01 September 2022

Saint Chad’s Church in
Lichfield has a history that
goes back over 1,350 years

Saint Chad’s Church, Lichfield … on the site of Saint Chad’s seventh century church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

During my visit to Lichfield last week, I returned to Saint Chad’s Church for the beginning of the Lichfield Peace Walk.

Saint Chad’s Church is in the Stowe area immediately north of the centre of Lichfield. It is a Grade II* listed building on the north side of Stowe Pool on Saint Chad’s Road.

This church dates from the 12th century, although extensive restorations and additions have been made in the centuries since.

Saint Chad came to Lichfield in 669 as the first Bishop of Lichfield. He settled in a wood and lived as a hermit in a cell by the side of a spring. From there he was known to preach and baptise his converts in the spring. Saint Chad died 1,350 years ago in 672, and he was buried near his church. His bones were moved to the new Lichfield Cathedral in the year 700.

The spring and churchyard are said to be the location of Saint Chad’s cell and spring. The original Saxon church may have been a small building built of stone or wood with a thatched roof and small windows. However, nothing of the Saxon church or monastery remains on the site.

Inside Saint Chad’s Church, Lichfield, facing east (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

The monastery church was rebuilt in the 12th century as a stone church with a nave, two side aisles and a chancel. The west door of the church stood where the tower now stands. The windows were set in gables and the lines of these gables and the rounded arches of the Norman windows in the south aisle are some of the oldest features still visible in the church today.

The trefoil-headed south door in the porch was built in the early 13th century and is thought to be the earliest part of the present structure. The roof was replaced in the 13th century, the gables were dispensed with and the walls built up to the level of the window heads. The Norman windows were replaced with the Early English pointed windows seen today.

Inside Saint Chad’s Church, Lichfield, facing west (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The south arcade of five bays with octagonal pillars is also Early English, as are the chancel and the west doorway.

The Tower at the west end was built in the 14th century to house the bells. The five-light chancel east window with cusped intersecting tracery was also built at this time and the font also dates from the 14th century.

The Irish pilgrim Symon Semeonis visited the church in 1323 on his way to the Holy Land. He described it as ‘a most beautiful church in honour of Saint Chad, with most lofty stone towers, and splendidly adorned with pictures, sculptures, and other ecclesiastical ornaments.’

The Tower at the west end was built in the 14th century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Many of the church’s assets were confiscated at the Reformation. The Reformation also saw the suppression of the chantry chapel endowed in 1257 by Agnes, daughter of Hugh Robus, an eminent citizen of Lichfield, in which masses were to be said for the souls of Roger de Wesenham, Bishop of Lichfield and his predecessors.

During the English Civil War in the mid 17th century, the church was occupied by Parliamentarian troops who besieged the Cathedral Close in Lichfield; the church was damaged considerably and the roof had to be rebuilt.

At this time, the red brick clerestory was added and the single overall roof was replaced by three separate roofs, including a grained roof over the nave and panelled roof in the south aisle.

A carved statue of Saint Chad above the screen at the west end (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

It is said Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) frequently attended Saint Chad’s Church in the 18th century. Catherine Chambers, his mother’s maid-servant, and Lucy Porter, his step-daughter are both buried in Saint Chad’s, with commemorative tablets on the south wall of the choir.

A decision was taken in 1840 to rebuild the north aisle in a Victorian Gothic style, which makes an interesting contrast with the mediaeval Gothic of the south aisle.

However, it was not until the Revd John Graham’s time (1854-1893) that major work was undertaken to restore the building to a sound condition.

Starting in 1862, the chancel and the chancel arch were thoroughly restored, the brick clerestory was removed and extended over the chancel, a vestry was added to the north side and the porch was added to the south side, a new roof was built, and the churchyard was enclosed with a wall and railings.

Graham’s next project was to build a rectory and so make the parish independent of Saint Mary’s, with its own rector.

The west window was restored in 1875 and central heating was installed. The box pews were gradually phased out, although a few remained until 1905 and the double-decker pulpit was replaced.

Saint Chad’s Church developed slowly in the 20th century, continuing to make changes to ensure the comfort of its worshippers.

The east end of the south aisle was formed into a Lady Chapel in 1952 as a memorial to the dead of World War II. Z new roof and ceiling were put over the nave that year, and gas was replaced with electric lighting.

The Baptismal font, dating from about 1450, was moved to the Lady Chapel in the late 1990s (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The old crumbling buttresses were replaced in 1956 at the south-west corner of the tower and the chancel was restored. This involved new stone for the walls, cills and mullions of the windows. The east window was removed, re-leaded, cleaned and replaced. The present choir stalls also date from this time.

The tower timbers were replaced in 1957, a new floor was installed in the belfry in 1982 and finally, in 1996, the font was moved to the Lady Chapel. The pews were removed from the back of the nave and the north aisle, and a new inner porch and welcome area were built.

