Church History

Historic England designated St Lawrence Church as a listed building in 1972, with Grade 1 status conferred in 2002 [1]  thus acknowledging that both architecturally and historically, St Lawrence is undoubtedly an important structure that has been looked after continuously for over 800 years. 

 

 

The church is now surrounded by fields and situated on the northern-most boundary of Stratford sub Castle, adjoining the Woodford Valley. However, archaeological investigations indicate that it was once in the midst of a thriving medieval settlement.[2] 

At least part of the Chancel was standing when the first Cathedral on Old Sarum was in use. Although patched and refaced, the north and south walls of the Chancel are of 13thC origin and probably represent the chapel of Stratford said to have been granted to Master Hervey by Bishop Richard Poore in 1228. The Prebend (ecclesiastical living) was styled that of 'St Laurence in Stratford' in 1291. [3]

The ground plan is typical of a 12th /13th century Early English [4] parish church with nave, small rectangular chancel and western tower. However, its faulty layout (the north and south walls are not parallel) is characteristic of there having been an even earlier building on the site. [3] 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image: Public Domain 

The church has walls of flint, rubble and ashlar with tiled roofs. It is probable that much of the stone came from Old Sarum; at least two blocks, incorporated in later masonry, bear Norman ornament, but the date of their incorporation is unknown. [3] 

The present Nave walls date from the 15thC but may have replaced earlier ones as the arch between the Nave and the Chancel has been dated to the 14thC. The wagon ceiling was probably installed about 1550.

During the 18th century the most significant improvements to the church since the 14thC were carried out, including the rebuilding of the West tower on its original foundations.  The 1711 date inscribed on the tower unfortunately misleads some visitors into thinking it indicates the age of the church itself. These improvements were funded by Thomas Pitt, grand-father of William Pitt the Elder - Earl of Chatham, past Prime Minister.

More recent works have included installation of electric lighting in 1947; a peal of six bells in 1999; and an oak staircase for better and safer access to the gallery and tower in 2002

Our photo gallery contains images and descriptions of the various architectural styles that have been incorporated into the structure of St Lawrence Church, together with images of some of the fittings. Click here to view.

Note:  There has been no intention to list all the known facts and interpretations of the history of St Lawrence Church here, rather to provide the reader with an overview, The references and sources listed below may provide a route to further research. 

Sources:

[1] List Entry Summary Historic England 

[2] Old Sarum Landscapes Project 2014-present https://www.southampton.ac.uk/archaeology/research/projects/old_sarum_and_stratford_sub_castle.page
Also see http://www.stratfordsubcastle.org.uk/new/news/new-chapter-history-old-sarum

[3]  British History On-Line  http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/wilts/vol6/pp199-213#h3-0010

[4] Early English - a style of architecture used in England in the 12th and 13th centuries, characterised by lancet arches, narrow openings, and plate tracery Collins Dictionary 

Articles written by David James and published in 2004 in The Friends of St Lawrence Newsletters Issues 1 & 2 are also acknowledged as having been of great help in producing this article and in describing many of the images in the photo gallery.
 

 

 

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