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St James' Church, Stirchley, Shropshire

04 May 2008

Vested 31 March 2006

Stirchley is now part of modern Telford, but St James’ polygonal churchyard is believed to have been the main burial ground for Stirchley from at least the 13th century. The church and churchyard are Scheduled Ancient Monuments.

A first for the Trust

When the church ceased to be used for religious services in 1975, ownership passed to the Telford Development Corporation and subsequently to English Partnerships.
Stirchley  04-09-06 001St James’ accession to the Trust this year signalled the first time that the Trust had taken over a church from an organisation other than the Church Commissioners of the Church of England. Along with the keys and responsibility for its future care, the church came with an endowment from English Partnerships, which will ensure that St James’ will benefit from the Trust’s conservation expertise and will be open to the public for all to enjoy.

The chancel itself is of local sandstone in roughly cut blocks of coursed ashlar, but the chancel arch is eye-catchingly ornate. In the south wall a two-light window with tracery from the 13th century is glazed with decorative late Victorian leaded lights. In the north transept, a pair of figurative stained glass windows (attributable to Clayton & Bell, London) were salvaged from Burwarton Parish Church, Shropshire, on its closure.

The nave has a plinth of Grinshill stone, rusticated quoins and window dressings with deep red brick infill. The two arch-headed south windows have been glazed with glass from a pair of late Victorian/Edwardian figurative stained glass windows, also from Burwarton church.

The tower, mainly bricks with stone dressings, has a large west-facing window glazed with another two salvaged figurative stained glass windows. A timber bell-frame from 1780 holds three bells dated to 1410, 1594 and 1664.

There are a number of monuments in the chancel and north transept; most notable are those dedicated to Louise Stamps (1897), to the Revd William Hunt Painter and his wife Alice (1910 and 1930) and to Thomas Botfield and his wife Margaret (1801 and 1803). On the south wall between the two windows there is an unidentified hatchment.

The nave is filled with 18th-century box pews that have survived unaltered with their integral reading desk and pulpit. There is also a 16th-century chest and 17th-century communion table.

Stirchley  04-09-06 005The churchyard contains some interesting table tombs with iron railings, some being damaged by extensive vegetation. Behind railings on the south wall of the chancel there is a fine limestone pedestal monument dedicated to Thomas Botfield and his wife (this is vested in the Trust although the churchyard is not).

Although the church appeared in fair condition on vesting, it showed signs of continued neglect and some vandalism: the roof and rainwater goods needed a complete overhaul, and the east window in the transept had been smashed in places. Under the direction of Robert Kilgour RIBA a comprehensive programme of repairs started in early autumn 2006.