Spetchley, Worcestershire – All Saints’

After time in Worcester on Saturday 25 May we headed out of town on the Evesham road and stopped so I could visit the Churches Conservation Trust church of All Saints, Spetchley – SO 895540. It is on the right as you drive along the A44, and there is a laybye just past it on the left. Spetchley Park Gardens look worth a visit – https://www.spetchleygardens.co.uk  – and you could park there. The church is one of the Churches Conservation Trust portfolio – https://www.visitchurches.org.uk/visit/church-listing/all-saints-spetchley.html.

In the C9 it was recorded that Coenwolf, King of Mercia, “upheld the law of Christ over the common people” at this place – Spetchley means a glade where moots or local assemblies were held. A century later it is recorded that the monks of Worcester held land here, Richard de Beverborne is recorded as first Rector in 1230. The estate was owned by the Lyttletons, then the Sheldons, and the Berkeley family acquired it in 1606. In April 1987 the church came into the CCT’s care.

The nave and chancel date from the early C14, and the tower was added in the C17. 

Rather a lovely porch, but you walk inside and wonder why it was saved. There’s a C13 chest just inside the door, and a later one in the Chancel. The pulpit is C19, and rather a striking blue – I wonder if anyone agreed to that colour, or the Lord of the Manor just gave them a pot of paint and told them to get on with it.

Then you get up to the Chancel, and look to your right. Then you know why the CCT took this church on.

This is the tomb of Sir Rowland Berkeley (1548-1611) and his wife Katharine Haywood. They settled in a house in Worcester’s Cornmarket in 1574 and he set up a business as a wool merchant and clothier. He was appointed as the first Master of the Honourable Company of Clothiers in the city and in 1584 opened a bank. He became a Magistrate, a Commissioner of the Peace, and then an MP in London at the end of Queen Elizabeth’s reign. They had seven sons and nine daughters – his marriage and their baptisms took place at St Martin’s church in the Cornmarket, where he was churchwarden. Another church to visit!

This is the memorial to Sir Robert Berkeley (1584-1656), their father. He was an eminent lawyer and one of the judges of the Court of the King’s Bench, and he married Elizabeth Conyer by whom he had two sons and three daughters. He added this chapel, and erected the tomb to his father and mother in 1614.

This is his son Thomas Berkeley (1630-1693). At the age of 21 he fought at the Battle of Worcester. On the defeat of the Royalist cause he escaped to the Low Countries. There he married Ann Darrell, a Catholic, and was reconciled to the Catholic church. He was disinherited by his father Sir Robert, but allowed to live here and then at Ravenhill.

Robert (1650-1694) was Thomas’ brother, and succeeded his father while still a minor, his brother having been disinherited. He went on to be Deputy Lieutenant of the County and twice Sheriff of Worcester. He was a keen gardener, lived modestly and gave a large proportion of his wealth to charity. He married Elizabeth Blake.

It is fascinating to wonder about the lives of these people. Did Robert get as much pleasure from gardening as I do? What did he feel about his big brother’s religion – did he like his sister in law? What did their dad think about it all? It would be fascinating to know.

Some other brasses, memorials and Victorian glass.

I went outside and photoed the outside chapel – let’s put the family crest on that too.

I pondered two notices. In the church is this memorial to John Watson, churchwarden for 51 years. On the road outside is a sign to the Soul Sanctuary and Yoga Studio. If the church had had a few more like John Watson, perhaps it would still be in use. Perhaps if as a country we had not turned our backs on the faith of our forefathers, we might cherish these holy places and still use them for worship.

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