After Julie had been in every shop in Shrewsbury, we went out to Wroxeter Roman Site, which was fascinating (English Heritage). It was the fourth largest city in Roman Britain, and must have been quite a place. Website.
Then down to have a look at Wroxeter church – St Andrew’s SJ564083. I had noticed the roman columns now gateposts when we drove past the other evening. I was surprised to find this is also in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust. The name means “the fort by the Wrekin”, and this church stands in what would have been the town. There is no mention of any church in Roman times – though if the Gospel reached Vindolanda one assumes it must have reached here – but the Domesday Book says it was part of a collegiate establishment with four priests. (Rather sad that 804 years later it was declared redundant). In 1347 the church was given to Haughmond Abbey – that is an EH property outside Shrewsbury which we didn’t visit on this holiday.
The long chancel was built in the 1190s, replacing a small Saxon predecessor, and the original south aisle was added not long after. New windows and decorations in that aisle probably date to the C14. The lowest section of the tower is C15 – the carvings on the upper stage are supposed to have come from Haughmond, presumably after the Dissolution. It makes you wonder who said “now they are knocking down our abbey, let’s put those carvings on the top of a church tower just down the road”. There was another rebuild in 1763.
Entering the church, the font is a Roman pillar. Again, you can imagine the churchwardens … “we need a new font, I’ve got a roman pillar in the garden, let’s turn it into a font”. A C14 chest and a cupboard which looks C17 – gorgeous carvings.
The box pews are also C17, the pulpit is Jacobean, and the altar rails are dated 1637.
There is an organ of 1849, and two harmoniums. Most of my early ministry was preaching in chapels powered by harmonium. Whenever we sang “Dear Lord and Father of mankind”, Don would pedal furiously for “the earthquake, wind and fire” and rein himself in for “still small voice of calm”!
Let us be honest – Roman pillars, statues from an Abbey at the top of the tower, wonderful furniture – what more can a church hold? (The answer should be “a congregation”, but ironically, not here). Can we add some interesting tombs. Time for a deep breath, and more photos. Let’s start with some lovely metal memorials.
This marble monument is to Francis Newport, first Earl of Bradford, who died in 1708. Francis and his brother, Andrew, were distinguished Cavaliers, although Francis later fell out with Charles II’s authoritarian ways and was deprived of his offices. He was reappointed Lord Lieutenant of Shropshire and made Earl of Bradford by William III. The guidebook notes “Both brothers were at the Wroxeter School together with Richard Allestree, later Provost of Eton and Professor of Greek at Oxford, and Richard Baxter, the famous Puritan divine. It must have been a lively schoolroom.” This picture comes from this website.
We also have several table tombs. I must get better at writing down which one is which. Sir Richard Newport and his wife, Margaret. He died in 1570, and she in 1578. Their son, Francis, who I’m told is one of those depicted on the side of the tomb (sorry I missed him) rebuilt the house at Eyton, a little downstream.
The easternmost table tomb is of Sir Francis’ daughter Margaret who married John Barker – and he died just 12 days after her.
The final tomb commemorates Sir Thomas Bromley and his wife, Mabel. Sir Thomas was an Executor of Henry VIII’s will and Chief Justice under Edward VI and Queen Mary. He died in 1555. On the side of the tomb is their daughter Margaret, who married Sir Richard Newport – which takes us back to our first tomb.
This was another wonderful church. We went back into Shrewsbury via Sainsbury’s, and a had a quiet evening in – we’re staying at the Holiday Inn.