St Laurence's Church, Ludlow
|St Laurence's Church, Ludlow|
|Denomination||Church of England|
|Rector||The Venerable Colin Williams|
|Organist/Director of music||Shaun Ward|
The church is a member of the Greater Churches Group and is the largest parish church in Shropshire. It was one of only 18 churches given a five-star rating in England's Thousand Greatest Churches by Simon Jenkins (1999) and is described as the "cathedral of the Marches". It is the 13th most popular free visitor attraction in the West Midlands, with 70,000 visitors per year.
The parish church was established as a place of worship in association with the founding of Ludlow by the Normans in the late 11th century. It is situated atop the hill around which the medieval town developed. The church was rebuilt in the year 1199 and has had several later additions and modifications. The tower is 135 feet (41 metres) high and commands expansive views of the local area. Notable features include an extensive set of misericords in the choir stalls as well as fine stained glass windows.
Original Norman traces were found beneath the south porch, indicating some extant foundations exist from the 11th century AD. After its initial construction the church was expanded and rebuilt in 1199 to accommodate a growing town population. In the late Middle Ages considerable wealth accrued to the town based upon the wool trade. Correspondingly the church underwent several further additions in that era. The major works occurred between 1433 and 1471 with a virtual re-building of the nave, tower and chancel elements. The tower took on a Perpendicular style which was the preferred style of the late 15th century in England. The Saint John's Chapel on the north side was the chapel of the Palmers Guild, which thrived in the Late Middle Ages. The Palmers' Window within St John's Chapel illustrates the legend of King Edward the Confessor and St John the Evangelist by eight panels and was inspired by the Ludlow Palmers’ 13th century pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
The large east window of the chancel underwent restoration in the year 1832; this window depicts the martyrdom of St Laurence. The most extensive modern repairs and rehabilitation occurred in the period 1859 to 1861, which consisted primarily of interior modifications. Further major restorations took place between 1870 and 1909, including that on the tower in 1889-91, and to the roof in 1953-59.
In February 2013 it was announced that plans to build a new cloister for improved access and facilities on the north side of the church have been dropped. Repairs to the roof and pinnacles will proceed and about £2.5 million will be spent on repairs to stonework and windows. The nave will be reorganised with moveable seating and a biomass boiler will be installed for heating.
The dominant exterior feature is the square bell tower, which houses the historic and famed bells of the church. The chancel contains the mediaeval choir stalls adorned with numerous misericords. Many of these fine wood carvings are of heraldry and others are genre scenes of common life. Typical sizes of the misericords and upper bench carvings are 25 centimeters wide by 12 centimeters high; the carvings have very deep relief (up to two centimetres). Some of the elements of the carving are repeated on roof adornments.
Below the chancel are the catacombs, holding an impressive set of church monuments, most of which contain the remains of people involved with Ludlow Castle’s Council of the Marches. Other than the large chancel east window, there are other notable windows within the chancel; the most remarkable one depicts the Ten Commandments, illustrating six of the commandments being broken.
The hexagonal south porch derives from the 14th century and serves as the main entrance to the church; this porch is one of only three of such a six-sided design in all of England. The other interior chapels are St Catherine’s Chapel and the Lady Chapel, the latter of which has a large filled-in door that was once used for the Ludlow fire engine at an earlier era. Exterior features include a memorial plaque to the poet A. E. Housman and the Samuel Burgess Memorial Garden. Above the interior stone lantern there is a splendid vault.
Following his death at Ludlow Castle, the bowels (called euphemistically "the heart") of Arthur, Prince of Wales, son of Henry VII and older brother of Henry VIII, were buried in a lead box in the choir but were noted in 1723 to have been taken up not long since. His body was buried at Worcester Cathedral.
Ambrosia Sidney, (1565-1574), sister of Sir Philip Sidney and Mary Sidney who died at Ludlow Castle, aged nine, is buried near the altar under an impressive memorial bearing the arms of Sir Henry Sidney, (1530-1586), President of the Council of Wales and the Marches. His heart was brought from Worcester where he died and buried in a small leaden urn in an oratory near his daughter's tomb. The rest of his remains were buried with his wife Mary Dudley at Penhurst, Kent.
Admiral James Vashon is also buried at St Laurence's.
The ashes of poet A. E. Housman are buried in the church grounds, with the stump of a cherry tree marking their location. The ashes of sculptor Adrian Jones are also buried in the church grounds, his memorial tablet on the outside north wall near that to Housman.
Choir stalls and misericords
St Laurence's Church has twenty eight misericords in the choir stalls which are of a quality usually associated with great cathedrals such as Worcester or Gloucester. Carved on the underside of the hinged choir seats each misericord is fashioned from a piece of timber some 26 inches (660 mm) long, 12 inches (300 mm) deep and 6 inches (150 mm) thick. Sixteen of the misericords are older than the rest dating from around 1425. Eight have an unusual carvers mark in the form of an uprooted plant and a distinctive profile to the moulding running round the edge of the corbel. The remainder were carved in matching style around 1447 which was when the Palmers Guild bought one hundred planks of oak from Bristol to refurbish the choir stalls.
