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English Church Architecture -



ALBERBURY, St. Michael & All Angels (SJ 358 144)     (September 2015)

(Bedrock:  Permian System, undifferentiated sandstones)


This is a very large church for so small a village - tall and heavily built in all parts, and formed of a chancel with a cross-gabled N. vestry, a nave with a S. porch, a very broad N. tower (shown left, from the east), and an independently-gabled S. chapel alongside the nave's three eastern bays. The masonry is composed of an admixture of conglomerate and soft Permian New Red Sandstone which has predictably required much repair and renewal.  Indeed, the chancel has been almost completely reconstructed and is lit today by tall, precision cut lancets, while most of the other windows have restored three-light intersecting tracery with the notable exception of one mediaeval window at the eastern end of the chapel S. wall, with a very worn, ungainly form of cruciform lobing (illustrated below right), presumably the product of late Decorated times, c. 1330-50.  The very large chapel E. window has been blocked but the W. wall has a rounded triangular window with complex Decorated tracery high up in the gable, and the southwest angle of the nave is supported by an odd flying buttress of indeterminate age, springing across from an otherwise detached pier.  (See the photograph at the bottom of the page.) However, the most interesting work to be seen externally is the late thirteenth century N. tower, adjoining the nave towards the east and today only accessible through an exterior E. door.  Rising in three stages to a saddleback roof, supported by clasping buttresses with additional shallow buttresses in the centres of the N. and E. walls, it is lit by lancets in the first stage, smaller cinquefoil-cusped lancets in the second and trefoil-cusped Y-traceried bell-openings in the third, and additional E. and W. windows beneath the gables of the saddleback roof, which display a larger, uncusped Y-tracery that is surely by another hand. Indeed, the style of these last is actually earlier than that of the bell-openings below (say, c. 1260 compared to c. 1300), which might suggest the cusped openings are replacements.


The church interior is very poorly lit but the chapel arcade can be seen through the gloom to be formed of three arches bearing two recessed flat chamfers, supported on piers composed of four major and four minor shafts with fillets to the former.  The chapel has a trefoil-cusped piscina in the east end of the S. wall and a cinquefoil-cusped tomb canopy a little to the west, containing a tomb chest decorated with ball flower.  The chancel arch is double-flat-chamfered and dies into the jambs.  The best work is to be seen in the excellent nave roof (left), which Pevsner considered "one of the grandest in Shropshire" :  moulded purlins at the 1/5, 2/5, 3/5 and 4/5 positions up the pitch, intersect the equally spaced moulded principal and common rafters to form squares which are filled with wind-braces both the right and wrong way up, producing a repeating pattern of quatrefoils.  The chancel was reconstructed by Thomas Jones of Chester in 1847 (church guide by David George in 1988) so presumably the chancel roof is his.  The nave benches are Victorian in their present form but carved panels in the backs of many probably represent re-used seventeenth century work.


Finally, the church contains a number of wall monuments in the chapel and on the N. wall of the nave, commemorating members of the Leighton and Lyster families.  One of the latter, dedicated to Richard Lyster (d. 1766) and his wife is signed by "F. Pritchard" while another was ascribed by Rupert Gunnis (Dictionary of British Sculptors: 1660 - 1851, pub. The Abbey Library, 1951) to van der Hagen of Shrewsbury (c. 1732 - 1790).  They display a profusion of well-fed putti but are not especially remarkable otherwise.