Set within the grounds of Patshull Hall, St Mary’s Church replaced an earlier medieval church upon the site. The building stands in lovely parkland north west of the hotel, beside the Church & Lady Barbara Pools.
St Mary’s Church 1200 – 1740s
There was a church at Patshull by the reign of John when Mansel, The Lord of the Manor, which was presented to his clerk Laurence. The advowson passed to Mansel’s son Robert and then to Robert’s son Hugh, who in 1272 granted it to the Augustinian priory of Launde in Leicestershire.
The church has become a dependent chapel of Pattingham church by 1342 when both were appropriated to Launde. The church was served by a chaplain, who celebrated three times a week and on feast days and lived in a house provided by Launde.
St Mary’s Church from the 1740s
St Mary’s was built by architect James Gibbs for Sir John Astley in 1744 who also built Patshull Hall. In 1874 the church was expanded by adding a north aisle, belfry, and dome. From the exterior it presents a very Italian neo-classical appearance, with a restrained west tower surmounted by a cupola and roundel windows in the tower and over the classical south portico that serves as the main entrance.
The interior boasts some very nice memorials to members of the Astley family, dating primarily from the 16th and 17th centuries. The most imposing is probably that of the founder, Sir Thomas Astley, which features recumbent effigies of the deceased and his wife. Another striking Astley monument shows Sir Richard Astley leading a squadron of horsemen, flanked by seated figures of his two wives.The church is no longer used for regular worship and is in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust – at present it is the only church in Staffordshire in the care of the CCT.
The present church of St Mary‘s dates from 1743 and stands in the park south-west of Patshull house. Its predecessor stood half mile from the new site, probably further south at or near the former hamlet of Olton. The body of the early church was rebuilt by Sir Richard Astley in the late 17th century, and it was re-roofed in 1737. Sir John Astley paid the cost of the new building and provided the site. Designed by James Gibbs in a classical style and built of sandstone, the church consisted of a chancel with a Venetian east window, and made with a pedimented Tuscan south porch, and a West Tower within ornamented parapet and a cupola.
There was a statue, apparently of St George, on the gable end of the chancel roof where there is now a cross. The church was restored and enlarged in 1874 to designs by WC Banks of London and at Lord Dartmouth expense.
A three bay north aisle was added with the vestry at the west end; a north porch was erected to correspond with that on the south, but it was non-functional, being backed by Sir Richard Astley’s monument.
In 1877 the top of the tower was remodelled by Banks to accommodate a new peal; The stone for the work came from a quarry in the north east of Patshull Park. Probably soon afterwards a statue of Charles II in a niche on the west side of the tower was removed to make way for a window; it was lying in the churchyard in 1979 and was destroyed soon afterwards. it was perhaps in the 1870s that the pediment was removed from the south porch to allow a circular window to be inserted above the entrance.
Inside the church there are several monuments and memorials to the Astleys, Pigots, and Legges.
An alabaster table tomb, probably of Richard Astley (died 1531) and his wife Joan, with effigies and figures has a later inscription wrongly attributing it. Behind it, filling a recess at the back of the north porch, is an elaborate alabaster monument to Sir Richard Astley (died 1688); its central panel shows him at the head of a troop of horse.
In 1858 the church had box pews, and there was a pulpit and prayer desk on the north side of the chancel arch and a reading desk on the south side. They were all removed during the 1874 restoration except for the 18th century pulpit, which was re-erected on a new base. The font is probably of circa 1743. The gilded wrought-iron screen, designed by Banks, was erected in 1893 as a memorial to Lord Dartmouth (died 1891) by friends and neighbours.
The plate in 1552 and 1553 consisted of a chalice, silver or silver-gilt, with a paten. A patron of 1720 and a flag on and chalice of 1725, all silvergilt, but given by Sir John Astley; in 1979 they were in the Victoria and Albert Museum. There were three bells in 1552 and 1553. The present peal of six was cast in 1877 by Mears & Stainbank of London and given by Lord Dartmouth. The registers date from 1559 and are complete.
The southern approach to the hall is through a gateway close to the church. The gates are hung from 2 to 4 stone pillars, and on the top of each cylindrical pillow is the effigy of a gamecock. The story is that the birds commemorate the occasion when the estate was forfeited by the losing of a wager on one bet, and the winning of it back by a wager on the other bird. It is not known with certainty who erected the pillars; it may have been Sir Richard Astley who was known in his day for his interest in cockfighting and who invented a device for the matching of gamecocks.
Interested in more Patshull history blogs?
We hope that you’re as interested in the history of Patshull Park as we are, and we love to share the information that we learn. There are new findings coming up all the time and we’re always excited to write about what we know. Here are some more blog posts that we’ve written. Check out our History page too!