All Saints, Lapley, Staffordshire

Feature Sets (2)

Description

Lapley lies 7 miles S of Stafford, just off the Roman road from Chester and Whitchurch that joins Watling Street near Water Eaton. There are earthworks to the N of the church, suggesting pre-Roman occupation in the area. The church stands on high ground at the western edge of the village, and is a substantial priory church; aisleless with a central tower and originally cruciform, but the transepts have been taken down, their arches walls blocked and the walls buttressed, presumably to take the strain of the heightening of the towerc.1475-1500. Only the W crossing arch survives in its originalc.1100 form, but it has been extensively restored. The E arch has been replaced; perhapsc.1300, and the lateral arches are built into the 15thc. walls, although traces of both are discernable. Angle buttresses have been added to the tower, and an upper storey added with large late-15thc. three-light bell-openings, a band of quatrefoils and a battlemented parapet. The nave is of uneven 12thc. ashlar, much disturbed and with traces of a blocked round-headed doorway of early Norman form on the S. There are no functioning nave doorways now, and the lateral windows are 19thc. replacements of reticulated (c.1330) originals. Entry is via the W doorway. The chancel is distinctly misaligned towards the S. It is ofc.1100 at the W end, with a plain round-headed S window and a flat buttress, and was extended eastwardsc.1300, based on the evidence of a Y-tracery S window and the sedilia and piscina below it. The church is of greyish or pinkish ashlar; thec.1100 work of irregular, squarish blocks unevenly coursed; the 14thc. work of longer but thinner blocks, uneven in size but coursed regularly, and the 15thc. and later work with larger blocks, more accurately squared. The William Salt Library has three antiquarian views of the exterior; a drawing of 1800 from the S by the Rev. S. Shaw (SV VII 31a), an engraving of the same drawing (SV VII 31b), and a view by Buckler from the SE of 1842 (SV VII 32). They add little to our knowledge of the church. There was a proposal to restore the church in 1950 that would have effectively removed much of its Romanesque character by rebuilding the nave and chancel with stepped buttresses and new gothic windows. It was approved but fortunately the work was not done. The only Romanesque work recorded here is the W crossing arch.

History

Lapley was held by the Earls of Mercia untilc.1061 when Algar, son of Leofric, gave it to the abbey of Saint-Remi, Reims. It was still in the possession of Saint-Remi in 1086, when the manor had three hides of ploughland, 16 acres of meadow and woodland three furlongs by three. No church was recorded, and by some error Lapley and Marston were included in the Northamptonshire domesday. A Benedictine priory was established from Saint-Remi, and the lordship remained with the abbey (acting through the Priors of Lapley) until the dissolution of the Alien Priories by Henry V in 1414. From this date to the Dissolution of the monasteries, the manor and priory of Lapley were given to the wardens of Tong College (Salop). Tong and its possessions, including Lapley, was bought by Sir Richard Manners in 1547, and Manners sold Lapley two years later to Sir Robert Broke, making a considerable profit on the deal. Broke was a successful lawyer, and his tomb at Claverley records that he became 'Common Serjaunt of the Citie of London, Recorder of London, Serjaunt at the lawe, Speaker of the Pylament, and Chiefe Justice of the Common Pleas' before his death in 1558. Lapley remained in the Broke (later Brooke) family until around 1650, when the line failed and the manor was sold to Sir Theophilus Biddulph. It stayed with the Biddulphs for over a century, but by 1765 in was in the possession of Samuel Swinfen, of Swinfen, near Lichfield, whose descendants held it for four generations and part of a fifth till its sale by Colonel Frederick Hay Swinfen in 1888 to John Neve, a Wolverhampton solicitor.

Benefice of Lapley with Wheaton Aston.

Features

Interior Features

Arches

Tower/Transept arches

Crossing arch

W arch

Round headed. The embrasures are broad, squared responds with chamfered plinths and plain chamfered imposts. The arch is of two plain square-section orders to E and W. Of this structure, the central part of the W outer arch order is original; the remainder apparently a modern restoration.

Comments/Opinions

Eynon-Williams dates the early work here (the lower part of the tower and chancel window) to 1063. Pevsner prefers 'late 11thc. or the early 12thc.', which the present author accepts.

Bibliography

  • Victoria County History: Shropshire. II (1973), 131-33.
  • Victoria County History: Staffordshire. III (1970), 340-43.
  • Victoria County History: Staffordshire. IV Cuttlestone hundred (W), (1958)
  • Staffordshire County Council, Staffordshire Views Collection, SV VII 31a, 31b, 32. Available online at http://www.staffordshire.gov.uk/portal/page?_pageid=47,71124and_dad=portaland_schema=PORTAL
  • W. D. Eynon-Williams, The Priory Church of All Saints, Lapley. 1949. (available online at http://web.archive.org/web/20030803114259/www.ray.cowley.btinternet.co.uk/Lapleychurch.htm)
  • G. T. Hartley, Some notes on the Parish of Lapley-cum-Wheaton-Aston in the County of Stafford. Wolverhampton 1912. (available online at http://web.archive.org/web/20030803125854/www.ray.cowley.btinternet.co.uk/hartleys_book.htm)
  • N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Staffordshire. Harmondsworth 1974, 167.

Location

Site Location
Lapley
National Grid Reference
SJ 873 130 
Boundaries
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Staffordshire
now: Staffordshire
Diocese
medieval: Lichfield (to 1075); Chester (to c.1086); Coventry and Lichfield (to 1541)
now: Lichfield
Dedication
now: All Saints
medieval: not confirmed
Type of building/monument
Parish church, formerly Benedictine priory church  
Report authors
G. L. Pearson, Ron Baxter