SJ9223 : Collegiate Church of St Mary, Stafford

taken 4 years ago, near to Stafford, Staffordshire, Great Britain

Collegiate Church of St Mary, Stafford
Collegiate Church of St Mary, Stafford
North Transept doorway, 14th century Decorated with ballflower and rose decoration.
Collegiate Church of St Mary the Virgin, Stafford

The church was founded as a collegiate church housing secular canons but from the beginning served as parish church, the nave been used for this purpose with canons occupying the choir.

It comprises aisled nave, central tower with north and south transepts at the crossing and chancel flanked by chapels.

The oldest part of the church is the nave, of around 1190, in Early English style. The decoration of the capitals still harks back to a transition from the Norman period. The crossing represents the next stage of construction, although it was fundamentally rebuilt by Scott in the 1840s due to its condition. Nevertheless it is thought that he copied the detailing faithfully.

The north Transept is a fine example of early 14th century Decorated period work, with a particularly elaborate window in the north wall.

The 15th century saw the addition of the clerestory, extant in both nave and north transept, in Perpendicular style. The nave roof with its tie-beam trusses and elaborate foliage decoration is from this period. It was strengthened in the mid-20th century by the provision of an exterior steel framework from which the medieval timbers are suspended.

Also from this period is the octagonal tower housing the bell chamber. Originally this was surmounted by a tall spire, but this collapsed in 1593 causing considerable damage to chancel and south transept. These were rather roughly reconstructed and were in very poor condition by the early to mid 19th century.

At this point the Oxford Movement was encouraging the revitalisation of the Anglican both in terms of worship and fabric, and a young adherent to the movement, George Gilbert Scott, came on the scene. St Mary's was his first major restoration work, and he went on to become one of the most respected of Gothic Revival architects. At St Mary's he restored the crossing, apparently being faithful to the original, and completely rebuilt the south transept and Lady Chapel. These sections of the church were poorly reconstructed in the 17th century, and Scott's design was intended to reconstruct the original Early English structure, as far as this could be determined from the existing masonry.

The only significant change since then has been the re-siting of the parish altar under the crossing and the Geib organ to the west end of the nave. This effectively revives the division of the church in its Collegiate period, but removes the remoteness of the priest during services which was a feature when the high altar was used.

Inside the church, probably the most interesting feature is the font. This clearly dates from the Norman period but is unlike any other. There is speculation that it could have been brought back by Bishop de Clinton of Lichfield from the crusades, as it shows clear Byzantine influences.

The church has two organs, the one currently in normal use being the Geib organ of 1790. This was originally installed on a gallery at the west end of the church, but was moved to the north chancel aisle in 1842 when it was also added to. It was moved back to the west end in 1974 and choir stalls were also created around it. The other organ, in the north chancel aisle was installed in 1909.

Other furniture, including pulpit, eagle lectern and timber sedilia in the chancel, dates from the Victorian restoration period.

The nave arcades are surmounted by wall paintings including angels and the text of psalm 122. They are not mentioned in the church guide, but they are clearly 19th century; the style appears to be of the Arts and Crafts period.

The church is Listed Grade I.

For anyone visiting the church, the guide book is definitely one of the best.

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SJ9223, 434 images   (more nearby search)
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Date Taken
Wednesday, 16 August, 2017   (more nearby)
Tuesday, 22 August, 2017
Geographical Context
Historic sites and artefacts  Religious sites 
Period (from Tags)
14th Century 
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! SJ 9212 2322 [10m precision]
WGS84: 52:48.3883N 2:7.1001W
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! SJ 9212 2322
View Direction
Southeast (about 135 degrees)
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Other Tags
Parish Church  Church Doorway  Decorated Style 

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Image Type (about): close look 
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