St Editha, Church Eaton, Staffordshire

Feature Sets (4)

Description

Church Eaton is an attractive village in the W of the county, 6 miles SW of Stafford and 4 miles from the Shropshire border. The village lies between the Church Eaton Brook, to the E, and the Shropshire Union Canal, to the W, in an undulating landscape mostly devoted to dairy farming. The church stands at the E end of the High Street, and is of local sandstone. It consists of nave, chancel and W tower with spire. N aisle has been added to the nave, and extended eastwards alongside the chancel to form a chapel. Beyond this, at the E end of the N chancel wall, is an unusual 17thc. vestry. On the S of the chancel is a 19thc. organ room. The two-storey tower is 12thc., with clasping buttresses to the lower storey, which also has two small round-headed lancets in the W wall. The upper storey has plain round-headed lancets on its N, S and W walls, and on the E wall a larger round-headed window into the nave. All the external lancets are chamfered, suggesting a late-12thc. date, and this is confirmed by the pointed tower arch and its capitals, and by the bell-openings, with twin pointed openings under a barely-pointed enclosing arch. The broach-spire, recessed behind a plain parapet with gargoyles at the angles, is dated by Pevsner to the 15thc. It has lucarnes at two levels. The nave has a S doorway ofc.1300, and tall 15thc. windows. On the N, the four-bay arcade is mid-13thc., with pointed, chamfered arches and nailhead decoration on the moulded capitals. The square-headed aisle windows are 14thc, however. The N chapel is 15thc., with tall, three-light square-headed windows, and a two-bay arcade with arches taller than the nave arcade and crudely cut octagonal capitals. In the present liturgical arrangement the chancel has been shortened, so that its screen and step are alongside the central pier of the chapel arcade. The seven-light E chancel window is a beautifully skeletal work of the 15thc. The 19thc. additions include the S porch and the organ room and vestry on the S side of the chancel. Romanesque work recorded here comprises the tower bell-openings and tower arch, a cushion capital set in the S porch, and the broken and repaired remains of an elaborate early-12thc. font, closely related to the font at Bradley.

History

Before the Conquest Church Eaton was held by Vilgrip, a free man. Robert of Stafford held Church Eaton with three hides in 1086, and Godric held them from him. The holding also included four acres of meadow and woodland a furlong square. The demesne included a priest. According to Buckler, the church, apart from the rights of Godwin the priest, was given by Robert de Stafford to the abbey of Benedictine nuns at Polesworth (Warws.) where his kinswoman Edelina was about to take vows. In another version, the gift was made by Robert de Brinton, heir of Edelina, with the consent of Eva his wife, presumably between about 1166 and 1185 while they were jointly holding the manor. By 1198 Eve and her second husband Walter de Witefield were disputing the right of the Abbess of Polesworth to the advowson, and in 1203 a verdict was given in favour of the nuns, whose claim rested on the gift of the church by Eve's ancestors. The same dispute arose again in 1260 whenthe lord was Eva's grandson, Adam de Brinto, and this time the bishop, Roger Meuland, proposed a compromise whereby the lord could nominate a suitable candidate but only the abbess could present him. The abbess was paid by the clerk for this concession, and this arrangement remained in force until the Dissolution.

Benefice of Bradeley (sic), Church Eaton and Moreton.

Features

Exterior Features

Windows

Tower, N bell-opening

Pointed, of two orders. As (i) above. The central first order capital is in much the same state as (ii) above. The second order capitals show their crockets and, the W capital necking survives. Again the base type cannot be determined.

Tower, S bell-opening

Pointed, of two orders. All three bell-openings have their inner orders protected by plastic-coated wire mesh, which obstructs the view of the central capital.

First order: A double opening with a central en-delit shaft carrying a chamfered octagonal capital. The jambs to either side are plain and chamfered as are the pointed arches.

Second order: An enclosing order. The plain, unchamfered arch is only slightly pointed, and carried on badly worn and pitted en-delit nook-shafts with tall bases, worn and pitted beyond recognition and tall crocket capitals, badly worn and with square abaci but no imposts.

Tower, W bell-opening

Pointed, of two orders. As (i) above. The central first order capital is now a broad and amorphous mass of stone of indeterminate type. The two second -order capitals are well preserved, with slender crockets at the angles and thin roll neckings. The bases are badly worn and have major losses.

Exterior Decoration

Miscellaneous

Cushion capital re-set in S porch

Re-set above the apex of the nave S doorway is a cushion capital with roll fillets in the angle tucks and a plain roll necking.

Interior Features

Arches

Tower/Transept arches

Tower arch

Pointed, of single order. The E face, towards the nave, has engaged nook-shafts on the angles, coursed with the surrounding jambs, with central shaft-rings decorated with a row of nailhead between a band of vertical fluting (above) and a row of zigzag (below). There are roll neckings above and below, where the shaft-ring joins the shaft. The S shaft base is lost; the N base is attic. The S capital is decorated with two rows of fluted furled leaves; the N has flat leaves linked across the faces by u-shaped bridges, and heavy spiral volutes at the angles. Both capitals have plain roll neckings. The imposts are replacements, with a heavy roll at the angle, an undercut hollow below it and a roll necking at the bottom. Above the angle roll, the face has two flat steps. The arch towards the nave has a filleted angle roll flanked by face and soffit rolls. The imposts continue across the reveal and around the western jambs. The W faces of arch and jambs are plain.

Furnishings

Fonts

The working font is positioned under the tower arch, but there are remains of a 12thc. font described below.

Located at the E end of the N aisle. Four pieces of a carved font bowl roughly assembled with mortar and filled with rubble and mortar for consolidation. The two upper sections are carved with a band of reeding around the rim, and below this a band of a flat sawtooth design in which both the upper and the lower triangles are decorated with a triangular spiral. Below this is an incomplete band of Greek key ornament. The lower sections are carved with chip-carved saltires in squares: sometimes a single row of large motifs, sometimes two rows of half-sized ones. Below this, the remains of the band of the Greek key ornament demonstrates that the lower sections have been assembled upside-down. Dimensions can only give an approximate idea of the size of the font when it was whole.

Dimensions
est. ext. diam. 0.64 m
est. int. diam. 0.43 m
max. h of bowl 0.76 m

Comments/Opinions

The font at Bradley (Staffs) has the same decoration in the same order (and a rim with a row of cable and a rebate above, in addition to what survives here). There is another font of a similar design at Lilleshall (Salop). The workshop apparently came from Gnosall, where the unusual spiral triangle sawtooth motif can be seen on a string course, and similar chip-carving on imposts. This suggests a date ofc.1100 or slightly afterwards for the Church Eaton font. The sculpture on the tower dates fromc.1200.

Bibliography

  • Victoria County History: Staffordshire. IV Cuttlestone hundred (W), (1958).
  • J. E. Buckler, A History of St Edith's Parish Church, Church Eaton. Church Guide May 1987 (rev. 1998).
  • N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Staffordshire. Harmondsworth 1974, 135-36.

Location

Site Location
Church Eaton
National Grid Reference
SJ 849 176 
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: St Editha
medieval: not confirmed
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Ron Baxter