IronbridgeSt Giles Church
Wenlock Road
Shropshire TF12 5BW
In the rural hamlet of Barrow there is a little church with the county’s only surviving Saxon chancel. St Giles’ is one of the most complete early churches surviving in Shropshire, England.
It has been suggested that the chancel could date from the 8th century, but it is more likely to be from the 11th. The church has early Norman architectural elements in the nave and the tower, although the upper stage of the tower dates from the 18th century. The south porch was added in 1705.
Although located in Shropshire, the Broseley Parishes belong to the Church of England Diocese of Hereford. The parishes include the little town of Broseley, the riverside community of Jackfield and the rural area to the south with its settlements of Barrow, Linley and Willey.
Only three of the Broseley Parishes churches operate full time and, despite its great age, St Giles’ is the thriving third church.
Every day during daylight hours
2nd & 4th Sundays of the month at: 09:15
Everyone is welcome to visit the church as a worshipper, as a tourist interested in architecture and history, or as an audience participant at one of the many live music concerts held in the church. Visitor parking is available.
St. Giles’ was founded on the estates of one of England’s earliest monasteries, Wenlock Abbey (later Priory). The 8th century inhabitants of the Abbey used the building as a small stone oratory, or ‘cell’, for solitary prayer.
St Giles is a Grade I listed building. The chancel and chancel arch are the oldest parts and the 8th century visitors would, largely, recognise it today. The Normans ‘upgraded’ it by building a priest door in the chancel, unfortunately cutting into an earlier window to do so. In the Victorian restoration, the east wall was rebuilt; so it is not entirely Saxon today but, certainly enough for it to be recognised.
A list of the incumbents shows that the first recorded incumbent was presented by Wenlock Priory in 1277. During Henry VIII’s Reformation, Wenlock’s last cellarer was pensioned off and appointed as Barrow’s priest. During Cromwell’s Commonwealth, many ordained clergy were unlawfully evicted from their homes and parishes, their posts being taken by so-called ‘intruding’ ministers.
One such ‘intruder’ was Richard Knott who arrived at Barrow in 1642. He stayed until the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, went away, then re-appeared two years later. He must have been fairly popular as he stayed on for another fifteen years, during which time the congregation numbered about 120!
Nothing is known of the original Saxon nave but, it appeared to be too narrow for the Normans who rebuilt it around 1100 - we can still clearly see by how much. We can also see the difference in the Saxon and Norman masonry with the latter looking quite rough compared to the careful masonry from the Saxon period.
The chancel boasts the oldest window but, there are also three original Norman windows in the nave – one in the south wall and two in the north. The north transept was built on a medieval plinth by a local gentleman in 1688.
The arch between the tower and the nave was the original west entrance. From inside the tower we can see the beautiful ornamental tympanum (between the door lintel and the arch). It is quite rare but, sadly, scarred when electricity was originally installed during the twentieth century.
The tower was added no later than 1100 so it is Norman. The brick upper third and low pyramidal roof was added at the same time as the brick south porch and new entrance were built, in 1705.
The church was restored in 1851–52 by G. E. Street. In 1894–95 Ewan Christian built the north chapel to replace a chapel dating from 1688, and also rebuilt the east wall of the chancel.
Some of the furnishings in the church are also very old. The plain tub font on a cylindrical stem is probably 12th century. The timber drum pulpit with traceried panel is also old. Even the timber poor box is c1690. On the unplastered walls are a number of memorials dating from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.
In 1882 the churchyard was closed to burials and parishioners are now buried in the Barrow Cemetery in Wenlock Road. The old churchyard is worth wandering around for it has some interesting tombs.
Although, the whereabouts of his grave is unknown, Thomas Turner is buried here: Turner was instrumental in expanding the famous Caughley China Works (where the origins of Coalport China began - see article on Coalport China Museum in this website).
John Rose
One of Turner’s apprentices, a local lad called John Rose, went on to establish the China Works at Coalport, and we do know where his tomb is. John Rose died in 1841 and he lies in a fine Neoclassical chest tomb.
Tom Moody
Perhaps not so eminent but no less well known and loved was the 18th century Fox Hunter and Whipper-In, Tom Moody. His grave can be found to the right of the church entrance.
For thirty years Tom Moody worked for Lord Forrester as "Whipper-In" at Willey Hall. He had a macabre fear of being buried alive. Came the time Tom felt his end was near, he asked to see his master, Lord Forester, to leave with him one last request. He requested a call to awake before he was laid six feet under:
"When I am dead, I wish to be buried at Barrow under the Yew trees, in the churchyard there. And to be carried to the grave by six earth stoppers and my old horse, with my whip, boots, spurs and cap slung on each side of the saddle. And the brush of the last fox when I was up at the death at the side of the forelock, and two couples of old hounds to follow me to the grave as mourners. When I am laid in the grave, let three halloos be given over to me and then, if I don't lift my head, you may fairly conclude that Tom Moody is dead."
Old Tom was mistaken in his premonition. His request was followed to the letter. Tom Moody did not rise at the three halloos. His grave, covered by a slab, carries the inscription: "Tom Moody. Buried Nov. 19th 1796".
He may not have risen then, but the ghost of Tom Moody, his faithful hound at his side, is still often seen.
This writer is indebted to Shropshire Tourism for this information.
Photo Gallery
The Broseley Parishes’ Rector hopes that you will enjoy the images of St Giles’ on these links
Contact & Further Information
Telephone   +44 (0)1952 88 2647  (The Rector) 
Mail   This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Google Map - St Giles Church, Barrow

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