SO7664 : Church of St Michael and All Angels, Witley

taken 3 years ago, near to Great Witley, Worcestershire, Great Britain

Church of St Michael and All Angels, Witley
Church of St Michael and All Angels, Witley
The east window, depicting the Resurrection of Christ.
Church of St Michael and All Angels, Witley
The church is an amazing gem, tucked away in the Worcestershire countryside. More like a private chapel, it is and always has been the parish church.

There was a medieval church at the same general location, but in the 1730s Lady Foley wished to build a new church and petitioned for the demolition of the old one. This was granted and the new church was completed in 1735, but the status remained that of parish church. The new church is thought to have been designed by James Gibb, ostensibly to the same dimensions as the chapel he built at Cannons for the Duke of Chandos.

The church was initially a plain building inside and out, built of brick, and with the traditional box pews of the period. The main embellishment from the early period would have been the remarkable monument, in the south transept, to Lord Foley, who had died in 1733.

However, in 1747 the second Lord Foley purchased the interior fittings of the Cannons chapel and installed them in the church at Witley under the supervision of Gibb. In the case of the stucco decoration which covers the whole of the interior walls and ceiling, Lord Foley had castings made, and the decoration was then formed from papier mache rather than plaster. This was a new technique at the time, but had the benefit of a huge saving in weight, making it much easier to transport and install. The truly original items consist of the ceiling paintings by the Italian artist Bellucci, the stained glass windows, and the organ case. The organ, which would have been played by Handel at Cannons, was also transferred, but replaced in the 19th century. The original flat ceiling of the church still exists above the inserted barrel vault.

In detail, the paintings in the ceiling depict the following:
The large central panel is the Ascension of Christ, flanked by circular panels of the Nativity and the Lamentation. Smaller panels above the windows depict cherubs holding various objects associated with the Passion.

The windows are by Joshua Price of London, dated between 1719 and 1721, based on designs by Italian artist Francesco Sleter LinkExternal link depicting scenes mainly from the New Testament, the odd one out being the Worshipping of the Golden Calf. They are done in a mixture of stained glass mainly the clothing of individuals and painted enamel on plain glass, and are considered the finest examples of the technique in the UK.

In the mid 19th century came the usual makeover of that period under the current owner of Witley Court, Lord Dudley. The baroque decoration was untouched, but the interior fittings were completely renewed, with finely decorated pews, carved pulpit and a new marble and carved wood font. The organ was completely renewed, but within the existing casing. The exterior of the church was clad in bath stone to match the alterations to the house which occurred at the same time.

The final additions were the Italian gilded mosaic reredos and the sanctuary lamps, gifted to the church by the second Countess Dudley in the early 20th century.

The church is justifiably Listed Grade I. It is open on most days of the year, normally with a steward in attendance on the occasion of my visit a very informative lady, most appreciated.
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SO7664, 145 images   (more nearby )
Photographer
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Date Taken
Friday, 2 September, 2016   (more nearby)
Submitted
Tuesday, 6 September, 2016
Geographical Context
Historic sites and artefacts  Religious sites 
Style (from Tags)
Baroque 
Period (from Tags)
Early 18th Century 
Date (from Tags)
1719 
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! SO 7696 6497 [10m precision]
WGS84: 52:16.9431N 2:20.3492W
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! SO 7693 6497
View Direction
EAST (about 90 degrees)
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Other Tags
Church Interior  Stained Glass Window  Resurrection 

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Image Type (about): inside 
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