According to the Domesday Book there was a church in Inkberrow in Saxon times, and a minster is believed to have existed as early as 700 AD. No traces of either the Saxon church or the minster remain. However, the current church is believed to have been built on the site of the minster, and also perhaps a twelfth century wood and earthwork castle destroyed by Henry III in 1233. The current church probably dates from the 13th century, and was not built on the site of the Saxon church.
The earliest remaining architectural feature in the church is the north doorway (1), which dates from the 13th century. When the north aisle was added to the church around 1480, the old doorway was moved outward and re-used. The north aisle (2) contains several wall monuments, and was originally shorter than its current length. A fellowship centre has been created, restoring the north aisle to the purpose for which it was originally built.
(Bracketed numbers refer to the "Scale plan of church")
The north chapel, also called St Catherine's or the Lady Chapel (3), is part of the original church structure. It used to be fully enclosed, and was originally the vestry. The east wall contains remnants of a 15th century stained glass window. To the left of this window, beneath an 18th century wall monument, is a shallow recess for a figure.
The chapel contains a Tudor altar table, and the church's remembrance book.Early in the 16th century the north aisle was extended over the vestry and a wide archway opened into the chancel (4). The chancel was rebuilt in 1390. In 1887, the east and south walls were again rebuilt. The south wall was moved outward a few inches, the chancel arch was reconstructed using the old stones, and the roof was renewed.
The stained glass windows of St. Peter and St. Paul (5) and St. Francis of Assisi and St Anne (6), date from 1899 and 1920 respectively.
Mr. Sneyd-Kynnersley was a churchwarden and trustee of the church charity, and the Hunt family were benefactors of the church.
The south transept (7) may have been added as a chantry chapel shortly after 1357 to pray daily for the souls of members of the Colman family. It may have been the original St. Catherine's chapel. Alternatively, it may have been built around 1390 by the Savage family of Dormston. Whatever its origins, only the original arch remains. The Chapel was rebuilt, and probably extended to its current size in 1784.
The altar tomb of painted white marble is to the memory of John Savage who in 1609 bought the manor of Edgioke just outside Inkberrow village but within the parish bounds. He died on the 22nd December 1631. On the base is his effigy in full armour. The hands and feet are missing, believed to have been vandalised by Cromwell's troops. On the sides of the base were the kneeling figures of his ten children, some of which have been removed. On top of the arched canopy are three small figures representing 'Time', 'Hope' and 'Faith', together with the Savage coat of arms.
The nave (8) was part of the original structure, but was altered sometime between 1390 and 1420. The windows in the south wall are 15th century. The one nearest to the tower contains some stained glass of that period. In 1839, new box pews were installed bringing the seating capacity of the church to 504. By 1887, the church had become so damp that a complete restoration was required. The rotten wood of the floor was renewed, and several 17th and 18th century headstones were laid in the floor.
The font (9) dates from around 1200 AD, and being square is typical of a late Norman font. In 1839, it was cleaned and placed under the arch linking the chancel to the south transept, near the pulpit. It was moved to its current position opposite the south door of the nave in 1887.
The tower (10) is three storeys high and was built shortly after 1420 by the Dyson family. The west window which cannot be seen from inside the church, and the west doorway are 15th century. The organ is housed on a raised platform on the ground floor, with the clock and bell ringers' chamber on the second floor, and the church's six bells on the third. The tower was restored in 2000.
In 1887, the internal gallery was removed and the archway opened out to reveal the original 15th century west window. It was enclosed again in 1940 when the early 19th century organ was installed. The gallery was re-instated at the same time.>
Legend refers to 'Intebors ting-tangs' (small bells) suggesting that the Saxon church had bells. The earliest mention of bells in the current church is in 1544, when Margaret Hunt bequeathed money for the casting of bells. The six bells were recast and made heavier in 1868, at a cost of £ 170. In 1658 20 shillings was provided for a person to ring the bells every Lord's day. This was equivalent to a labourer's wages for six weeks. In 1768, three shillings was spent to provide ale for the bell ringers, equivalent to around 125 pints.
A wooden board (11) lists the parish vicars since 1268. Seven vicars of Inkberrow died during the years 1349, 1361, 1362 and 1369, the times that the Black Death ravaged England. Due to their vocation of visiting the sick, administering the last rites and burying the dead, many priests died during times of plague. In the diocese of Worcester, 80 clergymen died of plague between March and September 1349.
The original 13th century vestry was located where the current St. Catherine's chapel is. It was moved to its present position (12) in 1968, and screened off using 17th century oak panelling. On the south side of the screen, Charles I is depicted in armour before the battle of Edgehill. It is interesting to note that Charles' head is severed from his body.
The stained glass in the window in the west wall of the vestry is 15th century, and depicts St. Catherine and another saint, crowned and holding a staff. Such fragments are rare. In 1547, following the Reformation, King Edward VI ordered that no images of saints should remain in churches, even in glass. Due to the cost of the wholesale removal of all stained glass windows of saints, they were only replaced once they had decayed.
Outside the main body of the church, the north porch (13) was added during the 15th century. It contains a memorial stone to Thomas Dyson dated 1651. A wooden plaque to the right of the door commemorates the 1887 restoration.
The arch over the outer entrance has carved stops depicting human heads. The left hand gargoyle is holding a leather bottle typical of the period. The rest of the porch was re-built using the original stones in 1887. On the outer wall of the vestry, a straight line can be seen in the stone work (14) where the north aisle was added to the church in 1480.
It has been estimated that in excess of 20,000 bodies have been laid to rest in Inkberrow churchyard. Despite Kington and Dormston having their own ancient churches, where baptisms and marriages were performed, the dead from these parishes were buried at Inkberrow until 1837. In addition, the churchyard of St. Peter's served as the burial ground to St. Paul's, Cookhill, until the consecration of its burial ground in 1932. St. Peter's burialground was extended to the south-west in 1857 and to the north-east in 1945.
To the rear of the church, on the outer wall of the south transept, there is a "mass clock" (15). This is a semi-circular sun dial scratched on the wall. This was used to indicate the times of services in the days before mechanical clocks. Its position close to ground level suggests that it belongs to an earlier structure, which was re-used when the south transept was re-built in 1784. The engraved GH above the mass clock is the remnant of an inscription GH 1814, the significance of which is not known.
When the north aisle was extended over the original vestry around 1480, the vestry was rebuilt askew from the original foundations. This can be seen in the lower courses in the outside of the east wall of the north chapel (16).
To the front of the church, the lych-gate was erected in 1919 as a war memorial. It contains two plaques to the Inkberrow men who died in the first and second World Wars. The sundial close by is believed to be the one bought in 1705 to replace the previous sundial which had been stolen from the churchyard.
On 10th May 1645, King Charles I slept in the vicarage on a tour through Worcestershire. He left behind one of his map books, which is now in the custody of the vicar and stored in the County Record Office. His soldiers' wages were lost, buried somewhere in or near the village. In retribution for housing Charles, Cromwell is reputed to have burned the vicarage down.
We hope that you have enjoyed reading about the history of our church, and have drawn inspiration from the beauty that the people of Inkberrow have crafted and lovingly maintained over the centuries to the glory of God. However, the church is more than just a historic building, it is a manifestation of the love that Christians have for Jesus Christ. Take a moment to reflect and let the love of Jesus strengthen you for the tasks that He has given you. Go forward with new heart and courage, for God is with you.