St Chad's Church - Lichfield

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St Chad's Church is in the cathedral city of Lichfield, Staffordshire, England and can be dated back to the early 12th Century. Prior to that details are unknown or are sketchy and not confirmed in documentation.

There are no written records of what materials the first St Chad's church building was built from when Chad came to Lichfield as Bishop of Lichfield. The original structure could have been made from stone but more likely it was constructed of wood with a reed roof.

There are records that show an early monastery was still in existence in the 12th Century and some of the oldest parts of the church today can certainly be dated back to the time of this monastery.

12th and 13th Century

The first known stone structure was a Norman church, however it looked completely different to the way it looks today. The overall ground plan is basically the same but the nave and aisles were covered by a steep single pitched roof.

The pitched roof had five gables which had a round-head window on the north and south facing ends. In the 13th Century the roof was replaced with one less steep and the gables were no longer used, however, on the south wall of the church there is some physical evidence of this that can still be seen today.

During the 14th Century bells were starting to be installed in churches which meant towers had to be built to house the bells and associated equipment. The tower at St Chad's started to be built in the late 13th Century and was finally finished in the early 14th Century. There are four bells in the tower at St Chad's. When you go inside the bell tower, you can see evidence of weathering on the west wall as it was originally an outside wall.

In the grounds to the west side of the church, is an ancient well. The well was built over what was a spring. This spring is thought to be where Chad baptised his converts to Christianity.

15th and 16th Century

The church, on completion of its bell tower, then remained more or less unaltered for the next three hundred years. A new font was fitted inside and the same font is still in use today.

During the reformation period of the 16th Century a lot of the church's assets were confiscated.

In 1642 the civil war began and Lichfield became a frontline in the war, there being three sieges of the city and its cathedral. St Chad's Church became a garrison for the parliamentary soldiers and the building was used to store equipment and other items for use in the battle that was waging on the north-east side of the cathedral. As a result the church suffered a great deal of damage during the battles and by the end of the fighting most of the roof had been destroyed. Later restoration work would find musket balls lodged in the roof beams and the walls.

When Charles II was returned to the throne in 1660 churches were being restored all over the country and St Chad's was no exception. The remains of the roof were removed and replaced with a separate roof over the nave and the aisles. A red brick clerestory was built and also had its own roof.

The 19th and 20th Century

In 1812 further restoration work and other alterations were performed at St Chad's. The north aisle section was considered unsafe for use, so much so that a separate gallery was built to house the congregation.

In 1840 the decision was taken to demolish the north aisle and rebuild, thus enabling the removal of the gallery when the rebuilt north aisle was completed in 1852. Further restoration work took place on the windows in 1862 which also included adding a vestry on the north side.

The boundaries of the churchyard were defined by building a combination of walls and a railing fence. Other work carried out inside during the 20th Century included such things as installing new pews, oak panelling on the ceiling and a number of new windows were fitted.

St Chad's Today

There are still ongoing restoration works needed to maintain the structure and interior of the church. Various alterations, though minor, have been made recently such as a visitor's porch being built, pews removed and replaced with chairs to make more space for visitors. At the time of writing there is a fundraising effort underway to raise money to carry out more preservation work on the stonework. It is a popular church and is, despite the trend for falling congregations, still very busy.

The well in the church grounds is now under cover and the area around has been cleared and landscaped to allow visitors easier access.

Visitors to St Chad's shrine at Lichfield Cathedral tend to visit St Chad's Well as part of their 'pilgrimage' to Lichfield.

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