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English Church Architecture -



UPPER ARLEY, St. Peter (SO 764 805)     (August 2010)

(Bedrock:  Carboniferous Westphalian Series, Halesowen Formation)


This is a striking building from a distance, partly constructed of shrill red sandstone and prominently situated on the top of a hill.  (See the photograph above, taken from the southeast.)  It is rather less notable at close quarters for it soon becomes evident that much has been restored - the unavoidable consequence, no doubt, of the sandstone’s lack of durability - while the chancel, in particular, appears to have been almost wholly renewed.  The church consists of a W. tower, a short nave with a N. aisle and shallow S. porch, and a chancel with a S. organ chamber and N. chapel, of which the latter is simply a continuation of the aisle.  The nave, porch, chancel and organ chamber are embattled, with trefoil-cusping in the merlons of the first two.  The very broad tower (seen also on the left, from the south) rises in four stages to a parapet, supported by diagonal buttresses.  A large polygonal stair turret projects from the east end of the S. wall, lit by small rectangular openings of all periods and none, but the bell-openings are late seventeenth or eighteenth century work, as is evident from their round arches with prominent keystones.  No other features of the tower entirely fit with these, however, even though the impression they create together is not convincingly mediaeval either.  The very crude, pointed tower arch formed of a single unmoulded order, defies confident dating, but its width has allowed the area behind to be set out as an extension of the nave. 


The nave clerestory is Tudor and formed on each side of two pairs of three-light windows with square heads, supermullioned tracery, and a complete absence of cusping.  Windows elsewhere in the building include a number with (usually restored) Decorated tracery, including two, two-light reticulated ones in the N. aisle.    


The porch inner doorway is entirely renewed but set within a blocked Gothic arch.  Inside the church, the principal feature is the Decorated three-bay aisle arcade (illustrated at the foot of the page, from the southwest), composed of three double-flat chamfered arches springing from quatrefoil piers with narrow secondary shafts in the diagonals.  The chancel arch may be early Perpendicular (i.e. twenty or thirty years later) to judge by the sunk quadrant mouldings it carries (see Appendix 2), of which the inner is supported on semicircular shafts.  Further east, except in the N. chapel (although including the two-bay arcade between the chancel and the chapel), the church now appears to be entirely Victorian. 


The chancel does contains several large, old monuments, however, the most important of which is the tomb-chest beneath the chapel arcade, featuring a recumbent effigy of a knight (shown right) lying cross-legged on top, his feet on a lion and his hands folded in prayer. The two almost identical wall monuments on the south side of the chancel, featuring draped urns, are signed by Joseph Stephens the Younger (1808 - ?), a prolific but unremarkable sculptor (Gunnis). They are dedicated to George Arthur Annesley, Viscount Valentia, and George Annesley of Mountnorris, both of whom died in 1841. Immediately west, the somewhat larger seventeenth monument is dedicated to Henry Lyttleton (d. 1693).  The church contains no old furniture.  The circular font is dated 1848.