Tuesday, May 24, 2011

St Michael, St Michaels, near Tenbury Wells, Worcestershire

I had only the two targets for the day, Brockhampton and St Michaels, although as time progressed I wondered if we were going to get here! Often included in books under Tenbury Wells, but it is about two miles from there. It is a new build of 1854-56 by Henry Woodyer, built as a parish church and collegiate chapel for the adjoining Choral School founded at the same time (closed 1985 and now a school). Only one walk of the cloisters was contructed and the tower was never constructed. You would never know from the outside that a tower was planned unless the NW porch was to be continued up as a tower. However the nave does appear to be proportionally short and the west bay is narrower than the other three. Whilst Aidan went to track down the key (entry is via a small door where the cloister adjoins) Mr Neil and I explored the exterior and I almost got flattened by two different cars whizzing by "out of nowhere" although my looking back at the building sizing up a shot probably contributed! The proch has two four light windows with stained glass, a lavish arrangement for what are rally exterior windows as the porch has no external doors. These are in fact the only windows in the church not by Hardman, here being by Lavers and Westlake.

Armed with the key we entered into a sacristy which had a little passage with lancet windows behind the organ into the church. These windows are all filled with fragments of medieval stained glass but with little recognisable features, mainly patterned. Entering into the church my jaw fell open. The church is very lofty and has a wooden groined vault. The glass glowed, and the west window is superb. Turning around and looking towards the apsidal chancel, my mouth remained open - not sure how many times I said WOW!
There was one more surprise too, almost hidden from view until you enter the north transept is the font with an amazing floor to roof wooden cover. The south transept is completely filled by the organ which has four manuals. Again the apse windows have wonderful glass with tall angel figures, one restored by Aidan apparently. The fittings are all of high quality, even the benches have pierced backs. To have not seen the interior would mean missing one of the best victorian interiors in Britain - and I am sure that happens to many visitors who arrive here and try the porch door, missing the smaller entrance "around the back". Many more would be put of by getting a key, but not the committed churchcrawlers. Come here, and pray the keyholder is at home!

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