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St John the Baptist, Halesowen, Worcestershire

(52°27′1″N, 2°2′59″W)
SO 967 836
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Worcestershire
now Worcestershire
medieval Worcester
now Worcester
  • G. L. Pearson

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This large church has an aisled nave with a slender tower over its central bay, a chancel with N and S chapels, and a S porch. The two W bays of the nave are 12thc., but the E part was rebuilt and extended in the 15thc., presumably after the collapse of a crossing tower; the present 15thc. tower is set much further W (Pevsner 1968, 179-80). An outer aisle was added on the S side of the church in 1883. The church is built of red sandstone ashlar, except for the top of the tower and the spire, which are of grey-green sandstone. Romanesque sculpture is found in the reset doorway on the S side of the nave, in the W doorway, in the blind arcade on the exterior E chancel wall, on corbels reset into the 14thc. S porch, in the chancel arch and on the font. In the N wall of the chancel is a plain round-headed window.


After the Conquest, the manor of Hales was granted to Roger, Earl of Shrewsbury. Shortly after Domesday he annexed it to his county of Shropshire. The manor passed to his sons, first Hugh (died 1098) then Robert de Belesme, who forfeited it to the Crown in 1102. Henry II gave the manor to his sister Emma, who in 1174 had married David, son of Owen, Prince of Wales. At this point, the advowson was passed to Pershore Abbey but Emma restored it to Richard I c.1193. There was a church here in 1086, served by two priests.


Exterior Features


Exterior Decoration

Corbel tables, corbels

Interior Features


Chancel arch/Apse arches






The fact that the S doorway lacks a label may indicate that it was always sheltered by a porch; the reused corbel heads could have come from such a porch. The VCH dates the chancel toc.1120, and the W door to the late 12thc., but Stratford in Pevsner 1968 (180, fn.) places all the Romanesque parts of the church to the years 1150-60. Some features found at both Halesowen and Holt suggest that there may be some workshop connection between them: the chevron types; scallop capitals with deep shields, embellished with carved decoration at Holt; and the volute corbel capital at Halesowen resembles chancel arch capitals at Holt. The inscribed circles on the shields of some nave arcade capitals indicate the method used to position the heads of the scallops. Stratford in Pevsner 1968 (180, fn.) points out that the font is not a Worcestershire type, but is similar to fonts in Devon and Cornwall; he also notes that the draperies seem to have been ribbed, like those at Romsley (tympanum), and dates the font toc.1150-60. The scallop capitals resemble those of the 12thc. arcade piers, and may be by the same mason, but the bowl is different in stone, style and execution.

The Victoria History of the Counties of England. Worcestershire, vol.III. London 1913, 141-150.
C. J. Bond, 'Church and Parish in Norman Worcestershire' in J. Blair (ed.) Minsters and Parish Churches: The Local Church in Transition 950-1200, ed J. Blair, Oxford University Committee for Archaeology Monograph 17. Oxford 1988, 119-58, 145,151.
M. Thurlby, 'A Note on the former Barrel Vault of the Choir of St John the Baptist at Halesowen and its place in English Romanesque Architecture', Transactions of the Worcestershire Archaeological Society, 3rd Series, vol. 9, 1984, 37-43.
N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Worcestershire. Harmondsworth 1968, 46, 47, 179-180.