St Giles Church
Although there was an earlier church on this site, the present buiding dates from the early 14th Century, the time of King Edward III and when the Black Death was ravaging England. It is one of several ancient parish churches in the Birmingham area but in those times this area was completely rural and Birmingham itself just a small settlement a few hours walk away.
The church is right next to the Old Rectory Farm but the access is a short walk away along the lane (Ragley Drive) or through the lychgate on Church Road.
The main part of the church, the nave, and the original roof date from the about 1330. Like most old churches it has been enlarged over time and within a hundred years later the north aisle had been added, the nave extended and the tower built. The attractive wooden porch was added in tudor times.
The Victorian’s had a passion for ‘improving’ old churches and St Giles' was substantially rebuilt in 1867 and in particular the chancel was replaced but much of the rest of the original church survives.
An unusual feature rarely found in churches is a pentagonal (5-sided) window in the north aisle.
Inside there is a 15 cenury font and memorials to the most famous rector Thomas Bray.
Reverand Thomas Bray (1658-1730)
The church's most famous rector was very much involved in organising the Anglican Church in the american colony of Maryland and in particular founding numerous libraries to improve the knowledge of the clergy. His work led the founding of two important church societies, SPCK and USPG.
Although he visited the colony in 1699/1700 he continued as a priest at Sheldon and lived on the Old Rectory from 1690 to 1706. Check out Wikipedia for more about Thomas Bray.
The church is not usually open except for services so if you want to pay a visit check the church's website for access arrangements. There is also a helpful guide to both the church and graveyard. Even if the church is closed you can wander around the graveyard. Particulalrly note the different sorts of windows which have been added over the years and the very old gravestone next to the main door with its tudor porch.
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