|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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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
Staffs. A.D. 1539. Overpenn.
John Bache, abul
hath salet splentes and byll.
shall provyde xx arrowes.
John Mere shall
provyde splentes and dager.
hathe a bow and arrowes.
abul and hath a bowe.
hath a salet, bow and arrowes.
shall provyde gorget and swyrd.
Roger Baker abul
and hath a salet, splentes and gorget.
William Pakyngton and John James, senior, shall provyde
From State papers, printed in the
reign of Henry VIII.:
Church Ornaments taken in Staffs. in 6 E. VI. (1552).
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
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
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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