St. Michael and All Angels Pitchford

There can be little doubt that there has been a place of worship on this site since Roman times. During renovations to the church in 1719, the east wall was rebuilt using old stone. High in the south corner of the exterior of the east wall is a stone bearing the carved face of Pluto. It is probable that the Romans decided that the Pitch well was worthy of a temple dedicated to the god of the underworld. Is it likely that the stone, found deep in the foundations, came from such a building. It was common practice for Roman-British Christians to build a church to sanctify pagan sites.

The present church was founded and built by Ralph de Pichford in about 1220 AD and is built in the Early English style of architecture, though the herringbone masonry in the northwest corner is probably from a much earlier building. With this exception, the side walls are 13th century, with lancet windows and three doorways. The two large south windows and the west wall are 14th century, and the east wall was rebuilt in 1719.

As you enter the church you are faced by the medieval font. It has been much scraped but shows the remains of the fastening for the lid.

Looking into the body of the church, you will see the lancet windows as deeply splayed recesses. The 14th century window in the south wall of the nave still contains fragments of pre-Reformation glass in its top, representing the head of Our Lord.

Before you, as you face eastward, is the wonderful reading desk, pulpit and tester, which date from the Jacobean period.

There once stood a Perpendicular Rood Screen at this place, and as we move up to the sanctuary we can see the remains of this, with Tudor roses and quatrefoils behind the Jacobean altar table.

In the floor of some of the sanctuary are medieval floor tiles on some of which are the arms of Clare, Audley, and Leighton. The four incised alabaster slabs commemorate members of the Ottley family. The oldest is to the north of the altar, and is of William Ottley, died 1529, and his wife Margery Bruyen. To the south is that of Thomas Oteley, died 1534, and his wife Katherine Corbet. On the south wall is that of Adam Ottley, d 1578 and his wife Marie Maynwering. On the north wall is Richard Ottley and his wife KatherineMackworth, d 1586. These slabs were originally in the floor of the chancel. They have been restored, together with the family hatchments on the walls of the church.

In the north side of the sanctuary lies the effigy of Sir John de Pichford, 7 foot 1 inches tall, and clad as a crusader and carved out of a single block of oak. He was the son of the founder of the church and died in 1285.

Effigy of Sir John de Pitchford

As you look back down the church you will see the box pews, most of which are Jacobean. On your left is the nineteenth century vestry, whose door is beneath the original Early English archway to the Priest’s door. The doorway on your right was made at the same time as the vestry. The original north or ‘Devil’s door’, now blocked up, contains the small window by the organ.

 

Acknowledgements: W. Watkins-Pitchford and Revd. D.H.S. Cranage