St Mary the Virgin – History

The Parish Church of St. Mary The Virgin dates from the early years of the 14th century. The design of the windows and the mouldings round the top of the pillars point to a time just before 1348 when the Black Death swept the country. However, the church was not then ‘finished’. Like many old buildings it has been changed and altered, through the centuries, to suit different needs and fashions.
The impressive clerestory windows were added in the 15th century and are said to be among the finest in the County. Inside the church, above the Chancel Arch, the line of the original pitched roof can be clearly seen. The ‘new’ windows must have brought about a dramatic change in the feel of the interior by giving a greater sense of light and space. The screen that would once have separated the nave from the chancel, dividing the secular activities of the nave from the sacred activities of the chancel and sanctuary, was removed at the Reformation (1540); part of it now forms a backing for the altar. With the removal of the screens from churches there arose a need to prevent dogs profaning the altar. Altar Rails, with narrowly spaced posts to stop dogs squeezing through, were the answer to this particular problem. The altar rails in Badby date from the early 18th century. The organ chamber and vestry is a relatively modern construction and before it was built the north aisle would have ended with a wall rather than the arch that now leads through to the vestry. The Piscina (a bowl used for ceremonial washing) built into the half pillar here, indicates that there used to be an altar against this wall, probably dedicated to the saint whose figure would have stood in the niche nearby in the north wall. Very close to the niche is a square recess which used to be an aumbry, a safe for the reserved sacrament, the consecrated bread and wine kept from the mass or holy communion.
About midway along the wall of the north aisle is a blocked up door. Many churches have doors in this position, now often blocked up.These doors were generally supposed to have been used at funerals. The body was brought in through this door for the service and out through the south door for burial, thus symbolising the dead person’s journey through life (that is, through the church).
The original tower of the church, which had a spire, collapsed in 1705 and was rebuilt in 1709. The church, both interior and exterior, was much restored in 1880 by E.F. Law. Most of the tie beam roof timbers, the tower arch, the stained glass in the chancel, south aisle and west tower, and organ chamber date from the nineteenth century. An interesting exception to the late date of most of the glass can be found in the east window of the north wall of the north aisle. Two portions of glass are heraldic shields; one is the Arms of Evesham Abbey and the other the Royal Arms of England between the reign of Henry IV and Elizabeth I. The other portion of glass is a roundel displaying an Abbot’s mitre and the letters T.N., the initials of Thomas Newbould who was Abbot of Evesham in 1491. These portions of glass demonstrate the patronage of Badby by Evesham Abbey before the dissolution of the monasteries. The two shields were previously situated in the clerestory windows and the roundel in the war memorial window. All three were restored and placed in their present position in 1983.
Just as the church building has changed through the years so the worshipping congregation at Badby has changed, reflecting the changing social patterns of the village. A brief glance through the Baptism Register shows that the social make up of the village has altered quite dramatically during the last few decades. At the beginning of this century the predominant occupation of the parents of those being baptised was labourer, railway worker or servant. During the two world wars the occupations changed to the military titles of soldier, sailor or airman. It is only from the early 1970s to the present that the professional occupations, such as solicitor, company executive and doctor, begin to dominate.

The Parish of Badby, as a part of the Church of England, has also been part of the liturgical reforms of recent decades. The Parish Church now tries to offer a variety of styles of worship, using Rite ‘B’ of the Alternative Services Book 1980 for Holy Communion and the Book of Common Prayer for Evensong. The style varies from the quiet, reflective 8.00 am Holy Communion to the informal 11.00 am Family Service, together with the traditional 9.30 am Parish Communion and the 6.00 pm Evensong. Change has been evident too in the deployment of clergy to rural parishes such as Badby.
For many centuries Badby and Newnham have been linked as a single benefice. However, in this latter part of the twentieth century, with the reduction in number of those coming forward for ordination and increasingly stretched financial resources, Badby is now part of a benefice of five parishes: Badby with Newnham and Fawsley with Charwelton and Preston Capes.
Today the Church seeks to adapt to the changing needs of rural village life in 1993 whilst remaining true to the traditions of our Anglican past. The Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin, in its beautiful setting in the village, and in the people who worship there, seeks to be a landmark pointing to all that is good and beautiful and true; pointing to the God revealed in the face of Jesus Christ. (Much of the description of the building is taken from “An Archaeological Survey of The Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Badby” by the Rev. E. Murray Witham.)

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