St John the Baptist
A priest at Middleton is mentioned in the Domesday Book and the church may be of Anglo-Saxon foundation. The round-arched south door with its dog-tooth pattern is evidence of the early Norman building.
Middleton Church website
St John's is a joint benefice (from 2006) with Wishaw and Curdworth. Their Three in One website is at - http://www.threeinone.org.uk/, from which much of the informaion here is derived.
See also A Church near You - http://www.achurchnearyou.com/middleton-st-john-the-baptist/.
Press function key F5 to refresh the map.
The church consists of a chancel, nave, north aisle, south porch, and west tower with a vestry north of it. Although the church may well have had an Anglo-Saxon predecessor, the present chancel and nave date from the mid-12th-century and were very likely paid for by one of the Marmion family of Tamworth Castle, lords of the manor of Middleton, four eldest sons in succession being called Sir Robert during the 12th century.
Before Middleton Hall was built c1285 by Sir Philip Marmion, the manor house was stood west of the church on the site occupied by the village school.
The north aisle was added at the end of the 13th century, probably by Sir Philip at the same time as the move to Middleton Hall. The original Norman north doorway (below), which had
stood opposite the existing south door, was rebuilt into the wall of the north aisle further to the east.
The manor had passed by marriage to the Freville family and in 1493 similarly to Sir Henry Willoughby of Woollaton Hall, Nottinghamshire. It may be that the extensive rebuilding round this time was his doing. A west tower was built and the height of the nave and chancel raised with clerestorey windows being inserted. Other windows, including the east window of the chancel were altered in the style of the time.
Above left: 15th-century west tower; at one time this was topped with a wooden spire. A clerestory window in the nave is visible top right.
Above centre: clerestorey windows in the south wall of the chancel; the difference between the Norman stonework below and the 15th-century work above is clearly seen.
Above right: 15th-century east window of the chancel.
Left: The brick-built south porch dates from the 18th century when a restoration of the building was carried out. The church was restored again in 1876.
The south doorway is the original 12th-century entrance. Although altered, the semicircular head is intact: the middle order with facial chevron decoration.
The lower part of the walls of the nave date from the 12th century. In the south wall are three three-light windows of red sandstone, which were restored in 1876. The eastern three-lancet window is of the 13th century, the middle window with its three trefoiled lights is of the late 15th century, and the westernmost beyond the south doorway has three plain square-headed lights and was inserted in the 16th or 17th century insertion.
The clerestory has three north and three taller south windows which were added when the nave walls were built higher in the 15th century. The roof has a flat plastered ceiling which would have been put in when the building was restored in the Georgian period. The tower's east face has lines indicating an earlier higher roof.
The nave has a north arcade of four bays with octagonal pillars of red sandstone which was built when the north aisle was added in the late-13th-century. There is an long oblique squint into the chancel. These seem to have been provided to allow sight of the mass from places where it was otherwise obscured.
A Victorian font at the west end of the nave replaced an earlier 18th-century font which presumably replaced an earlier medieval one. The square wooden pulpit dates from the 18th century; on the sides are cherubs' heads.
The chancel arch was rebuilt in the late 15th century. It is closed with a 15th-century oak screen of four bays and a central doorway. The middle rail is carved with foliage and flowers and grotesque faces.
The four-light east window c1865 has stained glass by Hardman's of Birmingham depicting Old and New Testament scenes.
In the north wall of the chancel is a small blocked 12th-century window. It can be clearly seen outside; the head is a round-headed arch carved out of a single stone. Inside only half of the semicircular rear-arch can still be seen, the remainder having been hidden behind a very large 17th-century monument to Francis Willoughby. (That monument also led to the blocking up of a 15th-century clerestory window which can still be seen on the outside wall.) The lower half of the window has also been destroyed by the insertion of a wide shallow arched recess, the earliest monument in the church. A small brass plate commemorates Dorothy Fitzherbert, who died in 1507, the daughter of the lord of the manor, Sir Henry Willoughby.
In the chancel's south wall is a priests' doorway of the 14th century above is the blocked rear-arch of a 12th-century window; outside can be seen the head of the round-headed arch carved from a single stone. In the 14th century a two-light window was inserted probably replacing an earlier smaller Norman one. There are two 15th-century clerestory windows above.
