The Story of All Saints Parish Church

by Percy Thoresby Jones BA., published 1935

Very kindly donated by Paul Wakelam


The history of the manor of Sedgley can be traced back to the period just preceding the Norman Conquest, but definite proof of the existence of a church within the manor or of parochial organization is not forthcoming till a century later. The relevant entry in Domesday Book runs thus: ‘ William FitzAnculph holds Segleslei of the King. Algar Earl of Mercia held it [i.e., before the Conquest]. . . . In demesne [held by the lord personally] there is one carucate and 3 servants and 40 villans, with a priest.' The last words are ambiguous. The presence of a priest did not necessarily imply the existence of a parish church: the priest might have been a domestic chaplain who conducted Divine Service in a chapel within the lord's castle. But, as we shall see, more than one of FitzAnculph's successors were men who respected the Church, and it may be safely concluded that early in the Norman period the manor became a parish, and a church was built to serve its spiritual needs; whether this was the first Sedgley Church or replaced a rude Saxon place of worship there is no means of telling.

On the death of FitzAnculph without surviving male issue the manor of Sedgley passed into the hands of Fulk Paganel, a Norman knight who had married FitzAnculph's daughter and heiress. Fulk was succeeded by Ralph Paganel, who was a prominent partisan of Queen Maud and garrisoned his castle of Dudley in her support. Ralph had intended to found a monastery in the neigh­bourhood, and this pious purpose was carried out by his son Gervase, who in 1160 founded a Cluniac priory at Dudley as a cell to the Abbey of Much Wenlock in Salop and endowed it with various lands, tithes and other properties which included most of the greater or rectorial tithes of Sedgley and the advowson of the vicarage (i.e. the right of appointing vicars). The priory, as also Dudley Castle , was within the boundaries of Sedgley parish. Perhaps the names of Dean Street and Old Priory Street in Sedgley, and of Abbey Road a thoroughfare in Lower Gornal are legacies of those far-off days.

Here it may he noticed that the parish of Sedgley, as originally constituted -i.e., before its partition­ing began with the formation of the parish of Coseley in 1832 - was co-extensive with the manor. It was of unusual size, being no less than 7 miles across in one direction. The manor was enlarged during the Norman period by the inclusion of several outlying 'wastes' or uncultivated moor-lands, which seems to indicate that the formation of the parish was subsequent to the Conquest. The parish church may have been built and endowed by Ralph Paganel, who was evidently a man of religious sympathies. Unfortunately the de­scriptions of the old church (see p.9) are too meagre to afford indications of its date.

From the time of the foundation of Dudley Priory down to the Reformation the vicars of Sedgley were appointed by the priors, in most cases from among the monks of the priory. The names of four fourteenth-century vicars are known: Walter, Richard Dymmoke, Richard de Penne and Henry Netherpenne. In 1517 Much Wenlock Abbey, with its dependencies, which included Dudley Priory, was dissolved, and the endowments in their entirety were acquired by the Duke of Northumberland, who belonged to a collateral branch of the Suttons of Dudley, and had already acquired much of their Dudley property by pur­chase.

Mention of this great family brings us back to the history of Sedgley manor.

On the death of Gervase Paganel without male issue in 1194 it passed to Ralph, son of John de Somery, Baron of Dudley, who had married Get vase ' s sister Hawyse. In 1321, 011 the death of the last male de Somery, the barony of Dudley passed to the Suttons by the marriage of the surviving heiress, Margaret de Somery, to John de Sutton.

Three centuries later, in 1643, the properties came into possession of the Ward family, the present holders, by a similar combination of circumstances - the extinction of the male line of the Suttons and the marriage of the heiress, Frances Sutton, to Humble, first Baron Ward. The property alienated to the Duke of Northumberland had been restored to the main branch of the Sutton family after his attainder and execution in 1553 (he had been the prime mover in the Lady Jane Grey plot) ; and though the manor of Sedgley with its appurtenances including the rectorial tithes and advowson) were held from 1600 to 1672 by the family of Parkes, to whom it had passed by purchase, it came back to the Wards, the successors of the Suttons, through the marriage of Anne Parkes to William, son of' Humble Ward (see above) and grandfather of the first Viscount Dudley and Ward.

The original Norman church of Sedgley was, we may reasonably conjecture, altered and enlarged from time to time during subsequent periods. It is known from old parish records that a gallery was added in 1660, and the sole remaining portion of the ancient church - the tower and spire - is late Decorated in style and could not have been erected before the latter part of the fourteenth century.