Further restoration work took place on the windows and the stained glass in the chancel. The east end of the south aisle seen today dates from that period.

Saint Aidan (left), depicted with Saint Oswald (centre) and Saint Chad (right) on the altar in Saint Chad’s Church, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Three panels on the front of the high altar depict Saint Aidan, Saint Oswald and Saint Chad.

Saint Aidan, who died in 651, was an Irish Bishop who went from lona to Lindisfarne at the request of King Oswald to help him convert his people to Christianity. Aidan promoted new monasteries and schools, travelled far as he preached and ministered to the sick and needy.

Saint Chad was one of the twelve pupils in the first school he set up in Lindisfarne.

Saint Oswald , was brought up in Saint Columba’s monastery at Iona and became King of Northumbria. He looked to the monks to help him establish Christianity in his kingdom, and Saint Aidan was chosen to assist him. Saint Oswald was slain in 642 in a battle with the King Penda of Mercia.

The altar rail is a good example of 17th century woodwork.

The north aisle window depicting Christ among the Elders in the Temple, by John Hardman (1896) in memory of Grace Brown and Patience Brown (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The windows in the chancel illustrate the changing styles of church architecture. The middle lancet window from the 13th century is flanked on one side by a 14th century widow in the decorated style and on the other by a 15th century perpendicular style window.

The east window is a fine example of the decorated or geometrical style constructed about 1300. The stained glass was designed by Richard T Bayne and manufactured by Heaton, Butler & Bayne, probably in the early 20th century.

The window at the east end of the south aisle was made by William Wailes of Newcastle in memory of Anne Wright Gresley. It was installed in 1864 and provides the background to the Lady Chapel altar.

Two windows in the Lady Chapel by Christopher Whall date from 1905. They are in memory of Thomas and Mary Haywood and illustrate the teachings of Jesus. One of the windows depicts the parable of the talents.

The window at the west end of the south aisle shows Christ blessing the children. It was made in 1916 by Curtis, Ward and Hughes in memory of John Chappell and George and Eliza Cartmale.

Two memorial windows are attributed to Morris and Co date from 1922. One depicts Saint George and Saint Alban and commemorates members of the parish who died in World War I. The second depicts Saint Elizabeth of Hungary and Saint Christopher. They are in memory of Nelly Thorpe, died 7 July 1919 and her grandson Christopher Godfrey Asquith Benson, died 23 April 1919, and were donated by their family.

The north aisle window depicts Christ among the Elders in the Temple. It was made by John Hardman in 1896 and is in memory of Grace Brown (1876) and Patience Brown (1886).

The monument to Catherine Allden (1615-1695) and her husband Zachary Babington (1611-1685) in Saint Chad’s Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

There is a monument to Catherine Allden (1615-1695) and her husband Zachary Babington (1611-1685) of Whittington and Curborough, who were married in Saint Chad’s when she was 20 in 1636. His father, Canon William Babington (1582-1625), was Precentor of Lichfield, and his grandfather, Canon Zachary Babington (1549-1613).

Canon Zachary Babington was Prebendary of Curborough (1584), Master of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield (1587), and Precentor of Lichfield and Prebendary of Bishop’s Itchington (1589), two positions held earlier, in 1555-1559, by his aunt’s brother-in-law, Canon Henry Comberford (1499-1586). He was also Chancellor of the Diocese of Lichfield and Coventry from 1598.

Zachary Babington, who is commemorated in Saint Chad’s, was a brother of Canon Matthew Babington, a chaplain to Charles I, while his sisters included Margaret, who married John Birch, one of the trustees of the Comberford estates in the 1650s and 1660s, and Mary who married Matthew Dyott of Stychbrook and Lichfield.

This Zachary Babingnton, who died in 1688, was the grandfather of Zachary Babington (1690-1745) of Curborough Hall and Whittington Old Hall, was a barrister and High Sheriff of Staffordshire in 1713 and 1724. Zachary Babington’s daughter Mary married Theophilus Levett (1693-1746), steward or town clerk of Lichfield (1721-1746) and a friend of Samuel Johnson’s family as well as part of the intellectual circle in Lichfield that included Erasmus Darwin, Anna Seward, David Garrick and Matthew Boulton.

Two monuments on the south wall of the chancel have links with Samuel Johnson: one commemorates his step-daughter, Lucy Porter, who died in 1786, and another is a memorial to his mother’s maid-servant, Catherine Chambers, who died in 1767.

The altar and the chest in the Lady Chapel date from 1658 and 1669. The Perpendicular style Baptismal font dates from about 1450. It was moved to the Lady Chapel in the late 1990s to make way for the carpeted welcome area at the west end of the church.

The pulpit dates from about 1900 but the recess in the floor was made in 1916 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The pulpit dates from about 1900 but the recess in the floor was made in 1916.

