Llanrothal, Monmouth, NP25 5QJ
A church on the edge of England founded by a Celtic saint
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This remote, whitewashed church on the Welsh border lies in an idyllic valley setting by the River Monnow.
The church is said to have been founded by a Celtic saint, St Ridol, and the dedication to St John the Baptist is thought to date from the Norman period.
Rescued from ruin in 1921, it has a beautiful rustic Medieval interior. The nave has a 12th-century window in its north wall, while the other windows here are 14th-century.
The impressive south window in the chancel is clearly later, probably dating from c1400.
Opening times on the CCT website
Michaelchurch, Ross On Wye, HR2 8LD
Discover 1000 years of history in a remote valley
Said to be founded by Bishop Herwald of Llandaff in 1056, this lovely church hugs the side of a remote valley.
A Roman altar is built into a blocked doorway and 13th-century wallpaintings decorate the walls in the form of masonry lines, borders with chevron design and consecration crosses.
Super-imposed on these on the north and south walls are black letter inscriptions from the 16th-and 17th- centuries.
St Mary's Street, Dogpole, Shrewsbury, SY1 1EF
An ancient church with world famous stained glass.
The spire of St Mary’s is one of the tallest in Enland and for over 500 years it has dominated the skyline of Shrewsbury's old town. In 1739, showman Robert Cadman attempted to slide from it, head first, using a rope and a grooved breastplate. His engraved obituary stands outside the west door.
The church is now the only complete Medieval church in Shrewsbury. It dates from Saxon times and has beautiful additions from the 12th-century onwards. Inside, the atmosphere is peaceful with the soaring stone arches giving way to the church's great treasure - its stained glass.
There are panels in glorious colour including the world-famous 14th-century 'Jesse window’ filled with figures of Old Testament kings and prophets, and scenes from the life of St Bernard - a Medieval cartoon strip that shows him ridding flies from an abbey, riding a mule and curing the sick.
No other church in the country has a collection to equal it. Most of the glass was brought from elsewhere, much of it from Europe, by two remarkable clergymen, and installed in St Mary’s during the 18th - and 19th-centuries.
Warmth and richness is also provided by superb Victorian coloured tiles on the floor; and lifting your eyes upwards, you will see the wonderful 15th-century carved oak ceiling of the nave, with a profusion of animals, birds and angels.
Other details delight you wherever you look: an ancient font, Medieval stone carving on the arcades, interesting monuments...The beauty and variety of this church and its contents, all on a grand scale, blend into an uplifting and memorable whole.
Wroxeter, SY5 6PH
A Saxon church built on the Roman site of Viroconium
St Andrew’s is built on the Roman site of Viroconium, the fourth largest town of Roman Britain, and the evidence for the ancient town is everywhere. The gateposts are made from two Roman columns; the walls contain massive Roman stones; and the huge font is made from an inverted Roman column base. The church is an archaeologist’s delight.
Though some of the building dates from before the Domesday Book (1086), it has been altered and enlarged throughout the centuries. The interior dates mostly from the 17th- and 18th-centuries, with some excellent woodwork in the box pews, pulpit and altar rails.
Inside the church are three wonderful 16th-century alabaster tombs – each has a life-size, and eerily life-like, painted figure lying in repose. The earliest and finest commemorates Sir Thomas Bromley and his wife Mabel. He was Lord Chief Justice, and is shown in his lawyer’s attire, while his wife wears a fine headdress.
On the front of the tomb is the charming figure of their daughter Margaret. Margaret’s own tomb is opposite that of her parents, alongside her husband Sir Richard Newport, who wears full armour. Their mourning sons and daughters are shown below. Other fine tablets and memorials are well worth seeing, and so too is the splendid Royal Arms of 1765.
Billesley, Stratford Upon Avon, B49 6NF
A light-filled gem with a Shakespearean connection.
All Saints rises from a lovely wooded churchyard in the hamlet of Billesley near Stratford-upon-Avon. From its approach through an avenue of limes, it looks like a Georgian country church – but its origins go back 1,000 years.
The church served the thriving village of Billesley for centuries, but by 1428 only four parishioners were left, and the church’s north aisle was demolished. Tradition has it that William Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway here in 1582, and that his granddaughter’s wedding also took place at Billesley. Sadly no parish registers survive from this time to prove it.
In 1692, Bernard Whalley rebuilt the church to create a fashionable classical addition to his Billesley estate. He installed a gallery for his staff complete with a butler’s boxed seat. Whalley’s own pew had a fine classical fireplace. His body lies, with his wife Lucy, in a sealed vault beneath the sanctuary floor.
Some remains of the early church survive, in particular the two spectacular 12th century stone carvings, which you can see on the east wall of the vestry. One, a richly decorated tympanum, shows a soldier in a kilt, a snake, a dragon and a bird, all surrounded by wonderfully twisted foliage. The other is part of a stone cross on which is a carved figure of Christ holding the hand of another person.
Croome Park, Croome D'Abitot, Worcester, WR8 9DW
A masterpiece of architectural fantasy in a National Trust park.
The original church at Croome was demolished by the 6th Earl of Coventry when he decided to replace his adjacent Jacobean house in the 1750s. His new house and park were designed and laid out by Capability Brown as was the church, set on a low hill nearby in Croome Park as an "eye catcher’. The views out to the Malvern Hills on a clear day are spectacular.
The interiors of both house and church are attributed to Robert Adam and were completed in 1763. Built by some of the finest craftsmen in England, every detail has been considered, from pretty plaster mouldings to handsome carved pews - the church is a perfect fantasy of the period, with elegant Gothick windows and plasterwork, pulpit, communion rails, commandments and creed boards.
Opulent monuments brought from the old church, long since demolished, show the former Barons and Earls of Coventry in their full glory. The earliest – in black and white marble – shows the 1st Lord, who died in 1639, reclining under a canopy. The monument to the 1st Earl, who died in 1699, is missing because the 2nd Earl disapproved of his father’'s second marriage, at an advanced age, to a servant, Elizabeth Graham and so his monument is now in the nearby church of St Mary’s at Elmley Castle instead!
St Mary Magedelene is open when Croome Park is open. See the Croome Park website (National Trust) for detailed opening times.
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