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St Mary, Shrewsbury, Shropshire

(52°42′28″N, 2°45′6″W)
SJ 493 125
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Shropshire
now Shropshire
medieval St Mary
now St Mary
  • Barbara Zeitler
  • James Cameron
04, 26 Aug 1997

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The architectural history of the building is highly complex and much remains unsolved. The Romanesque parts of the church consist of the S chancel wall, the S transept, which is dated to c. 1170 or slightly later, and the N transept, which is slightly later in date than the S transept. The S wall of the S transept was remodelled in the 19thc. The barrel-vaulted chapel of St Nicholas is situated to the E of the N transept. The pointed W tower arch is late 12thc, decorated with string course and sculpted capitals. Round-headed nave arcades. The S nave arcade dates to c. 1200, the N nave arcade is 13thc. N and S transept doorways decorated with sculpture, both late 12thc. Plain W doorway, somewhat earlier than S and N transept doorways. S porch c. 1200 decorated with sculpture both on exterior and interior, leading to S doorway also decorated with sculpture. The church is constructed of local red sandstone.


Anglo-Saxon foundations were discovered during excavations in 1864. This church was rebuilt in c. 1150. In the 12thc and 13thc St Mary's was a collegiate church, later raised to the status of a Royal Free Chapel. Extensive work was carried out between c. 1190 and 1220 and again between 1460 and 1480. The chapels-of-ease of St Mary were Albrighton, Clive and Astley. St. Mary's College was dissolved in 1548, but St Mary's kept its status as a Royal Free Chapel until 1846. The church was extensively restored by S. Pountney Smith in 1867-70.


Exterior Features


Interior Features


Tower/Transept arches



Vaulting/Roof Supports

Interior Decoration

String courses

The decoration on the third pier of the S nave arcade (second order, S face) and of the W impost pier is reminiscent of the carving on the capitals of the chancel arch at Wroxeter.

Sedilia with authentic Romanesque ornament are extremely rare, so interpreting the fragment in the S wall of the chancel is significant. Although the church's collegiate status would fit will with the presence of early sedilia (re: St Mary de Castro, Leicester), the fragment is clearly reset so not good evidence of there being sedilia in the Romanesque church.


J.A. Cameron, "Sedilia in Medieval England", PhD thesis, The Courtauld Institute of Art, London 2015, 58.

Redundant Churches Fund, 'St. Mary the Virgin, Shrewsbury, Shropshire', booklet, 1989.

L. Garner, Churches of Shropshire, Shrewsbury 1994, 120-5.

N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Shropshire, Harmondsworth 1958, 250-56.