100 years, with the exception of the chancel being enlarged and a small vestry added in 1843. Fund raising committees and individual benefactors have knocked things down, re-built it and embellished it almost constantly over the years.

At some time between 1790 and 1843 a west gallery was erected.

The history of our church buildings
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History of the church buildings

The new chancel (1843)

The chancel was rebuilt and enlarged in 1843 at a cost of nearly £400, of which Lord Chandos Leigh gave £150, The Reverend Henry Wise (Vicar of Offchurch) £30, Earl Clarendon £20, the Earl of Warwick £15 and H C Wise £10.

The new chancel with the Chamberlaine window, 1843 (WCRO, Ref: CR 351/237)
The new chancel with the Chamberlaine window, 1843 (WCRO, Ref: CR 351/237)

The history of our church buildings
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History of the church buildings

The alterations of 1890

1889-1890 was a time for further major alterations. The architect responsible was W D Caroe (1857-1938) who undertook a great deal of church work in his role as Architect to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. The alterations were:

  • The nave was lengthened eastwards by the addition of one bay to allow for sixty extra seats, the chancel was removed and re-erected as the present vestry, with the Nicholas Chamberlaine east window, and a new chancel built with woodblock floor and patterned tiles (as today).
  • The old box pews were removed and replaced by the present teak pews.
  • The gallery was removed and the organ placed in the chancel.
  • An archway into the base of the tower opened this space for Children’s raked seating and the font was located on the south side of the arch (approximately where the vestibule to the kitchen and toilet is today).
  • It is thought that some further form of heating was installed at this time. The Churchwarden of the day, John Nicks, wrote some letters complaining of the existing heating being very inadequate.
  • It would appear that the plaster was taken from the walls of the nave at this time. Remnants of this can still be seen.

In 1890 the east window was installed, a gift of Mrs Hughes D’Aeth.

In 1894 the choir stalls, designed by W D Caroe, were erected in red deal, a gift of Lady Waller, in memory of her husband, Sir George Waller, Baronet, of Woodcote.

The history of the church buildings
back to: The new chancel (1843) | forward to: The millennium alterations (2000)