Churchyard of St James's Church


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


Ordnance survey map of Churchyard of St James's Church
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Telford and Wrekin (Unitary Authority)
Stirchley and Brookside
National Grid Reference:
SJ 69979 06710

Reasons for Designation

A parish church is a building, usually of roughly rectangular outline and containing a range of furnishings and fittings appropriate to its use for Christian worship by a secular community, whose members gather in it on Sundays and on the occasion of religious festivals. Children are initiated into the Christian religion at the church's font and the dead are buried in its churchyard. Parish churches were designed for congregational worship and are generally divided into two main parts: the nave, which provides accommodation for the laity, and the chancel, which is the main domain of the priest and contains the principal altar. Either or both parts are sometimes provided with aisles, giving additional accommodation or spaces for additional altars. Most parish churches also possess towers, generally at the west end, but central towers at the crossing of nave and chancel are not uncommon and some churches have a free-standing or irregularly sited tower. Many parish churches also possess transepts at the crossing of chancel and nave, and south or north porches are also common. The main periods of parish church foundation were in the 10th to 11th and 19th centuries. Most medieval churches were rebuilt and modified on a number of occasions and hence the visible fabric of the church will be of several different dates, with in some cases little fabric of the first church being still easily visible. Parish churches are found throughout England. Their distribution reflects the density of population at the time they were founded. In regions of dispersed settlement parishes were often large and churches less numerous. The densest clusters of parish churches were found in thriving medieval towns. A survey of 1625 reported the existence of nearly 9000 parish churches in England. New churches built in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries increased numbers to around 18,000 of which 17,000 remain in ecclesiastical use. Parish churches have always been major features of the landscape and a major focus of life for their parishioners. They provide important insights into medieval and later population levels or economic cycles, religious activity, artistic endeavour and technical achievement. A significant number of surviving examples are identified to be nationally important.

The survival of the churchyard of St James's Church provides the opportunity to study the medieval and later burials of a discrete and largely rural population in the western midlands of England. Examination of the skeletal remains would provide an insight into living conditions, diet, state of health, causes of death and life expectancy of this population. Examination of these graves will also provide information about social differentiation within the population, and about changes to burial customs and other ritual activities. In addition it is expected that archaeological deposits relating to the construction and development of the earliest phases of the medieval church will survive as buried features within the churchyard as well as below the current church.


The monument includes the buried remains of the churchyard of St James's Church, situated within the village of Stirchley, now part of the new town of Telford. The church was probably founded in the mid-to late 12th century and originally served as a chapel of ease (a chapel built for parishoners living some distance from the parish church) within the parish of Shifnal. The parish of Stirchley was established in the early 13th century and from that time the church of St James became the parish church. A small settlement grew up around the church, and documentary sources indicate that the agricultural community here remained very small until the 19th century. The parish continued to be a largely rural area until the late 20th century when administrative changes led to the parish's abolition. In 1975 the church of St James became redundant.

The church has a 12th century stone chancel, a brick-built 18th century nave and tower encasing medieval (probably 12th century) masonry, and a 19th century brick-built north aisle. The church is a Listed Building Grade I. The ground beneath the church is included in the scheduling in order to preserve features associated with the earliest phases of the building's construction and use, including evidence of the full extent of the 12th century church.

The churchyard surrounds the church of St James on all sides. It is a polygonal enclosure, which is defined by a hedge on its western and southern sides, and by 18th and 19th century stone walls on its north western, northern and eastern sides. These boundaries are not included in the scheduling. The churchyard is considered to have been the main burial place for the parishoners of Stirchley from the 13th century (and probably the 12th century) onwards. In addition to human remains, the cemetery will contain the remains of coffins, associated fittings and artefacts buried with the deceased, together with the evidence of former paths and other subdivisions, and the original boundaries defining the churchyard. The most recent burial monuments within the churchyard date from the 18th century to the late 20th century.

The church, the 18th-20th century burial monuments and the surfaces of the modern paths are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath all these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
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Books and journals
The Victoria History of the County of Shropshire: Volume XI, (1985), 184-85
The Victoria History of the County of Shropshire: Volume XI, (1985), 194
Meeson, R, 'Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological Society' in The Enigmatic Norman Chancel of the Church of St James, , Vol. 64, (1985), 17-24


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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