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St John the Baptist, Crowle, Worcestershire

(52°12′4″N, 2°6′55″W)
SO 922 559
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Worcestershire
now Worcestershire
medieval Hereford
now Worcester
  • G. L. Pearson

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Feature Sets

The church was rebuilt in 1881-85, but the timber N porch and parts of the tower are medieval. Only the lectern is Romanesque; in 1841 it was rescued from the churchyard and placed under the belfry stairs; it was restored by the vicar,c.1845.


In 1086, the manor was held by the Priory of Worcester, but in the reign of Henry II it was annexed to the Bishop's manor of Northwick. At Domesday the tenant was Odo, under Roger de Lacy; before 1182 it was held by Hugh Tirel under Hugh Lacy. In 1194 Eudes Tirel received judgement in the royal court against Roger Tirel for a knight's fee in Crowle.





The earlier history of the lectern is unknown, but the VCH records a local tradition that it came from Pershore Abbey at the Dissolution; Noake, however, makes no mention of this. Noake (p.269) records the survival of the old capitals, which provided the plan for the new shafts, the original ones having been destroyed. Professor John Prentice (personal communication) identifies the rock used for the lectern top and base as a Palaeozoic limestone, possible local sources for which are the Carboniferous limestones of the Clee Hills, Forest of Dean, or the Bristol area, or the Silurian Wenlock limestone of Shropshire. The stone is very similar to that used for the lecterns at Norton, Worcestershire, and Much Wenlock, Shropshire, and all three could have come from the same quarry, although it is doubtful that they were carved from the same block.

The extent of re-cutting is unclear. Pevsner thought that this was extensive, but close examination of the carving seems to suggest otherwise. According to Prentice, the rock used is very hard indeed, and the carving could retain its original sharpness in unpolluted air. The deeply weathered state of the Norton lectern can be explained by its burial, when it would have been attacked by soil acids, but the Crowle lectern may have always stood above ground; it was recorded as standing in the churchyard before it was brought indoors in 1841. While the figure is of Romanesque and Italianate character, the foliage is English and ofc.1200, but they are both carved from a single block. Stratford in Pevsner 1968 (fn., p.130) compares the foliage with that of the Trivulzio candlestick in Milan Cathedral, which is thought to be English work ofc.1200, while Pevsner (ibid.) notes a resemblance between the foliage and that of the S transept at Wells Cathedral, which also points to a date ofc.1200. There are companion pieces at Norton and Much Wenlock, the latter without a figure and probably earlier than the others, dating fromc.1180 (Zarnecki in London 1984).

The Victoria History of the Counties of England. Worcestershire, vol.III, (London 1913), 333–334.
G. Zarnecki in G. Zarnecki, J. Holt and T. Holland, English Romanesque Art 1066-1200 (London 1984), 203.
F. T. S. Houghton, The Stone Lecterns at Abbots Norton, Crowle and Wenlock (1913), 1–4.
S.J. McMullon, A Brief History of St John the Baptist, Crowle, Worcestershire (1990).
J. Noake, The Rambler in Worcestershire, ii (London 1851), 269.
N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Worcestershire, (Harmondsworth 1968), 47, 129–130.
Prof. J E Prentice, PhD, FGS, M.Inst.Geol., personal communication.