The account given of the fabric of the ancient church in Shaw's History of Staffordshire is extraordinarily meagre, and offers no clue to period of building. The passage may be quoted in full:

The Church of All Saints, Sedgley, is an ancient structure of rough stone, having a good lofty spire, which from its situation on the sum­mit of the hill is a fine object to the country for many miles around, and on the west side picturesquely grouped with rich foliage. The inside contains nothing remarkable. '

During the reign of Edward VI inventories were made of bells, communion plate, ornaments and vestments belonging to parish churches throughout the kingdom, the more valuable of such posses­sions being usually confiscated for the Crown. From the Sedgley inventory (1552) we learn that the church then possessed four bells, a chalice and paten of silver, a latten cross with cloth cover, a pair of latten censers [latten was an alloy resembling pale brass] and certain rich vestments, namely ‘ii copes, one of crymeson velvet, the other of grene satten of bruges [satin made at Bruges] and v chesabells [chasubles] one of grene velvet and the other four of dyvars coloures'

The church was allowed to retain the chalice and paten and the bells.

The old church had accommodation for 400 worshippers, but this consisted entirely of appropriated pews. During its demolition in 1828 the pews were removed and their woodwork, much of which was panelled and carved, used as wains­coting for mansions occupied or owned by the Earl of Dudley. One such panel, afterwards acquired by a member of the Homer family, has the following carved inscription: ‘This sete set up at the proper cost and charges of Edward Homer anno Domini 1626'

In the old church the Homers had a mortuary chapel situated on the east side of the tower: their family vault remains in situ close by. Other relics of the ancient build­ing are two seventeenth-century sepulchral tablets of iron with incised inscriptions, now placed on the walls of the tower vestry. One commemorates Elizabeth, wife of Thomas Bradley of the Wood, and their daughter Elizabeth, wife of Edward Parkhouse, of Nether Gornal the other, the same Edward, whose surname is here spelt Persehouse (the more usual form). Descendants of these families were churchwardens in 1720; the inscription on one of the bells set up then mentions Peeter Parshous, Esq., and Mr. Thomas Bradly.

By the beginning of the nineteenth century the ancient church had become so dilapidated that there was danger of its collapsing. As a result of consultations between the vicar, the church-wardens and the leading parishioners, a Church Rebuilding Fund was opened in 1826, and met with an immediate and generous response. Later on, John William, fourth Viscount Dudley and Ward (afterwards first Earl of Dudley), the principal landowner of the parish, offered to rebuild the church on a larger scale at his own sole cost. This munificent offer was gratefully accepted; the money subscribed, together with £500 given by the Incorporated Church Building Society, was diverted to the erection of a chapel-of-ease (the present Christ Church ) at Coseley, which did not become an independent parish till a few years later.

During the years 1828 and 1829 the ancient church of All Saints, Sedgley, was demolished with the exception of the tower and spire, and the present church erected. The total cost, £11,000, was defrayed by the Earl of Dudley, who also renovated and enlarged the vicarage house and increased the stipend of the living by handing over certain of the rectorial tithes. The dedica­tion ceremony and the reopening of the church took place in July 1829.

During the years 1828 and 1829 the ancient church of All Saints , Sedgley, was demolished with the exception of the tower and spire, and the present church erected. The total cost, £11,000, was defrayed by the Earl of Dudley, who also renovated and enlarged the vicarage house and increased the stipend of the living by handing over certain of the rectorial tithes. The dedication ceremony and the reopening of the church took place in July 1829.

The present church is built of stone from the neighbouring Gornal quarries; the style is the Decorated Gothic, and considering that architectural taste was at a low ebb in the first half of the nineteenth century, the result is far from unsatisfactory. In plan the building comprises clerestoried nave of six bays, with shallow chancel; north and south aisles, west porch and south tower with spire. The chancel is not structurally distinguished from the nave, but is formed by the projection of the latter beyond the aisles. The tower adjoins the south aisle on the south side, its base being utilized as a vestry. As first constructed, the church had galleries over the aisles as well as at the west end; the new building was more than twice the size of the old, having accommodation for over 1,300 worshippers, and more than half the seats were free and unappropriated. In 1883 the side galleries were removed and the church reseated, at a cost of £1,032.

The exterior walls are crowned by coped parapets with crocketed pinnacles at the corners. In the north aisle wall are six narrow windows with transoms after the Perpendicular fashion; each window has a dripstone terminated by plain shields and is flanked by buttresses. On the south side the windows are fewer, owing to the presence of the tower. At the west end of the nave is a shallow porch; notice the inscription over the doorway.

Above the porch is a large window giving light to the west gallery, which still remains. In the east wall of the chancel is a window of several lights with tracery and transoms; the tablet below it may have been intended for the Dudley coat of arms. In the east walls of the aisles are canopied niches.

The tower, retained from the old church, dates from the end of the fourteenth century, but received a new casing in 1829. It is of three stages, and terminates in an embattled parapet with crocketed pinnacles at the angles. The third stage is pierced by louvres; on the faces of the stage below are dials of a clock erected by Taylor & Son of Oxford , in 1829. The tower is strengthened by angle buttresses terminating in crocketed finials level with the louvres. From within the parapet rises an octagonal spire, the proportions of which are somewhat marred by the presence of traceried gablets at its base, opposite the angles of the tower parapet.

The interior of the church owes much of its beauty to the graceful nave arcades, which consist of pointed arches of several orders rising from clustered columns and supporting a clerestory and a groined roof excellent for its period. The western bays of the aisles are partitioned off, that of the north aisle being occupied by the gallery staircase, that of the south aisle serving as a vestry. A small space between the staircase and the west doorway is utilized as a baptistery.

