CHURCH OF ST JOHN THE BAPTIST
DATES OF MAIN PHASES, NAME OF ARCHITECT:
Parish church of C14 and C15.
MATERIALS: Walls are lime-rendered over grey lias rubble stone, and over brick to vestry, under tile roofs.
PLAN: Nave, lower and narrower chancel, west tower, south porch and north vestry.
EXTERIOR: The exterior is mainly in Tudor-Gothic style. The chancel east wall has red-sandstone angle buttresses and a small buttress below the 3-light east window with trefoil-headed lights. The chancel south wall has a chamfered priest's doorway and straight-headed 2-light window, possibly a bequest of 1405 from Sir John Russell. A shallow projection was built to accommodate the Russell tomb. In the north wall is a cusped 1-light window, blocked by an internal monument. In the roof slope above is the gabled roof of this monument. The north vestry has an embattled parapet. The nave has angle buttresses. North and south nave walls both have a single-light and two square-headed 2-light windows. The south porch has a double-chamfered entrance, with sundial above, and chamfered south nave doorway with a stoup on its R-hand side. On the north side is a plain square-headed doorway. The 3-stage tower has an embattled parapet, diagonal west buttresses and south-east stair turret. In the west wall is a moulded doorway surround, with weathered stoup to its right, and a 3-light Perpendicular window. The upper stage has 2-light bell openings.
INTERIOR: The C14 chancel arch is double-chamfered, with inner order on corbels. The chancel has a plastered segmental barrel ceiling in which ashlar pieces are visible that are probably medieval and suggest that the plaster covers a medieval roof. The nave has a wide plastered barrel ceiling, probably C15, divided into panels by moulded ribs and wall plate, and three richly moulded tie beams. An angel boss is attached to the soffit of one of the beams. There is a blocked chamfered tower arch. Walls are plastered. The nave floor is worn C15 tiles of two colours, with bricks at the west end, and with raised wood floors below the benches. The chancel and sanctuary are stone-paved.
PRINCIPAL FIXTURES: The west gallery is constructed of parts from a C16 rood screen of unknown provenance. It is carried on posts that incorporate elaborate nodding ogee canopies over niches, and carved foliage brackets. The front is made up of painted panels showing a central figure of Christ flanked by Apostles, saints and church figures, which are derived from the dado of a rood screen, uncommon in Worcestershire, and restored in 1875. The C19 neo-Norman tub font is decorated with blind round arches. A pulpit and attached reading desk of c1700 form a fine ensemble in front of a narrow, deeply splayed doorway to the vestry. Benches are mid C16, decorated with linenfold panelling framed by timber buttresses. The seats have been lowered but appear to be original. The blocks of benches east of the entrance also have linenfold panels set against the wall, above a plainer wainscot. At the east end of the nave is a large box pew with sunk panels and doors with cockshead hinges. A C19 Royal Arms of George III and hatchments of John Taylor (d 1848) and James Taylor (d 1852) are fixed above the chancel arch. Boards with Ten Commandments, Lord's Prayer and Apostle's Creed are fixed on the west wall. The chancel has an outstanding collection of monuments to the Russell family and others, from the late C14 onwards. They include brasses to Sir Robert Russell (d 1390), Sir John Russell (d 1405), Robert Russell (d 1502) and Thomas Russell (d 1556). A large Jacobean monument to Sir Thomas Russell (d 1632) and his wife (d 1618) is possibly by Samuel Baldwin. It has recumbent effigies under a round-headed arch, with a coffin in a niche below, superimposed by a huge crest with armorial bearings. The figures are well preserved and retain painted and gilded decoration. There is an oval wall plaque to Sir William Russell (d 1669) and his wife Frances. A grand Baroque wall monument to Sir Francis Russell (d 1705) and his wife is by Edward Stanton. The deceased reclines with one elbow on a chest, with a female figure kneeling at his head, with inscriptions both on the chest and behind, framed by an open pediment. A monument to Anne, Lady Gyse (d 1734), has a reclining effigy over sarcophagus, and superstructure so tall that it required the chancel roof to be raised under a gable. A neo-classical wall tablet to Sir Charles Trubshaw Withers (d 1804) is on the chancel wall. A memorial to the satirist Samuel Butler (1612-80) is in Gothic style, of the 1830s, by Robert Sshton Jnr; Butler, author of `Hudibras', was born here. Stained glass includes the east window by Cox, Son and Buckly, showing the Good Shepherd (1890), and a south chancel window by Florence Camm for Thomas William Camm of Smethwick, showing the Good Samaritan (1917). A nave Ascension window is by Curtis, Ward and Hughes (1903).
HISTORY: The church was built close to Strensham Castle, which was destroyed in the Civil War, and a village that was deserted in the C14. Strensham was the seat of the Russell family from the C13 until 1705, which is reflected in the range of funeral monuments. The church has a C14 core of nave and chancel, to which the tower was added in the late C14 or C15. Nave windows were altered in the C15. The vestry was added in the early C19. The church is redundant and has been in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust since 1991.
J. Comins, The Church of St John the Baptist, Strensham, 1997.
A. Brooks and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Worcestershire, 1968, pp 619-21.
REASONS FOR DESIGNATION:
The church of St John the Baptist, Strensham, is listed Grade I for the following principal reasons:
* It has extensive surviving medieval fabric and preserves its late-medieval external character, including a fine tower.
* The interior arrangement is pre C19, including very good C16 benches, substantial parts of a C16 rood screen (made into a gallery), early C18 pulpit and box pew.
* It has an outstanding series of monuments of the C14 to the C19 that display many of the changing fashions in monument design over that period.