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The first effective preaching of Christianity in the old Kingdom of Mercia was due mainly to the work of St Chad the first Bishop of Lichfield, who died in 670AD. By 680AD, Wulfhere and his daughter St Werburgh, had succeeded in founding communities at nearby Stone and Trentham. It is likely that one of the earliest places for preaching and worship was on the site of the first parish church at Stoke, since it was on the the old Roman Rykneild Street from Rocester to Chesterton.
In the churchyard there still stands the shaft of a Saxon preaching cross, which probably dates from the 8th Century, and was discovered on the site by the then sexton in 1876 whilst digging a grave. This is decorated on three sides in Celtic designs, including a double row of knot work of the shape now known as the "Staffordshire Knot". Additional later carving into the two stone fragments indicates that they were probably used to form a lintel to one of the doorways in the original church. All the marks are clearly visible on the stones.
The first permanent church was built in Saxon times. Little is known About it except that it was of stone and replaced an earlier wooden building. The font from this church , after being taken away and used as a flower pot for almost a century, was eventually reinstated in 1932 and has been used for baptisms ever since.
The second church was Norman, built about 1150. A chancel was added around 1370 (there is a picture of this church in the South isle of the present church). Remains of this church may still be seen in the churchyard, where two arches of the original stonework have been restored on the exact site: and the place where the high altar stood is railed off and marked with an inscription. Fortunately, the altar slab was preserved and was restored to the Parish Church more than 50years ago, where it now forms the high altar.
Features of the Parish Church
The magnificent Binns organ, donated in 1921 by Mr Henry Johnson, in memory of Reginald TavernorJohnson and Charles Challinor Watson who were two men killed in the First World War, was re-built by Walkers and the console moved in 1970 to its present position.
Above the pulpit hangs a 17th Century Spanish Crucifix mounted on Genoese velvet, which was given by Mr Ronald Copeland. The reredos was given in 1886 by Sir Lovelace Stamer, Stokes most famous Rector: the side pieces were added later by parishioners in memory of his work as Rector. He also introduced the unique encaustic tiles, popular at the time but subsequently went out of fashion, that lines the walls of the nave.
The Church and Churchyard contain many memorials to early master potters and their families. A table to William Adams is on the South nave wall and, in the chancel, are memorials to Josiah Spode, William Copeland and Josiah Wedgwood. A small plaque at the back of the Church commemorates the life and contributions to local industry of Josiah Twyford, the famous sanitary potter.
Since 1832, the tower has contained a sonorous peal of eight bells, the heaviest being just over one ton. Theses were re-cast in 1971.
The frontal on the Lady chapel has been created by Juliet Hemingray, one of Britain's best known church fabric designers - she produced all the vestments
for the enthronement of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The Present Church
The foundation stones of the present church were laid in 1826 and the church was consecrated by the Bishop of Lichfield four years later. It was erected on glebe land adjacent to the old churchyard "raised so as to place it out of reach of floods to which it was liable"! Built of Hollington Stone, it cost upwards of £14,000 and was equipped with "an organ, a new peal of bells and a clock", according to a chronicler of 1830. The same chronicler described at great length, and in glowing terms, the new edifice from "the chancel's elegant groined ceiling" and the "massive buttresses surmounted with crocketted pinnacles" to the "New Gas Furnace" which was to revolutionise the Potteries' atmosphere! In 1926, however, Sir Giles Gilbert Scott described the church as an extremely bad example of Gothic style, worthy only of demolition. It should be said, however, that Sir Giles was currently designing a new cathedral to replace it!
Walking through the churchyard you will not only find historic remnants such as the Saxon preaching cross and the remains of the old church you will also find the Millenium Seat. Local children were asked to design a mosaic to depict scenes of local influences - sporting,theatre and industrial - and hopefully which reflects the diverse cultural community which exists in the city.
Stoke Minster facilities include:
- Dogs restrictions
- In town/city centre
- Of historic, literary or architectural interest
- Outdoor event/attraction
- Smoking not permitted
- Guided tours available for groups
- Guided tours available for individuals
- Educational Visits Accepted
- Suitable for families
- Picnic site
- Parking (charge)
- Groups accepted
- Open outside normal opening times by appointment
Stoke Minster accessibility includes:
- Designated parking within about 50 metres of main entrance
- Drop-off point for guests immediately outside main entrance
- Effective lighting throughout attraction for visually impaired visitors
- Hearing loop system available in appropriate areas, eg ticket counter