Church of King Charles the Martyr

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We were attracted by the unusual name and added the church to the list.

After the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the church was privately owned by the Cropley family. The present church was built during the Commonwealth by Thomas Cropley and dedicated to King Charles the Martyr. This didn’t go down well with Parliament and Thomas was imprisoned and had his good confiscated. He died in 1659, never witnessing the Restoration of the Monarchy. His body was interred in the nave. The church still holds a patronal service on 30th January every year to remember the beheading of Charles I.

Ownership of the church passed to the Ray family. It was rebuilt again in the 18thC by them and their coat of arms is above the outside of the east window.

Inside it is a good example of a Georgian church with box pews and three decker pulpit. The lowest desk was used by the parish clerk who lead the responses to the priest’s invocations. The reading desk in the middle was used for the gospel. The pulpit at the top was for the sermon when the priest towered above his flock peaching hell fire and damnation.

Although the church was passed to the diocese in the 20thC it still retains the feel of a private church.

Shelland was once a much larger settlement around a large village green. Now there are only a few scattered houses. It felt unfriendly and we felt we were being watched. There are notices everywhere asking you not to park. Even the church car park was roped off. We felt visitors were not encouraged. We eventually parked on the triangular junction at the edge of the village.

The church is hidden by yew trees with churchyard round. It is a rather plain plain building with plaster rendered nave and chancel with a small square bell turret at the west end and small north porch.

Inside it is a simple Georgian interior with golden varnished box pews and three decker pulpit. The pegs on the south wall above the box pews were for the gentry to hang their wigs in hot weather.

Nave walls are painted in pale pink with a white barrel ceiling with red beams. The chancel is pale green with a blue ceiling.

The chancel is unusual as it has patterned carpet round the base of the walls. This continues behind the altar where there are open wooden arches forming a reredos.

At the back of the church is the 11thC font, the only survivor from the pre-Reformation church with its Georgian wood lid crowned with a pineapple, a sign of wealth and status. The Royal Coat of Arms is on the west wall.

The church still has its 19thC barrel organ which plays 36 tunes and is still used. In 2006, a new barrel was made with modern tunes, the first barrel to be pinned in the UK for 150 years.

This church is very different to the rest of the medieval wool churches and from that perspective was worth visiting. It is open daily 10-3.30.

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