St Mary's originated as a collegiate church. It was founded by King Edgar in the 10th century and remained a ‘Royal Peculiar’ until signed over to the Diocese by Queen Victoria. By at least the 13th century, it was served by a dean and nine canons. Excavations in 1864 revealed the presence of two earlier Saxon churches with a nave and an apsidal chancel. Building of the present church began in the 12th century, consisting of a nave without aisles, and a cruciform east end. A large west tower was added, and in about the 1170s the transepts were altered to provide altars for the canons. Construction of the aisles followed, first the south aisle with a porch. Work on the north aisle continued until the 1220s. The crossing was then rebuilt. In the early to mid 13th century the transepts were raised, and the chancel was lengthened and raised. During the 14th century the Trinity Chapel was added to the south of the chancel. In the following century, possibly about 1477 when a bequest was made to the church, further improvements took place, including the construction of a clerestory on the nave and chancel, which replaced the tower at the crossing and the chancel vault. At this time the transept roofs were reduced in height, a large east window was inserted, and larger windows were added to the aisles. It is possible that the spire was added to the west tower at this time. The church escaped any significant damage during the suppression of the college in 1548, or during the Civil War.
Did you know?
Along the south side exterior walls you will see peculiar vertical scratch marks in the stone work; this is where the medieval archers of the town sharpened their arrow heads prior to archery practise over the river.
St Mary’s has interpretation panels, friendly stewards, and the 1403 café all guaranteed to provide a fantastic visit. Opening times Monday – Saturday 10.00am - 4.00pm. Local car parking is available plus a ‘park & ride’ system, and local railway service.
Why not take a walk around the churches in town with our Three Wonders to Wander Through leaflet, download here.
Tel: 01743 357006
St Mary's Street
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