Shareshill Church website
external website)
Parish Church of St Mary & St Luke, Shareshill

Click here for details of services, events, contacts etc.
Plan of Shareshill Churchyard

For enquiries regarding location of post-1920 graves email the webmaster



A (Very) Brief History of Shareshill Church

Links to other parts of the church history page
church tower church clock & bells the Havergals painted boards old wall paintings war memorials church records

There was a church at Shareshill by 1213, believed to be a “Chapel of Ease” to Penkridge. Shareshill acquired parochial status in 1551 when the lay rectors and the Vicar of Penkridge granted it the parochial right of burial.
The tower, the base of which probably dates from the 14th century, is the only medieval feature that remains.
There was a rebuilding around 1562 by Humphrey Swynnerton of Hilton and Swynnerton, who died at Hilton and was buried in the chancel in that year.

It was largely rebuilt (again!) around 1742. The south-facing wall is decorated with a partly balustraded parapet contrasting with the plain parapet on the north side.

The Church is Grade 2 * Listed on account of the 14th century sandstone tower from a previous church, with a rare, Georgian nave with curved sanctuary built on.

In November 2009 an extension was completed on the north side of the church, providing toilets, office, meeting room and internal stair access to the balcony and upper levels of the tower. Getting permission from both the District Council and The Diocesan Advisory Committee was not straight-forward. The final approved design by the talented architect Andrew Capper, cleverly blends Georgian and 21st century styles.
south view of church


The Interior
The Georgian interior is about 260 years old. The building has exceptional acoustic qualities and is a venue for several concerts each year,

The church has also been used by the Chase Orpheous Choir to record CDs, and by the BBC's "Songs of Praise"

church interior, east end
The East end of the nave.
This picture shows the giant "angel" paper sculptures that were made for a Flower Festival
 west end prior to organ move

View of the Gallery prior to rebuild
and re-siting of the organ
church interior, west end
View of the Gallery as it is today.

.

The Tower
The sandstone tower was built in the 13th century. The stone is very soft and has needed a lot of expensive restoration.

The outside of the tower bears a number of interesting marks. On the south side (to the left of the church door) there are a number of marks made by musket balls. The webmaster has been informed that this was the result of a civil War skirmish which passed through the village, ending a few miles away at Tong Church.

Beneath these, and around the north side of the tower are "sharpening marks"; believed to have been made in medieval times by people sharpening arrow heads, in the days when practising your archery skills was compulsory for men of fighting age.



Many years ago someone had the bright idea of putting a window into the vestry at the base of the tower (see photo at the top of this page). This meant having to effectively remove the bottom section of the "spiral" tower stairs and replace them with the external stairs up to the bell ringing chamber.
Going up these steps and through the ringing chamber was the only way to get the balcony area until the recent extension was built. This was particularly awkward when the organist had to get past bell ringers to reach the organ; and somewhat dodgy in winter!

The stairs inside the tower were designed for 13th century people who were shorter, narrower and had smaller feet!. As you reach the clock chamber you have to duck to avoid banging your head - it may be soft sandstone but it still feels pretty hard!

The photograph on the right gives gives little impression of how difficult the stairs are. It was taken with a flash so you cannot appreciate the experience of feeling your way up, torch in hand!
marks on tower

stairs inside tower

The Bells
bells seen from aboveThe peal of six bells was given by Augustus Leveson Vernon, High Sheriff of Staffordshire, in 1899.
The bells were last re-cast in 1976 by theJohn Taylor foundry in Loughborough
The bells are in regular use and can also be "played" without being swung using a system of ropes and pulley with hammers attached. Being limited to just 6 notes requires some tunes to be creatively re-arranged.


The data in black on the right is taken from a chart hanging in the bell ringing chamber.
Metric conversions are to the nearest whole unit.

