St Mary’s Church Yard

Saint Mary’s Church

What a lovely welcome residents and visitors have as they approach the village of Colton from Morton Brook Bridge. Pedley’s Croft welcomes you with snowdrops and daffodils in the spring, and a Christmas welcome in the winter with fairy lights in the tree, and a star in the Bell Tower.

Past photographs show a very different view. The new rectory built in 1976, is sighted on the old rectory farmyard, and old sketches show a Tithe Barn, hayricks and out buildings. The church was surrounded by fields and hedgerows and not visible as it is today. Bellamour Way was very narrow, and rural, certainly not built for today’s traffic.

Pre 1920 Pedley’s Croft belonged to the Boughey Hall Estate. During the 1920’s this area was purchased by Capt. & Mrs Oldham, of Bellamour Lodge, to preserve it from development. In 1956 – 57 this area came into the possession of the Church.

In 1957 the new Rector, the Reverend A.S. Towlson thought that to be able to view the church from Moreton Brook Bridge, would add to the vista of the village. Discussion with the parishioners, eventually paved the way, to seek permission of the Diocese, who granted permission for this landscaping work to commence.

In August 1957 a detailed plan was produced of the gravestones situated around the North, South and West side of the church. The Faculty obtained from the Diocese, granted the moving of the headstones and replace them in the pavement, as seen today on the West side of the church. The Rev. Towlson was a man with vision and drive, and his vitality and enthusiasm for the task in hand drew people to volunteer. So much was the enthusiasm that spotlights set up in biscuit tins enabled some of the work force to work into the late evening. (What would Health and Safety say today?) A total of 90 gravestones were recorded, and moved. The plan today can be viewed in the County Record Office. The oldest stone dates from 1686, and lies against the south east wall of the church, it commemorates Samson Webb of the Old Wood. (The Old Wood being the Blithbury Road today).

Within the plan of opening up the Churchyard, Pedley’s Croft was included. As previously mentioned, Bellamour Way was a very narrow road, with poor visibility for oncoming traffic and pedestrians. To enable the road to be widened part of Pedley’s Croft had to be removed. The church drive from Moreton Brook Bridge was widened, a wall was removed, and some of the stones were used to line the boundary on the West and South Sides of the Churchyard. Remaining stones were placed along the border of the Church Garden, created by Rev. Towlson himself, between 1962 and 1964. This garden took in a small part of the Castle Croft including the animal water trough you see today. This garden is tended today by able and willing volunteers, and provides a place of peace and tranquillity. The new driveway, opposite the school, was cut through Pedley’s Croft to enable access to the Old Rectory and Church, when the brook was in flood.

The book ‘Colton History of a Staffordshire Village’ describes, and illustrates, the before and after, of this ambitious landscaping development.

On the junction of the path that runs by the Bell Tower, you can see a Victorian Oil Lamp base and iron work. This commemorates Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897. It was erected in the same position as the old Lych Gate that used to be the entrance to the Churchyard.

The closed burial ground was given by Thomas Berry Horsfall in 1875 and contains the Bellamour Monument which is made of Portland stone. Thomas Berry Horsfall is buried in the tomb on the South side of the church.

The exterior wall of the Chancel, on the North side, contains the tomb of the Revd. Abdial Seaton, as mentioned in the previous article on the windows.

On the South side of the Church, near the vestry door, is an opening or squint. This is known as a Leper window, and dates back to the medieval period. This was where the ‘unclean’ could witness the Elevation of the Host at mass.

The Church and grounds today greet you, and provide a lovely vista as you enter Colton. The grounds have become a wonderful nature reserve and welcome all to come and enjoy their beauty. Pedley’s Croft has become a focal meeting point for events in Colton.

Marie Havelock