History of St Mary's Church

Middleton was mentioned in the Doomsday Book as 'Micletune'. The hamlet of Middleton, once connected by several roads, is now in a cul de sac surrounded by fields and the Church in its triangular churchyard with old yew and chestnut trees are enclosed by buildings of all ages from the 17th to the 20th C. In 1848, about a third of Middleton Parish was transferred to St Michaels to create a new Parish. With the loss of Parishioners and the decline in agriculture the number of funerals held annually decreased from about five to the present level of about one a year between 1850 and 1920.

We know there was once also a chapel about 1 km South East of the Church and there is a plan of the chapel at Moor Abbey, an ancient monastic farmhouse in the Parish, but no trace remains on the ground. The present church is of great interest as the nave and the chancel date almost completely from the 12th Century and the tower was added in the 13th Century. It is constructed from random coursed local sandstone.

The Nave. The North wall has three windows, the Easternmost being of the 14th Century and the others of the 12th Century. The North doorway now blocked has flanking buttresses, which include corbels carved with two heads, probably taken from a corbel table. The fine arch has chevron carved voussoirs surrounded by a ball-decorated cornice. This was traditionally known as the 'Funeral Door". The main door opposite in the South wall is similar door but plainer, which was known as the 'Wedding Door". Also in the South wall, there are three windows of which the centre are three windows of which the centre one has been enlarged. In Victorian times, the interior Nave walls were partly plastered and given ‘ribbon pointing’to imitate random ashlar and decorated with painted texts. The roof is of a timber trussed rafter type, once planked over.

The Font. Near the door is the plain stone font, which is believed to be even earlier than the rest of the building.

 

 

 

 

 

The Plate. An inventory of the reign of Edward the Sixth reads "Myddleton, 23 May 1553. First a chalice with a paten of silver parcel gilt, 1oz and 5oz three bells whereof the least is XXXV inch, the second XXXI the third XXXI inches brode over the mouths. Parishioners: John Phelips, John Sowade and Hughe Wynete." (sic). These same bells, over 500 hundred years old, still ring out, but no doubt at the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries the plate was hidden, perhaps buried, never to be recovered.


 

The Tower. The top stage, containing the bell chamber, has a 15th Century embattled parapet and the whole stage is probably of that date. The two lower stages are 13th Century with lancet windows in the North and West walls and a small Eastern light at the upper level. An 18th century door is set in the South Wall. There are three bells, cast in the Worcester foundry in the 15th Century, each is inscribed in Lombard capitals as follows:

            1. Sancti Maria Ora Pro Nobis.
            2. Missi te (de) delis habeo noman Gabrielis
            3. Eternis Annis Resonant Campana Johanis

The Chancel. This unadorned space emphasises the altar on its plinth, set behind a plain sanctuary rail. To the right is a piscina and near it a Priest’s Door.

Chancel Arch. The plain stone arch is relieved by simple capitals carved with dogtooth mouldings. Above is an unusual small opening where a statue of Our Lady may once have been placed. We think the painted chalice and crosses may be reminders of a ceremony of dedication held here in Victorian times. Nearby stands a fine modem oak lectern beside the single manual organ and opposite the pulpit and desk.

Later Additions. The timber South porch was rebuilt in 1745 when the work was recorded in the Churchwardens accounts. The East window over the Altar was originally in the church of Pudleston and was installed here in 1857.

The Churchyard. There is a sundial to the right of the path opposite the main door to the Funeral Gate, past the yews, dated 1768. There is a War Memorial, one of very few in the country, giving thanks for the safe return of all the men of the Parish who fought in the two World Wars as a result Middleton is known as one of the ‘Thankful Villages’. Fine trees surround the churchyard and beautify this pleasant spot. Local volunteers work hard to conserve and encourage wildlife and wildflowers to flourish. After a Spring cut and tidy, grass and wild flowers are allowed to grow until seeds fall around the end of July, when all grass is cut short again.

Adapted from Dick Child’s original (1993)


Donations. The Church is a Grade 1 listed building and consequently has to be maintained to very high standards. While the congregation pay all the running costs and do much fund raising, being a small community, we struggle to pay for repairs. The Parochial Church Council will very much appreciate any donation you can make towards the upkeep of the fabric of St Mary’s. If you pay income tax, by completing a simple Gift Aid declaration on the envelopes in Church, you can make your gift worth nearly 28% more at no cost to you. For more information, please click here