Ludlow is a ‘new town’ which did not exist at the time the Domesday Book
was compiled in 1086. It grew up around the new castle which was completed
somewhere around 1095. There was a church here in the 12th century but the
oldest parts of the building as we know it date from 1199. St Laurence's is
notable for its large size and it is remarkable to note that the groundplan of
the church of 1199 was almost identical to that of the present church. Built in
the Transitional style, the lower parts of several of the walls remain exactly
as they were built at that time.
St Laurence, Ludlow
In the early 14th century the south porch was added
with a parvise room above. This is one of only three hexagonal porches in England.
About the same time the north aisle was rebuilt in the early Decorated "Geometric" style and the
windows remain from that period. The glass is all 19th and 20th century except for three coats of
arms that are original. These commemorate Theobald de Verdon (died 1316) and his two wives Maud Mortimer
(died 1315) and Elizabeth de Clare who survived him and went on to be widowed for a third time
before founding Clare College in Cambridge.
It was in the 15th century that the church took on its present appearance. The aisle walls were
heightened and a new nave arcade erected in the Perpendicular style with clerestory above. A new tower
was built over the crossing on massive, yet graceful, pillars and the Chancel was extended and
brightly illuminated by huge windows.
The Annunciation windowSt Laurence's was lucky to escape significant damage after the Protestant
Reformation and during the Civil War. While the north and south aisles of the nave contain no old
glass except the three ancient coats of arms, the windows in the eastern part of the church appear
largely as they would have been when they were first glazed around 1450 or even earlier. In the
Lady Chapel on the south side is a Jesse window in the Decorated ‘Reticulated’ style of the 14th century.
On the north side is the chapel of the Palmers' Guild with quite magnificent windows including the
‘Legend of the Palmers’ and a beautiful ‘Annunciation’. The Great East Window above the high altar
in the chancel tells the story of St Laurence who met his end by being barbecued on a metal grill.
References to St Laurence are scattered around the church where he can be easily identified by the
grill he carries. The other windows in the chancel are equally significant, displaying a wide variety
of holy men and women from the Old and New Testaments. There are even windows showing people
disobeying some of the ten commandments.
Tapster misericordOf a similar age to the glass and equally important are the carved oak choir stalls.
The misericords are particularly fine and interesting and repay careful study. Their subjects vary
considerably and include political ones: with carvings of the badges of Richard II, Henry VI and
Richard, Duke of York. Richard of York owned Ludlow castle and lost his life fighting against
the supporters of the Lancastrian Henry VI at Wakefield in 1460. His ‘falcon and fetterlock’
badge appears in several places in the church. Some of the misericords have a religious message
while others show charming scenes of daily life. Not to be missed are the bench ends, which include
beautiful representations of the ‘Lord of Misrule’ and a ‘Boy Bishop’. Perhaps the most lovely of
all is the ‘Pieta’ - Mary holding the dead body of Christ carved perhaps 40-50 years before Michelangelo's
famous sculpture in St Peters.
We have produced 4 short videos about the history of the Ludlow Palmers. You can see them HERE