Church History

Designed by Sir Christopher Wren & built by Walter Cheywynd

church availability calendar

In 1671 Walter Chetwynd petitioned the Archbishop of Canterbury to declare the existing Church derelict and to grant him permission to replace it with a new building entirely at his own charge. The old church possessed some stained glass in the form of armorial bearings which are contained in roundels in the side windows of the present church. Family tradition has it that the remains of the Chetwynd family were re-interred beneath the sanctuary of the present building.

The present church was built by Walter Chetwynd to a design attributed to Sir Christopher Wren. This is backed up by the existence of a drawing by Sir Christopher Wren labelled Mr Chetwynd’s Tower, now in a collection of Wren drawings in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Walter Chetwynd was a friend of Sir Christopher Wren and both were members of the Royal Society.

The foundations were laid in 1673 and the building was finished in 1676 and consecrated in August 1677 with the Bishop baptising a child, churching a woman, joining a couple in matrimony and burying another, all on the same day. The idea was to emphasise that this was a Parish Church, and not a private Chapel for the Chetwynd family.

Restoration of the church

A report on the Deathwatch Beetle infestation from Demaus Building Diagnostics following a ‘Microbore’ inspection of the roof beams suggested that ‘given the level of degradation found, it is possible that a sudden failure could occur’. Consequently the PCC were forced to close the church to ensure public safety.

The church was closed for four years following the discovery of death-watch beetle in the roof in 2000. The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) supported the restoration of the roof and helped to provide additional access for those with mobility difficulties. The Church re-opened to the public in 2004 enabling everyone to enjoy its wonderful heritage. A subsequent HLF ‘Your Heritage Grant’ contributed funds for the restoration and refurbishment of the bells. This provided innovative display facilities to demonstrate and promote the history and heritage of bells and bell ringing. This wonderful building continues to be a place of peace and prayer. You are welcome to come and discover this for yourself.

Ingestre is first mentioned as Gestreon in the Domesday Book of 1086. In 1256, the manor passed by marriage into the Chetwynd family. The first church known to have existed in the village was also built in the 13th century, and fragments of its mediaeval glass are preserved in two windows of the present church. The church contains several tombs and monuments of the Earls of Shrewsbury and other members of the Chetwynd, Talbot and Chetwynd-Talbot families.

By 1673, the mediaeval church was in poor repair and the lord of the manor of Ingestre, Walter Chetwynd, won permission from the Archbishop of Canterbury to build a new one. Sir Christopher Wren and Walter Chetwynd were both fellows of the Royal Society and were friends at Oxford University. An architectural drawing of “Mr Chetwynd’s tower” annotated in Wren’s handwriting is preserved in the Victoria and Albert Museum. The woodwork has been ascribed to Grinling Gibbons, another 17th century genius who worked for Wren at St Paul’s.

The church is approached through a western tower topped with a balustrade and four urns, similar to those of several of Wren’s London churches but without a steeple. The nave is square with four round-arched windows on each side and a matching upper row (clerestory) of round windows. Supported by three pairs of piers is the plaster ceiling inscribed with the names Gilbert and S Hand. This and the arched ceiling of the chancel are similar to those in several of Wren’s London churches. All the woodwork is of Flanders oak. The pulpit to the right has a tester or sounding board to reflect the preacher’s voice. Electric lighting came to Ingestre Church as early as 1886. A peal of six bells in the tower bears the arms and name of Walter Chetwynd.

Bells have been rung in Ingestre Church since early days. Prior to his death in 1692, Walter Chetwynd made provision in his will for a peal of six bells to be cast and installed in the church tower. They were cast by Henry Bagley and dated 1692. Subsequently, one bell was cracked and was the first bell to be recast by Mears and Stainbank in the Whitechapel Bell foundry after the war in 1945. These beautifully toned bells bearing the arms and initials of Walter Chetwynd are still in the bell tower today. An HLF ‘Your Heritage Grant’ in 2004 contributed funds towards for the restoration and refurbishment of the bells and bell tower and enabled us to promote the history and heritage of the church. The restored bells were re-hung in 2006. Innovative display facilities were also provided to demonstrate bell ringing.