After the reopening of the church in 1829 certain improvements were carried out by a parochial church committee, who collected funds which they spent on installing a new organ, filling the east window with stained glass and adding lanterns to the aisle roofs.

In 191 8 the east bay of the south aisle was renovated and furnished as a memorial Lady Chapel at a cost of £250; here a stained glass window ann an inscribed marble tablet have been erected commemoration of parishioners who fell in the Great War. Five windows of the north aisle are filled with stained glass erected to members of local families.

The tower contains a peal of eight bells, six of which were erected by Joseph Smith of Edgbaston in 1720, the two other in 1829 by Taylor & Son, of Oxford . There is a tradition that bell No. 4 is one of the four pre-Reformation bells recast. All have inscriptions, the most interesting being that of the largest (No. 8): ‘hodie mihi cras tibi' (to-day for me, to-morrow for thee), perhaps a reference to its use as a passing bell.

The earlier volumes of the Parish Registers, which commence in 1558, contain many quaint entries, and certain unusual features. Thus in the records of seventeenth-century burials, nicknames are frequently added to names, as, for instance,

John Bradley of Gospel End, commonly called Squire John

Edward Fellow of Sedgley, commonly called the Giant

Thomas Tomlinson, commonly called Dobbin (was this a relation of Dud Dudley's mother?)

Other nicknames recorded are Old Yeoman, Old Suttle, Chapman John, Thin Ears, and Madge Morelegg. Some of the actual names are queer enough —''Wynefred, wife of William Gaylady', Gryphin Grubons of Modenhill.' Here too, we find names of obsolete callings, such as Peruke-maker, Snuffer-maker, Grubber, Patten-ring maker, Iron-drawer, Sand Pounder, Dassel Maker, Chape Filer, (a Dassel a form of Dorsal was one of a pair of panniers slung over a horse for carrying coal; a chape was part of a metal buckle).

Deaths by violence or accident are frequently recorded in the earlier period. Instances are:

‘Francis Marsh of Wolverhampton, Showmaker [shoemaker], slayne in the Dudley fild as he came from Dudley fair, 26 July, 1600 '

‘Thomas Hayes murdered Alehouse 12 June 1645'

‘A souldyer slaine in the olde park was buried 4 June 1644'

‘Old Mary Payton of Over Gornal, widow, who was most barbarously murthered by her grandson, young Richard Moseley, 18 October 1706'

From 1650 onwards many of the burial entries relate to men ‘kild in the colepits ', a typical one is, ‘Andrew Nicklin, collier, and Edward Robbinson, collier, were both killed by the damp [choke-damp] in a colt-pit, 1685' .

Sedgley is connected a romantic way with the history of the relics of St. Chad, the great apostle of Mercia , who converted that heathen kingdom to Christianity, and became the first bishop of Mercia. After his death in 672 he was buried in the church of the humble monastery he had built at Lichfield . By the beginning of the fourteenth century the present noble cathedral had been completed, and the relics of the saint enshrined in a costly jewelled reliquary of gold. After the Reformation a pious Catholic priest, Arthur Dudley, managed to save a portion of the relics from the fury of the iconoclasts, and to convey them to two ladies of the Dudley family dwelling in Sedgley parish; fearing to lose them, the ladies gave them into the keeping of two brothers, Hodshead by name, who occupied a house on the site of St. Chad's Well (in the garden of the present Woodsetton Lodge), and here they remained for many years. Later they passed into the possession of other Catholic families, and finally in 1837 they were enshrined over the high altar of St. Chad 's Roman Catholic Cathedral, Birmingham.


1184. Ricardus.

I227. Henry.

1332. Walter.

1367. Richard Dymmoke.

1369. Richard de Penne.

1377. Henry de Netherpenne.

1406. Richard de Boffrey.


1529. George Lee.

1529. Gervase Bagshawe, B.D.

1534. Richard Mannsfield.

1558. Thomas Allcocke.

I 572. Richard Browne.

1625. Thomas Hickmans.

1625. William Pinner, D.D., Cantab.

1628. William Parks, M.A., Cantab.

1656. Joseph Eccleshall, B.A., Cantab., ejected

1662: he remained in the parish to found the first Nonconformist Chapel therein.

1663. Thomas Janns.

1698. William Janns.

1724. Richard Groome.

1777. Joseph Cartwright.

1779. John Best, M.A., Oxon.

1826. Charles Girdlestone, M.A., Oxon.

1837. William Lewis, M.A.

1870. The Hon. Adelbert Anson, M.A., Oxon., afterwards first Bishop of Qu'Appelle.

1876. William Griffiths, M.A., Durham .

1888 Thomas G. Swindell.

1930. Harold Marley, M.A.. Cantab.

George Body, afterwards the famous Canon Missioner of Durham, and one of the Instigators of Parochial Missions, was curate of Sedgley from 1865 to 1867.



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