Witley Court Church, also known as the Church of St. Michael and All Angels, shares a deep connection with Witley Court itself. While the church stands beside the grand ruins of Witley Court, it remains intact and is an architectural gem. Here’s a history of the Witley Court Church.
Origins and Early History:
- Medieval Foundations: A church has existed on the site since at least the 13th century. Early references indicate a church dedicated to St. Nicholas at Witley during medieval times.
- 17th Century: The church underwent significant alterations and expansions throughout its early history. The Foley family, prominent ironmasters who also owned Witley Court, were influential patrons of the church during this period.
Victorian Period and Grand Refurbishment:
- Early 19th Century: The church underwent several modifications. However, its most significant transformation occurred under the guidance of the 1st Earl of Dudley, who owned Witley Court during the mid-19th century.
- 1855-1861: The Earl commissioned the renowned architect Samuel Daukes to reconstruct and redecorate the church. During this period, the church was transformed into a masterpiece of Victorian art and craftsmanship.
- Features: The interiors of the church are a testament to opulence and fine craftsmanship. It houses an impressive collection of Italian artwork, including works by Antonio Bellucci. The ceiling is adorned with paintings illustrating the life of Christ. The church’s windows, made of stained glass, depict biblical scenes and are believed to be inspired by works of the Old Masters. Moreover, the church boasts an impressive organ built by Nicholson of Worcester.
Twentieth Century to Present:
- 1972: While Witley Court suffered neglect and a devastating fire in 1937, the Church of St. Michael and All Angels was more fortunate. It escaped significant damage and, in 1972, came under the protection of the Churches Conservation Trust.
- Today: The church remains a site of significant historical and architectural interest. While Witley Court stands as a testament to the ruins of grandeur, the church beside it remains a beacon of Victorian opulence and artistry. It continues to draw visitors due to its rich interiors and its deep connection to Witley Court’s illustrious past.
The Church of St. Michael and All Angels at Witley is a perfect example of how history, art, and architecture come together to tell a compelling story. It remains a vital part of Worcestershire’s heritage and serves as a link to the region’s glorious past.