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Review: West Midlands

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Saxons and Saints in the West Midlands

  • By SilverTraveller ESW

    2317 reviews

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  • Sep 2013
  • Husband

37 people found this review helpful

We have long been intrigued by the “Ladies of the Vale”, the three spires of Lichfield Cathedral and it has been on our ‘to-do’ list for years. Last year we watched a series of programmes on TV presented by Michael Wood on the Saxons. This kindled an interest in the old Kingdom of Mercia. Lichfield rapidly moved up the list. Tamworth was at the heart of Mercia and the power base of Æthelflæd, the daughter of Alfred the Great. She has rather been air-brushed out of history by her more famous brother Edward.



Polesworth, ignored by the visitors has a Saxon Abbey.



This definitely seemed to be an area worth exploring. Googling threw up several interesting old churches. Not only were there Saxons, there were early Christian saints too. Repton was the first place Christianity was preached in the Midlands and St Wynstan’s Church was the Mausoleum of the Mercia Kings. John Betjeman describes the crypt as “holy air encased in stone”.



St Chad moved his See to Lichfield Cathedral and his bones were interred here.



The Priory Church of St Mary and St Hardulph at Bredon on the Hill was a Saxon foundation and has Saxon carved stones embedded in the walls. It also has the splendid 17thC Shirley tombs and pew.



St Michael and St Mary’s Church at Melbourne is a splendid Norman church Simon Jenkin’s “England’s Thousand Best Churches” identified two other churches of merit in the area at Clifton Camperville and at Elford.



All I needed to do now was sort out places to stop on the way there. This was quickly solved as pictures of Ashby-de-la-Zouch Castle looked interesting as did the Church.



Both repaid visiting.



Close by is the Chapel of the Holy Trinity at Staunton Harold one of the few churches to have been built in the Commonwealth. This again has long been on the list. Built by Royalist, Sir Robert Shirley, Cromwell apparently asked why Shirley would not pay towards a ship for the navy when he could afford such a splendid building. When Shirley refused to contribute he was arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London, where he died.



Finally I discovered Donnington le Heath Manor House, one of the oldest surviving buildings in England. There is little information about this on the web and it gets few visitors. It was a fascinating find and also has a good tea room.



We booked three nights at the Premier Inn in Burton on Trent, which was a good centre for what we planned to do.

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Other Members' Thoughts - 2 Comment(s)

  • ESW
    over 6 years ago
    They were. Simon Jenkin's 'England's Thousand Best Churches' is our bible. He's not let us down yet.
  • Kenbob
    over 6 years ago
    Wow how lovely! all the churches look magnificent.