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St Chad, Stafford, Staffordshire

(52°48′22″N, 2°6′56″W)
SJ 923 232
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Staffordshire
now Staffordshire
  • Ron Baxter

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St Chad's is on Greengate Street, one of Stafford's main shopping streets running S from the market square. Its W front is entirely the work of George Gilbert Scott (1873-74), but this conceals a church that is substantially 12thc. and considerably larger than expected. It is cruciform with a crossing tower and aisles to the nave. The aisles have four-bay arcades carried on heavy cylindrical piers with scallop capitals and chevron decoration on the two eastern arches of each arcade. Above the E respond capitals and pier 1 capitals on the nave faces of both arcade walls are attached half-shafts rising to clerestory sill level, with plain cuboidal blocks where capitals and bases would be expected. The W responds of the arcades are of a later date than the rest, suggesting that the nave might originally have extended further W, but the vicissitudes undergone by the façade (see below) make this by no means certain. Above the arcades are round-headed clerestory windows; originally 12thc. but entirely remade. The aisles are entirely Scott's work. The only nave doorway is at the W. The crossing tower was rebuilt in the 14thc. and restored by Robert Griffiths of Stafford in 1884, and all four crossing arch heads are 14thc., although the beautifully carved 12thc. W arch was retained, the new W crossing arch being constructed immediately to the E of it. In the detailed descriptions below, the 12thc. arch is called the chancel arch. The N arch was rebuilt in the 19thc, incorporating 12thc. carved capitals and imposts discovered in the restoration. The E arch has 12thc. embrasures, capitals and imposts supporting the 14thc. archivolts above. The S arch appears to be entirely 14thc. work, but it is largely concealed by the organ. The N transept is by Griffiths (1886) and now houses the Jevons Memorial Chapel, furnished in 1937. The S transept was not rebuilt until 1953-55 and houses the organ with a vestry behind it. The chancel is now of three bays, with 12thc. windows in the two western bays, original on the N side, and 12thc. interior wall arcading in these bays on the N and S sides. The exterior chancel stringcourse also stops at the end of bay two, indicating that the 12thc. chancel was a bay shorter than the present one. It may have ended in an apse.

The architectural history is a complex one. Building must have begun in the 1140s, and an inscription on an impost of the E crossing arch attributes the foundation to Orm, presumably Orm le Guidon, a major Staffordshire landowner married to the daughter of Nicholas de Tosny. The tower was rebuilt in the 14thc., but thereafter the building seems to have fallen into decline. By 1650 it was ruinous. The aisles were pulled down at some time in the 17thc., and the arcades bricked up. The transepts were also removed. In 1740 the W end of the nave collapsed, and in 1743 proposals for restoration were received from Samuel Webb and from Richard Trubshaw. Trubshaw's estimates were accepted, and his work was completed by 1745. He repaired the E gable, refaced the nave walls in brick with stone facings, inserted classical windows, rebuilt the parapet of the tower with urns at the corners, and built an austere classical W front of brick (see Friedman 2001). He may also have been responsible for plastering over the carvings of the 12thc. chancel arch. By the early 19thc. the tower was in a dangerous state of disrepair, and by 1860 the churchyard had been overbuilt with tenements and workshops, and a shop shut off the W front from Greengate Street. The first of the 19thc. restorations concentrated on the chancel. It was funded by the banker, Thomas Salt and carried out from 1854 by Henry Ward (restorer of Armitage church). The plaster was removed from the chancel arch, revealing the sculpture; the 12thc. chancel windows were unblocked, and a new E window was installed in a Geometrical style. Salt died in 1874, and work began on the restoration of the nave in his memory. George Gilbert Scott began this work, opening up the blocked S arcade, and building an aisle on this side and a new W façade in a Romanesque style to replace Trubshaw’s brick one. After Scott's death in 1878, Robert Griffiths of Stafford continued the work to Scott's designs. He opened up the N arcade, rebuilt the aisle and, in 1884, restored the tower. In 1886 he rebuilt the N transept on the old foundations, and it was while cutting through the tower wall to make this arch that the 12thc. carved stones now incorporated in the N crossing arch were discovered. The S transept was not rebuilt until 1953-55, when the present organ chamber and choir vestry were added. The William Salt Library holds three views of 1837 from the NE, by T. P. Wood and by Buckler, all showing the nave without its N aisle, and with no sign of any clerestory windows, and the tower before rebuilding, with urns at the corners (SV.IX.112a, 112b, 113a). There is also an interior by Buckler of 1844, showing the church without aisles and with the chancel arch plastered over. Webb's and Trubshaw's proposals are illustrated in drawings in the William Salt Library, Hickin Papers 319/2/40.


St Bertelin (Bertram) set up a hermitage in Stafford in the early 8thc., possibly on the site of St Mary's, where foundations said to belong to an 11thc. building have been excavated at the W end (see Ilam, Staffs). In 1086 the Bishop of Chester (later Lichfield) held 14 houses in Stafford, and it has been suggested (Fisher) that St Chad's was established to serve the bishop's tenants. The dedication to Chad, patron and first Bishop of Lichfield, supports this theory. By the end of the 15thc. the living had become part of the prebend of Prees, incumbents being curates responsible to the absent prebendary.


Exterior Features


Exterior Decoration

String courses

Interior Features


Chancel arch/Apse arches
Tower/Transept arches



Interior Decoration

Blind arcades
String courses

The precise meaning of the inscription turns on the particular use of condo, variously used to mean build or establish. Here it seems certain that Orm was the name of the founder rather than the architect, the mason or the carver (where facio would be more usual). The likeliest candidate is Orm le Guidon, a major Staffordshire landowner married to the daughter of Nicholas de Tosny. The apparent newness of much of the carving in the chancel and crossing arches has already been remarked on. It should also be noted that several designs have been repeated in more than one capital, and while this is common enough in simple scallop, volute or cushion capitals, it is rarely found in 12thc. figural or foliage work of any complexity. The recurrence of the same designs in the paired capitals of the N crossing arch, E respond, and the E crossing arch, N respond, for example, can only be the result of 19thc. copying during Ward's restoration of 1854. If any of the crossing arch or chancel arch capitals are 12thc. work rather than 19thc. copies or inventions, they have certainly been re-cut to such a degree that little or none of the original surface remains. Most of the impost blocks on both embrasures of the E and N crossing arches show the expected degree of wear, although the chamfers have generally been completely re-cut. The stringcourses likewise appear entirely 19thc. in their finish. Despite these remarks, it is the author’s opinion that the designs are by-and-large 12thc. ones.

M. Fisher and A. Baker, Stafford's Hidden Gem. St Chad's Church, Greengate Street. A History and Guide, Stafford 2000.
T. Friedman, 'St Chad’s Church, Stafford: A Young and Beautiful Virgin and her Decayed and Doting Husband', Architectural History, 44 (2001) 258-63.
N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Staffordshire. Harmondsworth 1974, 243.
Victoria County History: Staffordshire. VI. Borough of Stafford, 1979.