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Church History and
Restoration

The church of St Laurence dates back to 1239. It is situated on high ground, and was probably the site of an earlier Mercian church, although nothing remains of the earlier wooden building. Much of the church was rebuilt between 1858 and 1861 by William Butterfield.

 

St Laurence PCC are committed to maintaining this ancient building to the highest standard, as part of this care we are currently going through different phases of restoration. 

 

There is little doubt that there was a church here in Saxon times. The mention of a priest in Domesday Book confirms this. The church was probably built of wood and no trace of the Saxon church remains. Nor is anything known about Aelgiva, the Saxon lady who is presumed to have founded the church and so given the village the name it has held for over a thousand years.

The village was important in medieval times. The Bishop of Worcester, who was Lord of the Manor, had a palace here, and many bishops down to the sixteenth century lived here and conducted their business from the palace. Perhaps because of the frequent presence of the bishop and his court, in the thirteenth century, Alvechurch was granted a weekly market, an annual fair, and later the status of a borough. The dedication of the church to St Laurence dates back at least to 1239, since the annual fair was to be held "on the vigil, the day and the morrow of St Laurence"

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The Building

The present church consists of a west tower, a nave with a broad north aisle and a narrow south aisle, a south porch, and a chancel.

The earliest feature remaining in the church is the late Norman surround to the south doorway, which was dismantled and re-erected in its present position during the nineteenth century.

 

The chancel retains parts of a sedilia of 13th century date, and at the east end of the north aisle is the re-set priest' s door to the chancel, also of 13th century date.

 

The north aisle has windows of 14th and 15th century design.

The tower was probably built in the 15th century, although the diagonal buttresses could indicate a rather earlier date. The upper part of the tower was partly rebuilt following storm damage in 1676 (a date inscribed on a stone set into the west face of the tower below the belfry windows). The only part of the tower avowedly 17th century in appearance is the balustraded parapet.

Victorian Restoration

In 1858 an ambitious rebuilding programme was undertaken under the direction of the well-known 19th century church architect, William Butterfield. The work included taking down and rebuilding the chancel, nave and south porch as well as building a new south aisle and re-roofing the north aisle. Red and white patterned brickwork was incorporated into the work and the nave roof was raised considerably and clerestory windows added. The restored church was dedicated in 1861.

 

The external walls of the rebuilt church, with the exception of the porch, are built of a combination of sandstone from Bromsgrove and Alvechurch, skilfully combined to produce a patterning of diapers and lines of buff stone against a pink background. But the interior of the nave and chancel, although having arcades of sandstone, use vivid red brick walls relieved by white brick diapering in a style much favoured by Butterfield. The steep pitched roofs have elegant trusses and exposed rafters.

 

The altar, standing on an encaustic tiled pavement, has a reredos of flat sheets of alabaster set in tile work. above which is a stained glass window illustrating six scenes from the Passion narrative designed by a local architect, Preedy.

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Stained Glass Windows

 

St Laurence Church, Alvechurch is very fortunate to be decorated with some extremely fine stained glass windows. Several of these were designed and made by famous glass artists and contain some unique features. However, 160 years of summers and winters, heat and cold, wind and rain had taken their toll on the structure of these windows. Pieces of glass had fallen out and many of the windows were no longer weather-tight. The stonework surrounds of some windows have crumbled.

 

In 2018, thanks to the support of our congregation, our local community, friends of St Laurence both past and present and the Heritage Lottery Fund, the church was able to commission experts to embark on the necessary repair and conservation work. The work was finally finished some eight months later.

 

It’s great to know that the heritage of these windows has been conserved for future generations.

An explanatory leaflet describing each of the windows and highlighting their individual characteristics is available as a guided trail around the church.

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About the Heritage Lottery Fund

Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. www.hlf.org.uk. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #NationalLottery and #HLFsupported

 

Vanessa Harbar, Head of HLF West Midlands, said “We have been delighted to support St Laurence Church, Alvechurch to carry out urgent repairs and engage new audiences with this much-loved local landmark. Thank you to the National Lottery players who have made it possible.”

Monuments

Medieval monuments in the church include a tomb slab in the chancel with a floriated cross and arms of Bishop Carpenter 1443-1476, who is buried at Westbury, Bristol.

 

In the north aisle is a recess containing an effigy of a cross-legged knight, probably Sir John Blanchfront. The armour dates the figure to the mid 14th century.

 

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The Organ

Fifteen years after the church had been rebuilt, an organ was installed in the north aisle. In 1971 the organ was rebuilt by Thomas Sheffield of Solihull and placed on a free standing gallery in the north aisle. This instrument replaced an earlier one built by the Hill Organ Company at the beginning of the twentieth century.

The present organ has 1,348 pipes of which 180 came from the old instrument.

 

 

The Specification of the organ is:-

The organ was dedicated on 28 February 1971 and an inaugural recital was given that day by Christopher Robinson, MA, B.Mus, FRCO, Organist of Worcester Cathedral.

Reset in the northwest corner of the north aisle is the brass of Philip Chatwyn, 1524, Gentleman Usher to Henry VIII and a leading tenant in Alvechurch at that time.

 

Also in the north aisle is a handsome mural monument to Edward Moore, who died in 1746.

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Bells

The tower has a peal of eight bells, rung regularly by the North Worcestershire Ringing Association.

 

The bells of St Laurence church in Alvechurch, Worcestershire, date from 1711 and have been ringing across the village to mark weddings, funerals and special events for nearly 300 years. There are eight bells ranging in weight from

4 to 12 hundredweight (200 to 600 kg) and the ringers ring them in the traditional English style of Change Ringing.

Rectors

A complete list of Rectors from 1290 to the present day is recorded on a board near the south porch door.

Both before and after the Reformation the living - a valuable one - was often held by absentees and at times in plurality, so that, until the 19th century the church was often served by a curate.

 

Many of the rectors have been men of importance in their time, including a Chancellor of England, the notable antiquary Charles Lyttleton later Bishop of Carlisle, and the nonconformist divine Richard Moore who held the living during the Protectorate. Less reputable characters were Robert de Wych (1290) who was deprived of the living for public concubinage, amongst other faults, and William Hollington, who was chaplain to Charles I, and whose Puritan enemies accused him of being a frequenter of alehouses, and of incontinency with neighbours' wives.

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