Detail of a Green Man
The misericords have a wide variety of themes. One shows a Green Man, another a mermaid. Many show scenes of town life including a wrestling match where two pairs of wrestlers are stripped to the waist while a horse is tied up on one side and a wool sack and a purse hang on the other. One shows a figure drawing ale from a cask and another shows a dishonest ale-wife being carried off to hell by demons, one of whom plays bagpipes. One complex carving shows a prosperous householder with tools of various trades in the centre while a seated woman holds a child on the left and a grave and burial implements are on the right. This has been interpreted as the Palmers Guild caring for spiritual needs from cradle to grave.
Ludlow then being a royal stronghold there is a royal influence shown in a number of misericords. An antelope, gorged and chained, was the badge of Henry VI in whose reign the misericords were carved. A Hart at Rest was the badge of Richard II and three ostrich feathers were then recognised as the badge of Richard's father the Black Prince. A swan represents the Bohun family and through Mary de Bohun's marriage to Henry IV passed to Henry V and Henry VI.
The choir stalls were originally constructed at a number of dates in the 15th century. In 1447, after the chancel had been lengthened, the stalls were doubled in number to thirty two. The stalls were restored in the 19th century under the direction of George Gilbert Scott when canopies removed during the reformation were replaced. The poppyheads are finely carved with four being from 1447. Carved figures include a Pieta, one of only two known in Shropshire, and various saints. One group possibly represents a Boy Bishop and Lord of Misrule involved in new year celebrations.
Above the porch on the first floor is the Parvis room, which houses a small history museum pertinent to the church. The porch itself contains the parish war memorial, consisting of six bronze plaques listing townsmen who died serving in World War I, with deaths from World War II and the Korean War added later in turn, and three wooden 'battlefield crosses' that temporarily marked graves of two soldiers killed in World War I and a sailor who died in 1921.
At St. Catherine’s Chapel (the south transept) some floor-stones in the area honour recent congregation members. In the Lady Chapel is a board giving the Ten Commandments, dating from the time of Elizabeth I during the English Reformation.
- The royal English coat of arms from the year 1628.
- Wall hanging: A Shropshire Lad located near the south door.
- The west window illustrating some of the historical figures involved with Ludlow Castle.
- The white ensign from HMS Ludlow.
In the north transept is the John Snetzler organ. Through the generosity of Henry Arthur Herbert, 1st Earl of Powis, this organ was installed in 1764 at a cost of £1,000. Originally it was located in a gallery beneath the tower and had three manuals with 19 stops.
In the 19th century, Gray and Davison restored the organ and enlarged it, at the same time moving it to its present position in the North Transept. By this time, a fourth manual had been added.
The organ was restored in the 1980s by Nicholson & Co (Worcester) Ltd.
In 2006, thanks largely to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, further work was carried out to clean the interior, improve the console, and to add a rank of pipes.
List of organists
- Grade I listed churches in Shropshire
- Bishop of Ludlow
- Archdeacon of Ludlow
- Wool church
- Fulk FitzWarin
- St Laurence's History and tour
- Shropshire Star Ludlow church looks to future after £500,000 repairs (1 July 2014)
- Lloyd, David Historic Ludlow: the Parish Church of Saint Laurence, a History and a Guide, Birmingham, England: SP Print, 1980
- The Parish Church of St Laurence, Ludlow, published by the Parish Church of St Laurence, 2 College Street, Ludlow, England, 2004
- "St Laurence's church in Ludlow scales back redevelopment". BBC News. 3 February 2013. Retrieved 3 February 2013.
- Architecture of St Laurence Church, Ludlow, England, Lumina Technologies, Aberdeen, Scotland, July, 2006
- Shropshire War Memorials, Sites of Remembrance. p. 61.
- Lloyd, David Historic Ludlow: the Parish Church of Saint Laurence, a History and a Guide, Birmingham, England: SP Print, 1980 p. 42
- Klein, Peter (1986). The Misericords & Choir Stalls of Ludlow Parish Church. Birmingham: Ludlow Parochial Church Council.
- Francis, Peter (2013). Shropshire War Memorials, Sites of Remembrance. YouCaxton Publications. p. 96. ISBN 978-1-909644-11-3.
- List drawn from Francis, Richard; Klein, Peter (2007). The Organs and Organists of Ludlow Parish Church (second ed.). St Laurence's Parish Church.
- Harper, Sally Music in Welsh Culture Before 1650. Aldershot: Ashgate ISBN 978-0-7546-5263-2; p. 358
- Temperley, Nicholas The Music of the English Parish Church. 2 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press ISBN 0-521-22045-9; vol. 1, p. 349
- Brown, James D. & Stratton, Stephen S. (1897) British Musical Biography. Birmingham: Stratton; p. 140
- Cherubini, Luigi; Hamilton, James Alexander, trans. (1837) A Course of Counterpoint and Fugue. 2 vols. London: R. Cocks; page xx
- Bagshaw, Samuel (1851) History, Gazetteer & Directory of Shropshire. Sheffield: S. Bagshaw; p. 606
- Kelly's Directory of Shropshire, 1891, p. 348
- Bird, Enid The Organists and Organs of the Welsh Cathedrals in the 20th Century. Wakefield: Enid Bird ISBN 0-9516550-1-9
- Thornsby, Frederick W., ed. (1921) Dictionary of Organs and Organists; 2nd ed. London: G. A. Mate
- Who's Who in Music; First Post-war Edition: 1949/50. London: Shaw Publishing Co. Ltd. London
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