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St Mary, Checkley, Staffordshire

(52°56′18″N, 1°57′35″W)
SK 028 379
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Staffordshire
now Staffordshire
  • G. L. Pearson
  • Ron Baxter

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St Mary's has a W tower, a very tall clerestoried nave with tall N and S aisles with four-bay arcades, and a square-ended chancel. The chancel is the only one of these elements that is straightforward. It has a five light E window and tall three-light side windows with intersecting Y-tracery, i.e. ofc.1300, and the continuous chancel arch with sunk quadrant mouldings is of the same date. The N arcade is 13thc., with moulded capitals, some decorated with nailhead, and alternating round and octagonal piers. The pier capitals of the S arcade are stylistically earlier, late 12thc., including flat leaves and volutes, but the respond capitals have very complex mouldings and are much later, as are the double-chamfered pointed arches. Furthermore the S arcade is considerably taller than the N, and must have been heightened. The clerestory windows are square-headed triple lights with ogees; a 14thc.-15thc. type convincingly attributed to the early 17thc. by Pevsner. The N aisle windows are 17thc., and the S doorway is ofc.1300. It is protected by a rib-vaulted porch. The lower storey of the W tower is 12thc. with a flat buttress and small round-headed lancets, all chamfered, plain and renewed. The upper storey is Perpendicular with mullioned and transomed bell-openings but a plain parapet with tiny crocketed pinnacles. The tower arch, confusingly, is 14thc. Decorated. In Pevsner's account, the church was practically rebuilt in the early 17thc. using the old elements and this seems the only way to account for the contradictions in the architecture. 19thc. views of the church, inside and out, and the font are available in the William Salt Library, Stafford (see IX Bibliography). The remodelled 12thc. S arcade is described below, as is the most important Romanesque feature in the church; the font.


Checkley was held by Wulfgeat before the Conquest and by Otto, a Thegn of William I, in 1086. It consisted of half a hide of ploughland and woodland one league square. No church was recorded at that date.

The church of Milwich was paying a pension of £1 to Stone Priory by 1291 that continued until the Dissolution.

Uttoxeter area benefice.


Interior Features






On the font Christ is shown as a sacrificial lamb on an altar. The image is thus a eucharistic one in the view of the present author. This opinion is not universally accepted; Pevsner describes the font as 'Norman with coarse ornament and a donkey'.

Spiral columns are usually seen as a reference to St Peter's in Rome. Such columns, allegedly from the Temple of Solomon, were incorporated in the Early Christian basilica, and are referred to in Bernini's baldacchino in the Renaissance building. This specific reference is unlikely here. English precedents are seen in the Anglo-Saxon crypt of Repton (Derbyshire), in Anselm's crypt at Canterbury Cathedral, and in the nave of Durham Cathedral. In the last two cases, both ofc.1100, the spiral decoration serves to mark an area of special holiness; the shrine of St Cuthbert at Durham and the main altar in the Canterbury crypt. The Canterbury case is relevant here; the spiral columns flanking an altar.

E. C. Fernie, 'The Spiral Piers of Durham Cathedral', Medieval Art and Architecture at Durham Cathedral, (British Archaeological Association Conference Transactions for 1977), Leeds 1980. 49-58.
E. C. Fernie, 'St Anselm's Crypt', Medieval Art and Architecture at Canterbury before 1220 (British Archaeological Association Conference Transactions for 1979), Leeds 1982, 26-38.
N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Staffordshire. Harmondsworth 1974, 99-100.
Staffordshire County Council, Staffordshire Views Collection, SV III 79, 80a, 81, 82, 83a, 84. 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.