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Landmark for many centuries.

Byline: Justine Halifax Staff Reporter justine.halifax@trinitymirror.com

STANDING at nearly 500 feet above sea level, St Matthew's Church in Walsall, with its 170-foot towering spire, has been a landmark of the town's skyline since ancient times.

And it's inside this Grade II* Listed church, at the top of the curving High Street, that you will find the oldest man-made structure in the town of Walsall, as well as other hidden gems.

For it's inner crypt, with its beautiful ribbed, sandstone, vaulted ceiling, dates back to the 13th century - it has even been suggested that it's Norman doorway could date from the previous century.

Originally dedicated to All Saints, it was in the 18th century that it was rededicated to St Matthew.

The earliest surviving reference to the church dates from around 1220, when a grant was given by William Ruffus to the Abbey of St Mary in Halesowen, for the patronage of the church. This grant was also confirmed by Henry III in 1258.

There are also further links to Halesowen Abbey for the remarkable misericords that are a feature of the choir house are believed to have been rescued from the abbey, whose abbot was the patron of Walsall church, at the time of the Dissolution.

The misericords - sometimes named mercy seats - are the small wooden shelves found on the underside of a folding seat in a church.

The ones here are regarded as the "finest set of medieval misericords to be found in Staffordshire" and one of the "great treasures" of the church.

And for several hundred years, the vicars at the church were appointed from the priests at the abbey.

Other impressive historical features of St Matthew's are the "well preserved" 15th century carvings in the chancel said to "represent medieval wood carving at its best", and it's 15th century octagonal font, with an 18th century alabaster rim and lead lining.

But the church's oldest effigy dates back to 1399 and is of Sir Roger Hillary of Bescot, who was a 14th century knight, and its peal of 12 bells, includes four which date back to 1553.

The church has been altered, rebuilt, redecorated and extended several times over the years, and in 1945 the patronage was transferred to the Bishop of Lichfield.

The graveyard is known to contain the names of many well-known Walsall families.

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Pictures (above and below) of the church's stunning interior |

Impressive sight: St Matthew's Church in Walsall stands at nearly 500 feet above sea level

The view up to St Matthew's Church in recent years |

High Street climbing to St Matthew's Church was described by Sir John Betjamin in 1959 as 'possibly one of the most attractive streets in England

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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Jul 30, 2015
Words:452
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