The Deacon Memorial screen was built across the tower arch in 1949. It is in the form of a parclose screen, intended to portray the life of Alderman JR Deacon JP with the themes of ‘work , worship and citizenship’.

Above is a statue of Saint Chad holding a model of Lichfield Cathedral and a bishop’s crozier.

The interior of the church was redecorated at that time.

The statue of Saint Chad over the south porch … a gift from Lady Blomefield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The statue of Saint Chad over the south porch was a gift from Lady Blomefield (Lilias Napier) in 1930 in memory of her husband, Sir Thomas Blomefield (1848-1928), Assistant Secretary of the Board of Trade (1901-1908).

There are four bells in the tower: three date from the 17th century and the fourth is dated 1255.

Saint Chad’s Well in the churchyard, to the north-west of the church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Saint Chad’s Well, where we gathered last week at the beginning of Lichfield Peace Walk, is in the churchyard, to the north-west of the church. It was built over a spring where Saint Chad is said to have prayed, baptised people, and healed peoples’ ailments. It was once a popular place of pilgrimage.

When the well dried up by the early 1920s, it was lined with brick and a pump was fitted to the spring.

The stone structure was demolished in the 1950s and replaced with a simple timber structure and tiled canopy.

• The Rector of Saint Chad’s is the Revd Rod Clark. Sunday services are at 8 am (Traditional Communion with the Book of Common Prayer) and 10 am, Family Eucharist with Hymns and Sermon.

Saint Chad’s Church is on the north side of Stowe Pool in Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Praying with USPG and the music of
Vaughan Williams: Thursday 1 September 2022

The icon of Saint Giles in Saint Mary and Saint Giles Church, Stony Stratford, was written by Brother Leon Lidderment of Walsingham (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Patrick Comerford

Today is the feast of Saint Giles, the early dedication of the Church of Saint Mary and Saint Giles in Stony Stratford, and the Eucharist is being celebrated in All Saints’ Church, Calverton, at 10:30 this morning, followed by coffee. Saint Giles is commemorated in the Calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship as Giles of Provence, Hermit, ca 710, with a commemoration.

Before today gets busy, I am taking some time this morning for reading, prayer and reflection.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, whose music is celebrated throughout this year’s Proms season. In my prayer diary for these weeks I am reflecting in these ways:

1, One of the readings for the morning;

2, Reflecting on a hymn or another piece of music by Vaughan Williams, often drawing, admittedly, on previous postings on the composer;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary, ‘Pray with the World Church.’

The statue of Saint Giles above the west door of Saint Mary and Saint Giles Church, Stony Stratford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Saint Giles was a hermit who died in about the year 710. He founded a monastery at the place now called Saint-Gilles in Provence which became an important place on the pilgrimage routes both to Compostela and to the Holy Land. His care for the wounded and those crippled by disease resulted in his becoming the patron saint of such people, particularly of those with leprosy. Leprosy sufferers were not permitted to enter towns and cities and therefore often congregated on the outskirts, where churches built to meet their needs were regularly dedicated to Giles.

Matthew 11: 25-30 (NRSVA):

25 At that time Jesus said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

28 ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’

Today’s reflection: ‘For All the Saints’

For my reflections and devotions each day these few weeks, I am reflecting on and invite you to listen to a piece of music or a hymn set to a tune by the great English composer, Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958).

This morning [1 September 2022], on the Feast of Saint Giles, I invite you to join me in listening invite you to join me in listening to the hymn ‘For All the Saints,’ which was set by Vaughan Williams to his tune Sine Nomine.

‘For All the Saints’ was written as a processional hymn by Bishop William Walsham How (1823-1897) of Wakefield and was first printed in 1864 in Hymns for Saint’s Days, and Other Hymns, by Earl Nelson.

This hymn was sung to the melody ‘Sarum,’ by the Victorian composer Sir Joseph Barnby (1838-1896), until Vaughan Williams and Percy Dearmer published the English Hymnal in 1906.

Vaughan Williams named his setting Sine Nomine. The title means ‘without name’ and follows the Renaissance tradition of naming certain compositions Sine Nomine if they were not settings for pre-existing tunes. It has been described as ‘one of the finest hymn tunes of [the 20th] century’ by Richard Clothier (A Heritage of Hymns, Independence, Missouri: Herald Publishing House, 1996, pp 156-158).

Most English hymn tunes from that time are written for singing in SATB four-part harmony. However, Sine Nomine is primarily unison (verses 1, 2, 3, 7 and 8), with organ accompaniment. Just three verses (4, 5 and 6) are set in sung harmony.

