IronbridgeSt Bartholomew's Benthall
National Trust
Shropshire TF12 5RX
In the grounds of the National Trust Property of Benthall Hall in Shropshire, England is the extraordinary looking little church of St Bartholomew’s, Benthall. Built 1667-68, it is a rare and well-preserved church of the Restoration period.
It retains a wealth of fittings from the 17th and 18th centuries including a timber gallery, wooden box pews and a bowed communion rail: the pews are a particularly notable survival.
A Vestry was added in 1884 and a porch and stair turret added in 1893. The bellcote is timber-framed with a pyramid roof and weathervane. At the west end, a lean-to porch shelters the main entrance. The door, moved from the original south doorway, is studded and retains its strap hinges.
This 17th century church closed to regular worship in 2007 and is no longer available for services of baptism or marriage. This is a pity because this writer can think of no more delightful a place to celebrate such an important event. However, all is not lost because the National Trust has taken this unique little church into its care.
St Bartholomew’s is a country church set in a walled churchyard situated on a plateau above the gorge of the River Severn. It is on the site of an earlier chapel, dedicated to St Brice, which was destroyed during the Civil War. It is a mixture of periods and materials but cohesion has been achieved by covering most of the building in white render. As you face the church you will see a square sundial above the original round headed (now blocked) south doorway.
The Bee-Hive
A most unusual feature of this church was the presence of a bee-hive in the church. Under the sundial is a 17th century carved stone lion’s head. The mouth of this lion used to be the external entry into the beehive. An inscription on the wall below the lion’s head is from Judges Ch.14 and reads “Out of the strong came forth sweetness”. The honey was given or sold to help the poor of the community. The bees have now departed and moved to hives in other parts of the Estate.
This connection with bees could be the reason for the church’s dedication to St Bartholomew, the Patron Saint of bees.
Church Interior
The walls are plastered, except for the porch and stairs which are white-painted brick. The austerity is relieved by a wooden hammerbeam roof; the timber gallery built in 1667; the 18th century panelled box pews; the Jacobean carved double-decker pulpit and the bowed communion rail with turned balusters.
Climb the stairs to the gallery for a close look at the hammerbeam roof structure and see how the weight of the roof is spread across arched braces set on beams. The arches were shaped off site and re-assembled at the church. On the timbers in the balcony one can see the numbers used to match up the pieces (4-4, 6-6, 7-7, etc.)
The nave and porch have 19th century floor tiles, with some medieval tiles by the original south door and old grave slabs are let into the central aisle floor. The chancel is paved with medieval tiles and graves slabs with a date range 1738-1767.
The 17th century font has a broad round stem and narrow bowl. More modern, but no less beautiful, are 70 hand stitched kneelers which were made in 1967 to celebrate the tercentenary date of the church.
On the back wall there is a most important plaque of grey slate. It commends the extended family of James F. Benthall (1883-1942). The plaque in the church reads: “They saved the home of their ancestors from destruction in 1958, they gave it to the nation 1958” “Tende bene Et Alta Pete”.
As we explore this quaint church, the picturesque Elizabethan Benthall Hall and their beautiful gardens, we should also pause and thank the Benthall family for their gift.
Disabled Access
Wheelchair accessible
Visitor parking
When you leave the church, walk along the pavement past the sundial and you will find a flat cast iron grave slab lying in the ground; have a look at it, it is in fine condition and a testimonial to a man called Eustace Beard. Why would we be interested in this grave? Eustace was a trowman (one who hauled the Severn Trows upstream, before the use of horse power).
Eustace’s life was a hard one, he died at the age of 61 and never lived long enough to see the great Iron Bridge, but his grave has suffered little since his death in 1761. The design has anchors and rope at the corners of the grave signifying his profession.
St Bartholomew’s was a member of The Parishes of Brosley with Benthall, Jackfield, Linley with Wiley and Barrow. It is now under the control of the National Trust and visitors are once again welcome.
Contact & Further Information
There is a further very interesting website which describes the church is detail with photos   Web:   Northern Vicar's Blog
Getting There
1 mile (1.6 km) north-west of Broseley (B4375), 4 miles (6.4 km)north-east of Much Wenlock, 1 mile (1.6 km)south-west of Ironbridge Parking: free, 100 yards (.09 km).  
Google Map - Brenthall Hall

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