Is there any church in Worcestershire in a finer setting than Bayton? The view when you stand beside the tower is superb, a sweeping, unspoilt panorama streaching down to the Rhea Valley and then up to the Clee Hills and the Welsh Hills beyond. The slender spire of Cleobury Church rises from a fold in the hills and there are glimpses of the 16th Century Rhea Manor and the 18th Century elegance of Glebe House, Mawley Hall and Shakenhurst. The churchyard itself is beautiful and peaceful; one feels that Thomas Gray should have written his elegy here rather than at Stoke Poges!
St Bartholomew‘s dates from the mid 12th Centuary. This can be deduced from the fine drumshaped font with its ropemoulding, scrolls and longribbed leaves, the dogtoothed, rounded Norman arch over the South doorway and some Norman masonry. The original church was much smaller, the tower at the West end and the Chancel at the East being added later.
Sadly most of the preI9th Century features disappeaed during heavy "restoration" in 1818 and again in 1905 when the chancel was entirely rebuilt. Those who have survived are three massive oak tiebeams in the roof, the jambs of a blocked window in the South wall of the nave and some Jacobean panels incorporated into the pulpit and choir stalls. A photograph taken in 1905, before the restoration, shows thickly plastered walls and ceiling, box pews and a westend gallery. It is possible that the rounded plastered chancel arch covers the remains of a Norman one underneath.
The heraldic lozenge over the vestry door is the hatchment of Edmund MeyseyWigley. M.P. for Worcester (d. 1821). It was he who financed the building of the tower in 1818. This replaced a timbered bellturret similar to that of Mamble. The belfry houses four bells. The earliest is the treble, 15th C., and is inscribed with the words. "SANCTA NECOLAEORAPRONOBIS" "Saint Nicholas pray for us". The other three are of the l7th C. There is a "scratch" sundial on the South wall of the tower
Charles Wigley Wickstead of Shakenhurst (1837 1906) was an other generous benefactor of the church. as was his wife, Emily. who was also a patroness of Bayton School, The beautiful east window of the chancel was erected to their memory in 1919 by Mrs Sybil Gurney.
There are records of 17th and 18th Century memorials in the church and churchyard. but the only one to survive is the curious rectangular stone against the South chancel wall with the strange latin inscription: a memorial to T .M. who "ABIIT NON OBIIT" ("departed not died" on 3rd September. 1654.
Memorials inside the church include brass tablets to Charles Wigley Wickstead and his sister Many Elizabeth. who entered the Convent of St. John the Baptist at Clewer and John Cawood, Vicar. 1874 94. The war memorial on the nave North wall commemorates the 12 men who fell in the 1914 18 War. to which was later added Eric Montague who was killed in the 2nd World War. The names are set in a fine mosaic design beneath the figure of St. George. Of equal interest is the wood panel in the porch recording the 47 who fought and survived. It was sculpted by Florence Mole who also carved the floral designs on the reredos (1912) and (possibly) those on the lectern.
The church is as pleasing inside as is the prospect outside; the feeling of space, the impressive timber roof, the openwork chancel screen and the delightful East window depicting the Risen Christ in Glory from whom rays of light fall upon the church itself, suggest not only a sense of history but a place where, for villager and visitor alike, God is to be found.
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