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Neville Malkin's "Grand Tour" of the Potteries

buildings South of the Potteries


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No 7 - St. Mary's Church, Swynnerton
 

Swynnerton Church c.1900
Swynnerton Church c.1900
 

The interior of St. Mary's features a thirteenth century effigy of Sir John de Swynnerton, and a seven foot statue of Christ, who is seated and pointing to a wound in his side.

The statue dates from the thirteenth century and was found buried beneath the floor of the chapel. Due to its size it is possible the statue came from Lichfield Cathedral and was hidden in St. Mary's during the Reformation.

The west doorway in the tower dates from the Norman period.

Staffordshire Arts & Museum Service
 

Postcard of church interior with a view of the Norman tower arch
Postcard of the church interior with a view of the Norman tower arch
postcard: William Blake (c.1925-35)
The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery

Staffordshire Past Tracks
 

 

St. Mary's Church, Swynnerton
St. Mary's Church, Swynnerton
pen drawing by Neville Malkin - March 1975

 

"It is difficult to realise you are living in a technological age when you take a walk through the typically English village of Swynnerton, whose rural, old world charm is enhanced by the fine Parish Church of St. Mary.

A few traces of the original 12th century building can be seen in the present church, mainly the lower half of the tower and parts of the west wall. The upper part of the tower was added in the 16th century. The doorway leading from the base of the tower into the nave is a magnificent example of Norman workmanship. The arch of this door shows 16 wolves' heads each with two sharp ears pointing upwards and a sharp nose pointing down. The nave, chancel and south aisle were rebuilt in the middle of the 14th century.

In the south wall of the chancel is the reclining figure of a crusader, believed to be Sir John de Swynnerton, Constable of the Tower of London and a Baron in the first Parliament, who was interred here about 1254. The figure, carved from local stone, measures 6ft. 2in. and is clothed in the complete armour of a crusader with a Norman shield hanging from his left arm. Beneath this effigy is a burial chamber which was accidently opened during restoration work in 1856. In the chamber was found a completely preserved body, which appeared to be that of a young knight with a weather-beaten complexion and auburn hair and beard; two front teeth were missing. After 600 years the accidental exposure caused the body to crumble.

Beneath the chapel is a large vault that contains the remains of 16 members of the Fitzherbert family who were buried there between 1612 and 1865. Against another wall stands a fine statue of Christ which is probably late 13th century and a gift from Lichfield Cathedral. It was found under the floor where it had been hidden to avoid destruction from over-enthusiastic "Reformers." There is some fine stained glass by Powell, 1864, which was designed by Sedding and probably inspired by the work of Burne-Jones.

There is no evidence to suggest that a church existed on this site before Norman times but the village can be traced back further to an era when the manor was used as the royal residence of a Saxon prince."


Neville Malkin 5th March 1975

 


St. Mary's Church, Swynnerton
St. Mary's Church, Swynnerton

photo: Andy and Hilary  April 2005
and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

 


"Swynnerton, or Swinnerton, is a small neat village, in an elevated and healthy situation, four miles NW by W of Stone, giving name to a parish extending upwards of six miles in length from north to south, but only from one to two miles in breadth, and containing 961 inhabitants, and 4825 acres of land. Swynnerton Hall, a handsome stone mansion, stands near the church, on a gentle eminence, and is the seat of Thomas Fitzherbert, Esq, owner of about 3000 acres of fertile land, and lord of the manor, which was held by Roger de Swynnerton in the reign of Edward I. In the reign of of Henry VIII, the daughter of Humphrey Swynnerton carried it in marriage to the Fitzherberts. Sir Anthony Fitzherbert, the celebrated judge and author, was of this family, which has been seated here since the 16th century.
The hamlets of this parish, with their distance and bearings from Swynnerton, are as follows:
Acton, Shutlane Head and Milstone Green, from five to six miles NNW.
Beech, on a lofty eminence, partly in Stone parish, two miles N.
Hatton, two miles NW.
Shelton-under-Airley, and Stableford Bridge, three and a half miles NW.
Yarnfield, two and a half miles S by E."

From History, Gazetteer and Directory of Staffordshire,
William White, Sheffield, 1851


 

The origin of the church dates from the Norman period, though evidence exists that some stones date back to Saxon times when the manor house in the village was the royal residence of a Saxon prince. Privileges were granted by King Edward I (1272 - 1307) to Sir Roger de Swynnerton permitting a market every Wednesday, and an annual fair on the Feast of the Assumption, August 15th. These privileges have, of course, long since fallen into disuse.
 


Postcard of the cross-legged effigy of Sir John de Swynnerton
dating from the thirteenth century.

postcard: William Blake (c.1920-30)
The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery
Staffordshire Past Tracks




next: St. John's Church, Barlaston
previous: Stone Railway Station
contents: index of buildings south of the Potteries

 

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