Shrewsbury, Shropshire – St Mary the Virgin

I met Julie back in town and we went to St Mary the Virgin – a Churches Conservation Trust church SJ492126 with café attached. The website is here.

august a 331We started with lunch – very nice. The only problem is that the café needs to take over more of the church, it is rather cramped in the corner. Then we had a good explore. Nice volunteers and plenty to see. The guidebook is a beautifully produced 26 page colour book. The church has Saxon roots, traditionally founded by King Edgar. The Normans rebuilt it from 1150 – the red sandstone part of the tower dates to 1170. Trinity Chapel was added around 1360, the west tower was raised in 1477. The spire has been rebuilt on several occasions, including after an earthquake in 1690. Also circa 1477 is the wonderful Nave ceiling.

august a 325august a 275august a 276

The font dates circa 1400 – interesting hollow stem.

august a 277

The glory of this church is the stained glass. In the early 1800s a lot of continental stained glass came on the marker with the dissolution of many religious houses. The Reverend William Gorsuch Rowland, curate at Shrewsbury Abbey and “a keen enthusiast for the revival of the art of stained glass”. He became the vicar here in 1828 and served until 1851 – David Evans, of the Shrewsbury glass firm Betton and Evans, did most of the work. This is the glass in the café – the Ascension of Jesus C17, and John the Evangelist c1525.

august a 272august a 274august a 273

The window below is C16 glass in the North Aisle, and the next two are glass from Trier Cathedral dated 1479.

august a 280august a 283august a 285

These roundels are gorgeous – I didn’t note their date.

august a 287

This is C16 German glass, The Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is attended by three cherubim, with four seraphim above, two holding a crown and two playing trumpets.

august a 288And this is more C16 glass – either German or Dutch.

august a 290

The window below is the East Window – a Jesse window. In the enlargement you can see Jesse, father of David, sleeping across three panes of glass. The roots lead to 16 kings and 21 prophets, up to Joseph and Mary. At the bottom of the window we are asked to “Pray for Sir John de Charleton, who had this window made, for Lady Hawis his wife.” Coming in from the right is a knight with his two sons behind him (I cut one), and from the left are his wife and two daughters (my apologies to the girl I cut). Virgin and child, and King Edward III. Sir John and Hawais married in 1510. The sons do not have their spurs, so they are probably younger than 20.  Sir John asks for prayers for himself (not for his soul), so it must have been completed before his death in 1353. This window was installed in St Chad’s church, and moved here when that church collapsed in 1788.

august a 297 - Copyaugust a 299 - Copy

There is lots more lovely glass, but you’ve probably had enough. Just glory in the colours, and be grateful that the Churches Conservation Trust have repaired and consolidated them all.

august a 311august a 321august a 312

I also liked their Green Man – though it is high in the roof and I wobbled a bit.

august a 319

This is the memorial to John Benbow. He was born in Shrewsbury in 1653, the son of a tanner, legend has it that as a young man he ran away to sea. By 1678 he was a master’s mate on board the Rupert based in Portsmouth and, in the following year, became master of his own shop – the Nonsuch. He had an altercation with the crew of another vessel, was court-martialled, and spent the next few years in the merchant service. By 1689 he was back in the Royal Navy. The memorial was sculpted by J. Evan Thomas of London in 1843. Thomas was keen to research his subject and corresponded with the Admiralty to ensure the correct details. Unfortunately the ship carved here is of a later design than that which Benbow would have captained.

august a 295The Church was very busy today because of this wonderful exhibition. To quote the website it is “A special installation by Carl Jaycock, ‘Remembrance Field’ [which] casts a light on the 4,663 individuals from Shropshire who gave their lives during the First World War. Where possible the installation uses portraits of men and women from Shropshire and additionally is supported by images of other men and women from Britain who displayed great acts of courage and bravery during WW1. Prints are formed into tubes with the thousands of faces on them, mirroring the shell cases that were made in their millions in munitions factories, and includes portraits of the female workers from Hereford munitions factories. These workers were affectionately known as the ‘Canary Girls’ due to their skin going a yellow colour due to handling the chemicals when making the shells. The installation makes use of St Mary’s WWI commemorative chapel and on closer looking reveals a few old original WW1 shells decorated with flower patterns and negated of their original use by the soldiers 100 years ago. This created what we now call trench art. The installation flows from the WWI remembrance altar with original shells and finishes with 113 candles which are symbolic of all those unknown soldiers on the monuments of Shropshire. The project concept and installation is by artist Carl Jaycock, supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England. The work is also supported by The Churches Conservation Trust, Shropshire Regimental Museum and Herefordshire Archive Services.”

august a 305august a 310august a 304august a 306august a 309It is such a simple idea, and so moving. Some faces we recognised – Wilfred Owen for example – others it was harder to work out who they were. It is worth remembering that there are many men and women whose images we do not have. We will remember them.

august a 314august a 313august a 316august a 317

This plaque is on the tower – and he gets no mention in the guidebook. Wikipedia tells me Robert Cadman lived 1711 to 1739 who between 1732 and 1739 performed feats of daring by sliding or flying down a rope from the church across the River Severn to Gay Meadow.  He would walk up the rope from the Meadow to the church, performing tricks on the way. When at the top, near the pinnacle of the spire, he donned a wooden breastplate with a central groove and hurtled to earth along the rope. On 2 February 1739 he fell to his death when the rope broke.

august a 329

There isn’t much you can say to that! Outside there is a War Memorial, and the chance to have a proper look at the tower, spire, and large porch with room above.

august a 330august a 333august a 332It is a gorgeous church, and it is obviously much loved and well-used. We had fed the body and fed the spirit – and were as content as this angel.

august a 334


This entry was posted in Churches Conservation Trust, Outside Northumberland, Shropshire, World War 1. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *