The following article by James gale appeared in the May 1909 edition of the Wolverhampton Journal.

Of the early history of this interesting building very little is recorded. That a church stood on the same spot in Norman times is very probable, although no trace of this is remaining in the present structure. To the following period of English architecture, the Early English of the thirteenth century, can be ascribed to some portion of the present church. Probably the oldest and least restored part is the wall of the north aisle, with its narrow and deeply splayed lancet windows. The west end of the south aisle wall belongs to the same date, but this has been rebuilt, although much of the old stonework of the windows has been preserved.

Penn Church from the West.

The nave consists of five bays, the easternmost two of which belong to the Decorated Period, the octagonal piers and deeply-moulded capitals being characteristic of this style. The remaining three bays westward are later in date, and were built at a time when the decline of Gothic architecture had set in. This may be noticed in the much shallower mouldings of the capitals. At this time (probably during the 15th century) the tower at the west end of the nave was built.

The font may be said to belong to the Perpendicular Period of the 15th century. The pedestal is undoubtedly of that date, although the bowl may be a later substitute for the original.

Looking West.

From this point onward restorations and rebuilding only can be chronicled, for in the year 1765 the tower having become insecure was encased in brick, as it now remains. Thirty five years later (in 1799) the chancel was rebuilt of brick, at the joint expense of Mrs. Ellen Purshouse and Richard Bayley March, heirs of Thomas Bradney, Esq.

Again in 1870 a further rebuilding and general restoration took place. The chancel, which was small and in a bad state of repair, was once more rebuilt in the Early English style of the 13th century. At the same time the organ chamber and the south chancel aisle were added, and the chancel arch reconstructed, on each side of which, at the termination of the hood moulding, were carved portraits of Bishops Lonsdale and Selwyn, during whose episcopates the rebuilding was commenced and finished. Some of the bells date from 1500.

Before leaving the structural history of the church it will not be out of place to reprint a cutting from Penn Parish Magazine of July, 1897. “An explanation has been asked for by many, of the inscription under the clock given to the parish at the Jubilee of the Queen, 10 years since, by W. H. Phillips, Esq. The Tablet has been given by the Vicar.” The English of it runs as follows : “For the common use of this parish, this Clock was given as a gift in the Jubilee of Victoria, Queen and Empress, on the 20th of July, in the 50th year. 1887.”

The last line needs some explanation. A.D. (Anno Domini, "in the year of our Lord"). Kal. XI. I.: the eleventh day before the Kalend of July, i.e., the first of July; and as the Romans in their Calendar reckoned onward after the Ides, the 15th of the month, to the first of the succeeding month, including the day of reckoning, hence the eleventh day. The Latin inscription has been chosen both in Tower and on the Screen, to harmonise with the most ancient portions of the Church, either the two bays in the West End of the North Transept, or the old foot of the Parish Cross in the churchyard, where the Gospel was preached some many centuries ago. So many people are misled as to the date of our Church by a stupid Lozenge over the Church door, with a date on it which only refers to the bricking up of the Tower, and we conclude of the corresponding hideosity of the Vestry.

The font.

Probably through an oversight, the oldest portion of the church which is here given as the west end of the north transept should read the north aisle, as there are no transepts. The register of baptisms dates from 1569; marriages 1570; and burials 1571. No tombs or monuments of earlier date than the 18th century now remain, the probability being that at the 1765 restoration these were destroyed.

Extracts from Shaw's "History of Staffordshire" published in 1801:

Dr. Wilkes says, the name of Penne must be of British extraction. Upper Penne stands upon a hill and though now a small place was once of far greater extent and power, for many of the neighbouring villages owe suit and service to this court, and came here to choose their constables yearly.

In Over Penn, Thos. Bradney, Esq., has completed a good house, designed by his predecessors, Dr. Sedgwick and his wife, for a hospital. The situation near the road to Stourbridge very pleasant, though open to the north. It is now the residence of Mrs. Ellen Purshouse, daughter and co-heir of Mr. Bradney (Penn Hall as plate).

When hearth money was collected in 1660, the constable of Over Penn paid for 54 hearths £5 8s. At the general election for the county in 1747 there were 28 freeholders who voted.

In the village school is inscribed: "This charity school being for the use of the poor children of the parish of Penn to buy them bibles, together with an estate left by the Rev. Mr. Charles Wynn, late Vicar of Penn, was built Anno Domini 1714, and to the above charity is payable annually £10 from the estates belonging to the late Thomas Bradney, Esq."

John Hopkys was Vicar, the 3rd of Henry VI. Charles Wynn Vicar about 1712. John Harrison, Vicar of Penn, died at Lichfield. January 23rd, 1793, and was succeeded by Robert Ellison, A.M., late Fellow of King's College, Cambridge. About 1796 William Grove, of Penn Wood, gave a handsome piece of Communion plate.

The base of a Saxon Cross.

On the south side of the church are the remains of an ancient stone cross made into a sundial.

In the church a tablet. thus: “Ried Evans late of pen left by will after his wife's dece's 2? to be payd every year and lead out in bread 2d. loaves and given to poor hous houlders of the parish of pen as well as them that have constant pay 20s. on crifmas day and 20s. on new year's day if the same is not truly paid or his late dwelling houfe or any of the bilding sufford to go out of repare the church wardens are in full power to enter on all for the ufe of the Poor. 1734”. This marble tablet is still affixed to the west wall of the north aisle.

Extracts from the Salt Archaeological Society's Publication:

Muster Roll, Staffs. A.D. 1539. Overpenn.

John Bache, abul hath salet splentes and byll.

Ric Bradeley shall provyde xx arrowes.

John Mere shall provyde splentes and dager.

William Bache hathe a bow and arrowes.

William Bradeley abul and hath a bowe.

William Coxe hath a salet, bow and arrowes.

Nicholas Parker shall provyde gorget and swyrd.

Roger Baker abul and hath a salet, splentes and gorget.

John James, William Pakyngton and John James, senior, shall provyde a gesturn.

From State papers, printed in the reign of Henry VIII.:

Inventory of Church Ornaments taken in Staffs. in 6 E. VI. (1552). Overpen.

Fyrst one challes of sylver with a paten; ij vestments, one of greene turk satten and the other of red crewel; one cope of red satten of burges; ij brason candlestykes; iiij belles.

The church today.

These inventories enable us to form some idea of the beauty and costliness of the ornaments with which the devotion and piety of the parishioners endowed their churches, and we must remember that they were not confiscated on the ground of any change of ritual, but merely for pecuniary reasons to benefit the Royal Exchequer.

In the autumn and winter of 1552-3 no fewer than four Commissions were appointed with this one object of spoilation, although in the business of plunder the capacity of the Crown officials had been far distanced hitherto by private peculation.

The halls of country houses were hung with altar cloths; tables and beds were quilted with copes; the knights and squires drank their claret out of chalices and watered their horses in marble coffins.

A brief history of the church can be found on the St. Barts website at

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