The tune appears in this form in most English hymnbooks, including the English Hymnal (No 641), the New English Hymnal (No 197), and Common Praise (No 232), and in the Irish Church Hymnal (No 459). Vaughan Williams wrote two harmonisations – one for unison stanzas and one for choral stanzas. Equipped with a ‘walking’ bass, Sine Nomine is a glorious marching tune. Allowing the ‘alleluia’ phrase to enter before our expectation of it is a typical and very effective Vaughan Williams touch.

The Dublin-born composer Sir Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924), whose pupils included Vaughan Williams, also wrote the tune Engleberg for this hymn. However, in the wake of Sine Nomine it never gained popularity.

Vaughan Williams also set another hymn by Bishop How, ‘It is a thing most wonderful’ (Irish Church Hymnal, 226; New English Hymnal, 84), to the tune ‘Herongate.’

William Walsham How, a solicitor’s son, was born in Shrewsbury on 13 December 1823 and educated at Shrewsbury School and Wadham College, Oxford (BA 1845). He was ordained in 1846, and was curate of Saint George’s, Kidderminster (1846), and Holy Cross, Shrewsbury (1848), before becoming the Rector of Whittington, Shropshire, then in the Diocese of St Asaph but now in the Diocese of Lichfield, in 1851.

He was later a Rural Dean (1853), a canon of Saint Asaph Cathedral (1860), chaplain of the English church in Rome (1865) and Rector of Saint Andrew’s Undershaft, London (1879). He became a Suffragan Bishop for East London as Bishop of Bedford, and in 1888 he became the first Bishop of Wakefield, a new diocese in the industrial heartlands.

His untiring work among the people of the docks and the slums earned him the title of ‘the poor man’s bishop,’ and because he insisted on using public transport he was also known as the ‘omnibus bishop.’ But he liked best the description of him as ‘the children’s bishop.’ He died in Leenane, Co Mayo, in 1897, while on a fishing holiday in Dulough.

Bishop How, who was strongly influenced by the Tractarian Movement, was the author of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge Commentary on the Four Gospels and the author and editor of several collections of hymns, sermons and children’s stories, many of them published by SPCK.

His hymns are marked by pure rhythm as well as directness and simplicity, showing a comprehensive grasp of the subject and throwing unexpected light on their themes, with his images interwoven with tender thoughts. Although he is seldom thought of as a poet, his hymns have outlived his other literary works and he is one of the most effective Victorian hymn writers.

This morning’s hymn, ‘For all the Saints who from their labours rest,’ is, perhaps, his most popular hymn. Other hymns by him in the Irish Church Hymnal include: ‘It is a thing most wonderful’ (Irish Church Hymnal, 226, New English Hymnal, 84), ‘To thee our God we fly (Irish Church Hymnal, 540, New English Hymnal, 127), and ‘Who is this so weak and helpless’ (New English Hymnal, 474).

For all the saints, who from their labours rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

Thou wast their Rock, their Fortress and their Might;
Thou, Lord, their Captain in the well fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true Light.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For the Apostles’ glorious company,
Who bearing forth the Cross o’er land and sea,
Shook all the mighty world, we sing to Thee:
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For the Evangelists, by whose blest word,
Like fourfold streams, the garden of the Lord,
Is fair and fruitful, be Thy Name adored.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For Martyrs, who with rapture kindled eye,
Saw the bright crown descending from the sky,
And seeing, grasped it, Thee we glorify.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
Yet all are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

O may Thy soldiers, faithful, true and bold,
Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
And win with them the victor’s crown of gold.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave, again, and arms are strong.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

The golden evening brightens in the west;
Soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest;
Sweet is the calm of paradise the blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

But lo! there breaks a yet more glorious day;
The saints triumphant rise in bright array;
The King of glory passes on His way.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
Singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost:
Alleluia, Alleluia!

All Saints … remembered in street signs in All Saints’ Estate, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Today’s Prayer, Thursday 1 September 2022 (Saint Giles):

The Collect:

Almighty God,
by whose grace Giles, kindled with the fire of your love,
became a burning and a shining light in the Church:
inflame us with the same spirit of discipline and love,
that we may ever walk before you as children of light;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Post Communion Prayer:

Merciful God,
who gave such grace to your servant Giles.
that he/she served you with singleness of heart
and loved you above all things:
help us, whose communion with you
has been renewed in this sacrament,
to forsake all that holds us back from following Christ
and to grow into his likeness from glory to glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The theme in the USPG prayer diary all this week is ‘A New Province,’ inspired by the work of the Igreja Anglicana de Mocambique e Angola (IAMA), made up of dioceses in Mozambique and Angola, the second and third largest Portuguese-speaking countries in the world.

The Right Revd Vicente Msosa, Bishop of the Diocese of Niassa in the Igreja Anglicana de Mocambique e Angola, shares his prayer requests in the USPG Prayer Diary throughout this week.

The USPG Prayer Diary invites us to pray today in these words:

We pray for the Holy Spirit to guide IAMA in their decisions and to empower the province.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org