Churches of St Kenelm

There are eight pre-reformation Anglican churches dedicated to St Kenelm, two of which are redundant. Most significant for the walks is the Clent church, which is the site in legend of the martyrdom. There are also two twentieth Century Catholic churches dedicated to Our Lady and St Kenelm. These are the churches in question:

  1. St Kenelm’s Church, Clent Hills, Worcestershire
  2. St Kenelm’s Church, Upton Snodsbury, Worcestershire
  3. St Kenelm’s Church, Clifton-upon-Teme, Worcestershire
  4. St Kenelm’s Church, Sapperton, Gloucestershire (redundant)
  5. St Kenelm’s Church, Alderley, Gloucestershire
  6. St Kenelm’s, Church, Minster Lovell, Oxfordshire
  7. St Kenelm’s Church, Enstone, Oxfordshire
  8. St Kenelm’s Church, Stanbridge, Dorset (redundant)
  9. Our Lady and St Kenelm, Halesowen
  10. Our Lady and St Kenelm, Stow-on-the-Wold

1. St Kenelm’s Church, Clent Hills, Worcestershire

This is probably the most important church of St Kenelm, and it is built close to or perhaps on the site when his martyrdom is supposed to have taken place. It used to be part of the village of Kenelmstow, which has now disappeared. The nearest settlement is now Romsley, about a mile away, and is serves as that village’s parish church.

The church dates from around 1150, and it was a Chapel of Ease for Halesowen Church and did not enjoy parish church status until as recently as 1841. It does however have several elaborate features, especially the elaborately sculpted tympanum, reflecting perhaps the church’s importance as a shrine of Kenelm. There is a blocked doorway in the south wall that once gave access to steps leading to a “healing spring” said to have been where Kenelm was killed, but now, rather prosaically, it is blocked off by a boiler house.

The nave and chancel are themselves contemporary with the Norman south door, so this is predominantly a Norman church, notwithstanding the Perpendicular style west tower, itself something of a rarity for such a chapel. The south porch with attractive carved timber spandrels above its arch probably dates from the same time as the tower. The tower itself is somewhat undersized but surprisingly elaborate and with an exceptional collection of large grotesques.

There are many features here relating to the Saint. There is the well, a statue in the Lychgate, a stained-glass window in the Arts and Crafts style illustrating his life, a trace of a medieval wall-painting and an ancient relief of a figure who may be Kenelm on the outside of the church. In addition, there is much surviving evidence about a lost cycle of wall-paintings.

Another, albeit more recent, Catholic Saint, John Henry Newman, used to make visits to St Kenelm’s Church when he was staying at the Birmingham Oratory’s retreat house at nearby Rednal.

2. St Kenelm’s Church, Upton Snodsbury, Worcestershire

Nearly all the present day church of St Kenelm dates from the late nineteenth century, although there is a south-side fourteenth century window as well as a late perpendicular doorway. Brief church guides record the legend that St Kenelm’s body rested here on its final journey, and suggests that a wooden church was present in those days on the site of the present structure. A medieval preaching cross stands in the churchyard.

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3. St Kenelm’s Church, Clifton-upon-Teme, Worcestershire

A sandstone church, mainly 13th century, the south aisle added in the 14th century. All much restored in the mid 19th century by Harvey Eginton (1843) and James Cranston (1851-53).

4. St Kenelm’s Church, Sapperton, Gloucestershire (redundant)

Sapperton parish church was founded in the early 12th century and has some traces remaining in north transept. The crossing tower and nave and chancel roofs are 14th century, and the church was largely rebuilt by Atkyns family at the beginning of the 18th century.

The church was made redundant and became the 350th church to be vested in The Churches Conservation Trust in 2016.

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5. St Kenelm’s Church, Alderley, Gloucestershire

The church, was largely rebuilt in Gothic style in 1802, but the tower dates back to c.1450. Marianne North, biologist and botanical artist, is buried in the churchyard. Immediately to the southwest of St Kenelm’s church is Alderley House, a 19th-century neo-Elizabethan manor house

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6. St Kenelm’s, Church, Minster Lovell, Oxfordshire

St Kenelm’s church in Minster Lovell is mainly 15th century, built on the foundations of an earlier priory minster. This explains the unusual cruciform shape with a central tower. The whole church is “almost entirely unaltered and has handsome details” (Pevsner). It is situated next to the ruins of Minster Lovell Hall.

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7. St Kenelm’s Church, Enstone, Oxfordshire

Enstone’s ancient parish church of St Kenelm was begun in the early 9th century, shortly after, according to legend, the date of his death Sometime around AD 820, less than a year after Kenelm’s death, a small church was built on this site and dedicated to St Kenelm by the Abbot of Winchcombe. The Saxon church was much smaller than the building we see today. In 1175 the Saxon building was extended by five bays to the west and with the addition of a south aisle. The finely-carved south doorway dates from this time.

A Lady Chapel was added around 1400 and the south aisle extended in 1420 to form a chapel. A second chapel was added in the 16th century, possibly to hold the tomb of an Abbot of Winchcombe. This chapel and tomb were destroyed during the English Civil War. The church underwent a major restoration in 1855, A magnificent set of mosaics illustrating the life of the Saint was added as recently as 2018 (see Images of St Kenelm). Link

8. St Kenelm’s Church, Stanbridge, Dorset (redundant)

The church is now redundant and was once a chapel used by the Dumpton boys prep school.It retains a Norman chancel that includes a nave, transepts and a south porch containing a tower and spire with four bells. To celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897, stained-glass windows, a lectern, a new font and a chalice were presented to the church by the local Squire.

Over the west door of the church is a 12th Century sculpture of an angel holding a book to his breast with his right hand, a cross in his left hand, and he is standing next to a giant butterfly, and it is alleged to be a representation of St Kenelm himself (see Images of St Kenelm) .

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9. Catholic Church – Our Lady and St Kenelm, Halesowen

A dual-purpose church and hall of the mid-1960s, cleverly planned to take advantage of its sloping site. It features an outstanding modern statue of St Kenelm (see Images of St Kenelm). It also runs a primary school with the name of St Kenelm.

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10. Catholic Church – Our Lady and St Kenelm, Stow-on-the-Wold

A Tudor-style building which was originally a Church of England school with school house. Acquired for Catholic use in the twentieth century, it has been completely refitted in recent times.

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