BELLWeight DiameterNOTE
I3 cwt, 2 quarters,8 lbs
181 kg
25 inches
64 cm
F #
II4 cwt, 1 quarter,15 lbs
222 kg
27 inches
69 cm
E
III5 cwt, 1 quarter,3 lbs
268 kg
29 inches
74 cm
D
IV5 cwt, 1 quarter,10 lbs
271 kg
30 inches
76 cm
C #
V6 cwt, 3 quarters,24 lbs
354 kg
33 inches
84 cm
B
VI9 cwt, 0 quarters,0 lbs
457 kg
37 inches
94 cm
A
There have been many loyal and regular ringers over the years. Of particular note are father and son Harry Butler (senior) and Harry Butler (junior); whose dedication is recorded in plaques on the wall of the ringing chamber.


The Clock

The primative weight-driven clock chimes on the hour. Despite it's crude construction it keeps remarkably good time.
The drum on the left of the photograph carries the cable and weight that drives the time mechanism. To the right, with a cable running diagonally downwards, is the drum for the strike mechanism.

clock
Early in January 2006 a broken tooth on one of the cog wheels neccessistated removing the mechanism for repairs. To prevent future problems several new gears were made.
The picture on the left shows Paul Adams making adjustments following re-installation. Paul was assisted by his late father, George Adams, and by Shareshill webmaster, John Taylor.


The "Havergals"

photo of F.R. HavergalShareshill Church's main musical claim to fame is the connection with Frances Ridley Havergal, the hymn writer.

Her father, Henry William Havergal was the "perpetual curate" in Shareshill.
It is therefore not surprising that Shareshill's CE primary school is called "Havergal".

Frances Ridley Havergal's most famous hymn,"Take my life and let it be" has been adopted as the village school's special hymn.



Two images of Frances Ridley Havergal



sketch of F.R. Havergal



Charities board and Terrier
Here are two items in the church dating back to the Havergals' time in Shareshill.

charities board
On the left is a photograph of the charity board, which is visible in the view of the west end of the nave.

It lists old charities that have lapsed, much to the disappointment of W.H. Havergal.
terrier
This document, known as a "Terrier" was found recently.

It lists the fees levied by the church for various services such as burials, headstones, the "Churching of a woman on a Sunday" (following childbirth) etc.

The charges are of course in Pounds, Shillings and Pence. Fees payable to the minister are in the left of the two columns, the shorter right hand column shows the fees payable to the church warden.

It ends with the declaration that burial fees are doubled for non-residents.

Other Boards

The Ten Commandments board was designed by Gilbert Barrows Sully on April 6th 1903. At the time he was based in Chiswick as an architect's designer. We know this because we were recently contacted by his great grandson, Pete Hambrook of Sullys Framing
Pete came across the original drawings and sent us a picture.

Judging from similarities in design it would be reasonable to suppose that he also designed the Creed and Lord's Prayer boards.
Apostles' Creed board10 Commandments boardLord's Prayer board
On the south wall of the nave is a large depiction of the coat of arms of King George - presumed to be the first since there is no regnal number shown. George the First was the first monarch of the House of Hanover, reigning from 1714 to 1727.
We don't know when this was originally painted; but it is similar in style to others found on the walls of some 18th century churches.

Apologies for the quality of the photograph,- the webmaster did not have access to any scaffolding, and the image had to be digitally lightened.
Old wall paintings discovered!

In July 2002 during the removal of panelling to investigate suspected rot at the back of the balcony, parts of two wall paintings were discovered. They predate the building of the balcony which is why only the top parts appear at the back of the balcony. They appear to have been plastered over at some point. We are awaiting expert opinion on the age and how to preserve them.

This appears to be a quotation from the
Old Testament book of Micah, chapter 6 verse 8



War Memorials
Shareshill has two war memorials. The First world War memorial is a brass plaque on the south wall of the nave. The Second World War memorial is a stone cross opposite the end of the church drive, on the south-west corner of the churchyard.

War Memorials online WW 1

War Memorials onlne WW 2

Shareshill Church Records

Shareshill church only keeps current records on site and these can be examined by appointment; though a fee may be charged.

The bulk of the parish records for Shareshill St Mary and St Luke are now deposited at Staffordshire Record Office, part of Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Archive Service. The Archive Service provides access to the catalogue of these records, (i.e. what they hold and WHERE!), through the Gateway to the Past" Online Catalogue

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