In a tiny hamlet right on the Welsh border, is a very special church, black and white both inside and out, and wonderfully picturesque and rustic looking. There has been a place of Christian worship in Melverley for about a 1000 years. In 1141 Ordericus Vitalis mentions a ‘wooden chapel on the banks of the river above Shrewsbury’. In 1401 this church was burnt by the Welsh chieftain Owain Glyndwr. St Peter's was rebuilt in 1406 from local oak.
Many, if not most, ancient churches in the UK started off as simple wooden structures.
Through time, and increased wealth of the church and communities most were replaced with stone buildings, which in turn were altered or added to.
Wooden churches are now rare in the UK and offer unique insights into our heritage, whether they have survived for centuries or are relatively new.
The pretty white church of St James in Charlestown, Baildon is a late 19th century painted tongue and groove timber building. It was moved to Yorkshire from Essex by traction engine in 1904. ST JAMES, BAILDON
The simple country church of St Andrew in the Essex village of Greensted is a remarkable Saxon survivor. Built of timber shortly before the Norman invasion, it is the oldest wooden church in the world and the oldest timber building in Europe. It is a simple building, with a rectangular nave, small chancel, and a wooden tower. The nave is built of 51 upright logs, split vertically in Scandinavian stave construction, and set side by side with a thin fillet of wood inserted to make a weatherproof seal.
This pretty timber framed church stands to the west of the village of Great Altcar, Lancashire. Built in 1878-79, St Michael & All Angels, Altcar has been described by Pevsner as ‘an utterly charming church’.
The Norwegian Church in Cardiff Bay is a poignant reminder of when Cardiff was one of the greatest sea ports in the World. Norwegian ships transported Scandinavian timber to South Wales for use as pit props in the coal mines, and would then export coal back to Norway. The church was founded in 1868 by Herman Lunde of Oslo. It is the oldest church in Britain founded by the Norwegian Seamen’s Mission and provided Scandinavian newspapers, magazines and facilities for writing letters home.
The pretty church of All Saints, Sidington stands on a hill overlooking idyllic countryside in Gloucestershire. It has a 14th century timber frame, filled with wattle and daub plaster. It had a thatched roof for much of its life, but sometime in the 1700s it was decided to reroof the building with heavy flagstone slabs, causing the long walls to bulge. They were encased in a brick ‘sandwich’ in 1816.
Seen from the lane St Mary, Sisland is a lovely Norfolk thatched brick building, whitewashed except for where the windows and doors are picked out in red brick. There are heavy buttresses, which seem quite unnecessary, and a wooden bell tower rises at the east end.
This wonderful ancient church was founded in 1343. The timber frame of the nave is original, with the tower being added around 1540, and the current chancel is a 19th century replacement. Visitors can't miss the wonderful medieval woodwork, and medieval doom painting on the west wall, stone effigies of the founders and original font.
St Oswald’s is at the end of ‘The Cobbles’, a traditional cobbled road. It is a wonderful, much loved, black and white timber framed building, set is a beautiful churchyard. It is close to the Bells of Peover Pub, and enjoys a spectacular back drop of open fields and the Peover Eye river.
After standing for nearly 500 years from the Tudors to present day, this church remains as a symbol of the religious life of Denton, physically linking with the town's medieval past and local families who founded the chapel. It is known locally as Th'owd Peg, because of the wooden pegs used to join the timbers. ST LAWRENCE, DENTON