Externally the stones of south wall of the chancel show shows the work of some 800 years of building, extension, alteration and repair. The middle courses of stone date from the 12th century with the insertion of a window and doorway in the 14th century, the clerestory and corner buttress were added in the 15th century, the parapet may date from the 18th-century roof alteration, and the lower ashlar courses were added to cover deteriorating Norman sandstone in the 18th or 19th century.
The north aisle with its 4-bay arcade was added in the late 13th century. It was probably built by Sir Philip Marmion and was possibly built to house a chantry chapel. In the middle of the wall was reset the original Norman north door and doorway, blocked inside in 1876.
On either side are two small rectangular windows of the 17th century, presumably replacing smaller earlier windows. The three-lancet east window was restored in 1876.
At the west end of the nave is the tower arch of the late 15th century. Here is a ground-floor ringing chamber. A ring of three bells by Thomas Mears of Whitechapel cast in 1826 hang in a massive oak frame of the 15th century. They were retuned and rehung with new fittings by Taylor's of Loughborough in 1939. A tablet of 1782 listing punishments for bellringers' misdemeanours is an unusual survival; for swearing an oath you would forfeit one shilling to the parish clerk.
Early in the 19th century a vestry was added as a western extension to the north aisle. It has a large Gothic north window of 4 lights and a 3-light west window with intersecting tracery. The room is now used as a local history base.
There are two striking monuments in the chancel. On the south wall is a monument to Edward Ridgway, second son of Thomas, Earl of Londonderry, died 19 September 1638. Edward, second son of the Earl of Londonderry, was the brother of Cassandra who married Francis Willoughby of Middleton Hall. On this colourful Jacobean mural Edward is depicted kneeling and dressed in armour, with his sword at his side, wearing a helmet and a red cloak. The effigy is set in a neo-classical round-headed recess flanked by Ionic pilasters of black marble. A number of coats of arms surround the effigy. His funeral helm and gauntlets hang on hooks on either side.
In complete contrast opposite it on the north side is a very large black and white marble monument in classical style commemorating Edward's brother in law and sister, Francis Willoughby, died 7 December 1665, and his wife Cassandra, died 15 July 1675.
Under a protective carpet in the middle of the chancel floor is a slab with the well-preserved brass effigies of Sir Richard Bingham, depicted in the robes of a Justice of the King's Bench, who died 22 May 1476, and his wife Margaret (nee Freville) shown wearing a widow's veil. She married Sir Richard c1454 after the death of her first husband, Sir Hugh Willoughby; she died in 1493.
Margaret had inherited half of Middleton manor from her father, the other half from her first husband, Hugh Willoughby.
Image left: The Bingham Brass from William Dugdale 1656 Antiquities of Warwickshire now free of copyright, downloaded from the Free Online Library - http://www.ebooksread.com/authors-eng/william-dugdale/the-antiquities-of-warwickshire-illustrated--from-records-leiger-books-manusc-dgu.shtml.
Around the church a number of fragments of wall paintings can be seen which date from the 14th century. They seem to have been plastered over in the 18th or 19th century and were rediscovered when the deteriorating plaster was removed in 1994. It is likely that the whole of the interior was covered in paintings which at the time would have been in very bright colours.
In the churchyard south of the church survives the square base of a medieval cross.
The south wall bordering Church Lane dates from the 17th century and was repaired in the 19th. Evidence of the original gateway opposite the tower can still be seen, though the present modern gateway is opposite the porch. The 19th-century village pump now stands near the former gateway.
Acknowledgements to British History Online - http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=42672.
See Aidan MacRae Thomson's photographs on flickr - http://www.flickr.com/search/?w=24141292@N02&q=middleton
and those of Phil Draper/ ChurchCrawler - http://www.flickr.com/search/?w=22413548@N00&q=middleton.
See also Warwickshire Museum Timetrail - http://timetrail.warwickshire.gov.uk/detail.aspx?monuid=WA116
This is a Grade II* listed building whose record can be found on the
Historic England website - https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1034640.
William Dargue 17.07.2012