Shustoke

Warwickshire

St Cuthbert

Shustoke Church is best known for its connections with William Dugdale 1605-1686, the foremost of England’s early antiquaries, whose 'Antiquities of Warwickshire' bears testament to his scholarship. Born in the Rectory, he was baptised here and is buried in an elaborate tomb in the chancel.

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The west tower
The west tower

Shustoke is a scattered rural parish on the edge of the East Warwickshire Plateau. The main settlement is now at Shustoke Village, formerly Shustoke Green. It may be that Church End, a mile to the east, was the original focus. There is a raised mound of unknown age immediately south of the church off Shawbury Lane. The name of the lane is Old English sceaga burh which may mean ‘copse’ + ‘fortified place’. Whether the mound is Anglo-Saxon or earlier is not known. And, whether it has a realtionship with the church or not, the position of this early site on a prominent hill also made it an ideal site on which to build a church. 

 

There was certainly a church here from the 12th century. The present font is a copy of the old Norman font which was destroyed in 1886 by a serious fire caused by a lightning strike. There is documentary evidence of the church in 1250. However, the earliest evidence of the origin of present building dates from the time of Edward II r.1307-1327.

 

In 1656 William Dugdale described a figure in a north window of the church John, Lord Mowbray, who was lord of the manor and probably a benefactor of the new church. This must have been before 1322 because John was captured at the Battle of Boroughbridge near York fighting against Edward II and was hanged in March of that year. That window is no longer in existence and may have been destroyed in the 1886 fire. From 1343 the manor of Shustoke and the advowson was given to Maxstoke Priory with whom it remained until the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII in 1536.

 

The remains survive of a 15th-century cross in the churchyard, an octagonal stump on a plain square base.

Large parts of the walls of the nave and chancel survived the fire including the stonework of many of the windows. However, the oldest complete part of the building is the tower. Standing at the west end of the church, the lower two stages date from the 14th century. The top stage of the tower and the spire were added in the second half of the 15th century. The tower has similarities with that of Sheldon church which was built by Henry Ulm in 1461.

 

The parapet is embattled with winged gargoyles. The tower clock was set up as memorial to the dead of the 1914-18 War. The spire is topped with a ball and weathercock. A new arch was made from the nave into the tower in the 19th century. In the west window of the tower is a shield of the Dugdale arms.

 

The bells are an unusual ring in the minor key and among Birmingham’s most difficult to handle. They were cast from a ring of four to a five in 1698 by William Bagley of Chacombe near Banbury. Two of these survive, the present 3rd being inscribed: 'Of fore he cast us into five, 1698'; the 4th: 'Repaird our church and bellfree here 1698'. The 5th and tenor bells were recast by Lester & Pack of Whitechapel in 1768 when a new bell-frame, still in place, was built. The present 2nd is dated 1887 having been recast after the lightning strike of 1886. Considering the extensive damage to the church it is remarkable that only one bell suffered damage. Bagley’s original treble, the present 2nd had been recast by Joseph Smith at Edgbaston in 1733 and again by William Brooke of Bromsgrove in 1736. The back four were rehung in 1883 by Robert Summers of Tanworth-in-Arden, a millwright and bellhanger. Taylor’s of Loughborough rehung the back five on ball bearings in 1924. The 1769 frame allowed for six bells, but there were only five until 1950 when a new treble was cast by Taylor’s. 

 

The nave was gutted by the fire of 1886 and the rebuilding may have been undertaken by the noted gothic revivalist architect, George Bodley of London. The ashlar walls of local sandstone survive on the outside but were renewed inside the church.

 

High on the south-east buttress is a scratched mass-dial. More easily seen is one that is half covered by the west wall of the porch which was built in 1873. Some stonework of the nave windows survives but much was replaced in 14th-century style during the rebuild. The roof dates from 1887. The gothic chancel arch was also rebuilt at this time. 

 

A remarkable survivor of the fire is an exceptionally long medieval dug-out parish chest measuring 2.5m. 

 

Some Victorian photographs of the church appear on Paul Taylor's Shustoke Village Web - http://www.shustoke-warwickshire.co.uk/page11.html. My thanks to him for permission to reproduce the above photograph of 1886.

 

A drawing of the church (right) from a leaflet produced after the fire of 1886 appears on the Church Plans Online website

 

The east window
The east window

At some time during the 18th century the gothic east window of the chancel was replaced by a round-headed window in neo-classical style. This church may have been inlfuenced by the neo-classical rebuilding in 1766 of St Leonard's at nearby Over Whitacre, a church easilk visible across the fields from the churchyard here. 

 

The church was restored in 1873 at a cost of £3000 when the south porch was added and the chancel was rebuilt. The classical east window was replaced with the present gothic window of three lights in 14th-century style. By this time the neo-classical style had fallen out of favour and church architects were looking back to medieval gothic for their inspiration. The two-light geometric north window of the chancel is medieval. The organ chamber, which is accessed through the north wall, was added in the late 19th century. Some salvaged pieces of 14th- and 15th-century glass have been reset in the east window of the organ chamber.

 

Between the window and the arch to the organ chamber has been built a recess for the elaborate Dugdale monument. William Dugdale, born in the Old Rectory on Shawbury Lane in 1605. He is one of England's best known antiquaries and the author of ‘The Antiquities of Warwickshire’. An ardent royalist, he rose to become Garter King of Arms in 1677. He died in 1686. Also commemorated are his wife Margaret Huntbach. A memorial on the south wall is to members of the Dilke family, the earliest in 1716. 

South-west corner of the tower, south wall of the nave and porch
South-west corner of the tower, south wall of the nave and porch

A vicar who is commemorated only in the Warwick Quarter Sessions Order Book was Joseph Harrison. At the quarter sessions of Easter 1635 it was recorded that the late vicar was ‘a man of very lewd condition, much subject to drunkenness’ and therefore his father-in-law, William Bull was given the responsibility of supporting his wife and child.

 

In the south wall of the chancel are two 19th-century windows similar to the original in the north wall. The medieval priest's doorway and a low-side lancet have been restored and the original piscina and credence have been reset. In the north wall is a restored medieval aumbrey.

 

 

The churchyard has some 18th-century chest tombs. 

Shustoke Gallery

Weblinks

Acknowledgement - See British History Online - Victoria County History of Warwick Volume 4 Hemlingford Hundred ed. L F Salzman 1947 - http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=42682.

 

See also Warwickshire Museum Timetrailhttp://timetrail.warwickshire.gov.uk/detail.aspx?monuid=WA102 and http://timetrail.warwickshire.gov.uk/detail.aspx?monuid=WA103.

 

William Dargue 11.10.2011