St Nicholas' church, Churchstoke
Churchstoke or Church Stoke is a large village and parish in south-east Montgomeryshire situated in a protrusion of that county into Shropshire. It is overlooked by Roundton Hill and the rivers Caebitra and Camlad have their confluence just outside the village. The nearest town is Montgomery.
The parish of Churchstoke covers a wider area than the village. The ancient parish comprises ten townships, two of which lie in Shropshire (Brompton and Rhiston). The civil community comprises the entire salient, including those parts of the ancient parishes of Hyssington, Snead, Lydham and Mainstone that lie in Montgomeryshire. Recently the detached part around Weston Madoc was transferred to the town of Montgomery.
The placename identifies it as a farm (or settlement) with a church; recorded as 'Cirestoc' in 1086 in The Domesday Book.
The village has many facilities including a large supermarket (Harry Tuffins), as well as a primary school, two public houses (The Horse and Jockey and The Court House Hotel), a Chinese takeaway and fresh locally made ice cream. A market is also held here on Sundays. The central area of Churchstoke is a conservation area.
St Nicholas Church
The Church of England parish church today is largely the result of 19th-century rebuilding, but it retains its 13th-century tower with a later timber belfry. From the period prior to the 19th century, only a font, a stoup and a chest have survived up to three phases of restoration and reconstruction. The main body of the church with its large high pitched roof dates to the second half of the 19th century, although the sequence of construction is not completely clear.
The layout of the churchyard and its location immediately above the River Camlad suggests an early mediæval origin. In 1881 the interior was laid out in its present form and the church was rededicated to St Nicholas (having previously been dedicated to St Mary).
The church has a 13th-century square tower at the western end, reduced in height in 1812 with a typical Montgomeryshire-style timber-framed belfry and a pyramidal roof which was re-tiled with oak roof shingles in 2005. The tower was used as a place of refuge during 14th century feuds and later in English Civil War battles. In 1646 the Parliamentarians attacked the Royalists who were planning to stay overnight at Churchstoke. The Royalists took refuge in the church and in the ensuing battle the Parliamentarians set fire to the church door forcing the Royalists to surrender.
The wooden belfry and the spire were added in 1815. The clock was installed in 1887. There is a suggestion that the tower was originally higher than it stands now.
In 1751 the south wall of the church was taken down and a new south aisle was constructed. In 1812 the old church was taken down and a new nave was built using stone from Churchstoke Hall and Churchstoke Quarries. It was roofed with slate from Corndon Hill and included a schoolroom and galleries. The present iron columns, made in Coalbrookdale presumably carried the galleries. They now support the lowered roofline. In 1881 the schoolroom and galleries were removed along with the old box pews and the interior was laid out in its present form. The exterior buttresses were added together with the nave windows and the ground level lowered around the church. The north and south walls of the chancel were rebuilt, and a new south porch was added. The aisles are divided from the nave by arcades of six bays above which is a frieze of timber arcading. The columns have octagonal stone bases, hollow Coalbrookdale iron columns and square decorative capitals.
The chancel is supposed to have been added in 1867 and is narrower than the nave. There are encaustic floor tiles throughout the chancel and sanctuary, and the tiled reredos has recently been uncovered. There is a piscina in the south wall of the chancel, and three 19th-century brasses. These were probably added in 1867. The south transept houses the organ and the north transept forms the choir vestry underneath which is the boiler house.
The church is situated in a raised sub-circular churchyard which has been extended in recent times. A few signs of musket shots from the skirmishes in the Civil War can still be seen, notably on the soffit of the upper storey round-headed window on the north wall of the tower. The graveyard extension to the west of the church was consecrated in 1868. The earliest grave recorded is a sandstone slab to Sarah (died 1749) and Hugh Pugh (died 1768). There is a sundial without gnomon on the south side of the church near the entrance porch. There are many fine mature trees in the graveyard, which are protected by law, as they are in the Conservation Area.
- Photos of Churchstoke and surrounding area on geograph.org.uk
- Outline Map of Churchstoke Parish
- Churchstoke at Streetmap.co.uk
- Churchstoke and its Townships