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St Mary, Swynnerton, Staffordshire

(52°55′0″N, 2°13′17″W)
SJ 852 355
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Staffordshire
now Staffordshire
  • Ron Baxter

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Feature Sets

Swynnerton is an attractive village on a low hill just 6 miles S of Newcastle-under-Lyme. It is centred on the church and the hall just to the S, the latter standing in Swynnerton Park. A view of the hall from the SW, published in 1821, shows the church in the background (William Salt Library SV X 59b). St Mary's has an aisled and clerestoried nave, a chancel with a S chapel (the Lady Chapel, now a vestry) and a W tower. The nave is 12thc. in origin, and of large, irregular ashlar blocks. It retains a round-headed W window and a W doorway to the tower. The tower itself is also 12thc. in its lower parts, including another W doorway (which Pevsner suggests is re-set here), but in the 14thc. diagonal buttresses were added and the upper stage rebuilt in more regular ashlar. Drawings of 1838 and 1841 (William Salt Library SV X 59a and 60) show the parapet with urns at the corners. The form of the five-bay nave arcades and a dogtooth stringcourse at the top of the nave walls indicate that the aisles were added in the 13thc. The clerestory has quatrefoil openings of the same period. The E bay of the each nave aisle has been enlarged to form a chapel; the S Perpendicular and battlemented, the N 13thc. in style but perhaps 19thc. (it does not appear in the 1838 drawing noted above). There is a 13thc. S doorway under a porch. The chancel arch is 13thc., with nailhead on moulded capitals and detached en-delit shafts, and the chancel is of the same date. The details of the S chancel chapel indicate that it was added in the early 14thc. Beneath it is the Fitzherbert family vault. Romanesque sculpture, elaborate for the county, appears on the two W doorways.


Swynnerton was held by Brohir immediately before the Conquest, and by Aslen from Robert of Stafford in 1086. No church or priest was recorded at that time. As is so often the case, the name of the manor was taken by the lord's family, so that in 1306 a fair and a market were granted by Edward I to Roger de Swynnerton. The Swynnertons were lords until the death of Humphrey Swynnerton in the reign of Henry VIII, when the manor passed by marriage to William Fitzherbert, whose son Basil rebuilt the hall. The present hall was another rebuilding, by Francis Smith of Warwick for Thomas Fitzherbert in 1725-29. The Augustinian priory of Stone claimed Swynnerton church before 1157, and in that year their claim was upheld with the support of the Lord of Swynnerton, and the parish agreed to pay an annual pension of 2s to Stone as mother church. The advowson was exercised by Stone when the lord of Swynnerton was outlawed during King John's reign, but in 1218 the lord was exercising the right in return for a pension of 2 marks, paid to Stone by the parson of Swynnerton.

Benefice of Swynnerton and Tittensor.


Exterior Features



The nave W doorway has been subject to a good deal of disturbance, and Pevsner suggests (less convincingly in the present author's view) that the W tower doorway is re-set. In any case both contain work that is original and interesting, notably both capitals, the imposts and the two outer arch orders and label of the nave doorway, and the capitals and second-order arch (if original) of the tower doorway. The nave doorway is earlier; the beakhead and beaker-clasp arches, and the capitals pointing to a date in the 1130s or '40s. The foliage imposts are similar to the better-preserved loose stones at All Saints' Chebsey, some four miles to the S. The W front of St Mary's, Tutbury which is much more elaborately carved, has a wider range of motifs and must be a few years later. The tower doorway is only stylistically later than the nave doorway if the chevron can be trusted.

N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Staffordshire. Harmondsworth 1974, 272-73.
S. Shaw, The History and Antiquities of Staffordshire. 1798-1801. 2 vols. repr. 1976
Staffordshire County Council, Staffordshire Views Collection SV X 59a, 59b, 60. Available online at http://www.staffordshire.gov.uk/portal/page?_pageid=47,71124and_dad=portaland_schema=PORTAL
Victoria County History: Staffordshire. III (1970), 240-47.