A History of the Church of
Saint Peter, Elford
known Church at Elford was Norman, probably 12th century. A Norman arch extremely plain and massive survived in
a wall dividing the Nave from the South Aisle until the restoration of 1848; also a small doorway in the north wall of the
Nave, bricked up probably in the 18th century and a plain ugly window set in its place. It was not possible to preserve either in the then state of the Church.
Sir Thomas Arderne, companion in arms of Edward
the Black Prince, was Lord of Elford in the second half of the 14th century.
He restored and altered the Church in the style of that period.
century later Sir John Stanley added the South Aisle and Chantry dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The ancient roses and
portcullises surmounted by crowns in a window of the South Aisle signify the connection of the Stanleys with Henry VII, who
is supposed to have met secretly with Lord Stanley at Elford the night before the Battle of Bosworth and then persuaded Stanley
to desert Richard III and come over to his side.
The old Norman tower, probably unsafe, was replaced
by the present tower in 1598. The date can be clearly seen on the exterior. Elford
Church was spared much of the destruction so many churches suffered in the Civil War. Credit for this may be due to the Rector,
Thomas Dowley. Although a strong Puritan who managed to retain a living throughout the Commonwealth period, he was careful
to preserve the Church from plunder and desecration.
The present Church is largely the work of Francis
Paget (Rector 1835 - 1882). An early follower of the Oxford Movement, he was determined to completely restore the Church as
near as possible to Sir Thomas Ardernes Church of the 14th century. Over a period of years with the help and support
of the Hon. Mary Howard, lady of the Manor, this was accomplished, resulting in Elford Church as we know it today.
The monumental effigies are amongst the finest in the country. The oldest is that
of Sir Thomas Arderne and his wife Matilda. Next in time comes the effigy of Sir John Stanley, builder of the Chantry. Most
famous of all is the Stanley boy, grandson of Sir John, who is depicted holding the tennis ball that caused his death, at
which point the male line of the Elford Stanleys became extinct.
His sister Margery married William Staunton whose
unusual semi-effigial monument can be found in the north wall of the Sanctuary. It consists of two portions either side of
a stone Credence table - a head with torso and the lower part of the legs and feet. Originally all the effigies were painted
in reds, greens, blues and gold, the faces pink and hair brown. However this effigy is now alone in keeping these rich colours.
The last of the effigies in the Chantry is that
of Sir William Smythe and his two wives Anne Staunton and Lady Isabella Neville. Through his first wife, he inherited Elford;
his second wife was niece of Warwick, the Kingmaker and cousin of Richard III.
Among the post-restoration monuments to be noted
is that to William Brooke of Haselour, grandson of Lucy Huddlestone of Elford, dated 1641. This may be seen above the Staunton
effigy in the Sanctuary.
There are also many interesting memorials to members
of the Bowes and Howard families in the Chantry Chapel, where looking upwards the visitor will also see the Shields of the
Lords of the Manor from Saxon times beginning with Wulfric, Earl of Mercia and founder of Burton Abbey.
window at the west end of the south aisle, near the entrance door, is of Flemish glass said to come from the Convent of Herkenrood
near Liege, like the Lady Chapel of Lichfield Cathedral. These were preserved
from destruction by the armies of the French Revolution by being brought to England. The subject is the legendary Presentation
of the Virgin in the Temple.
Below it may be seen the old 15th century
door of the Church, made from local Oak and removed in the restorations of 1848.
There is a slab with foliated cross in a round-arched
recess in the north wall of the Nave. The date and the person commemorated are unknown but it is thought to be of late Decorated
The brasses in the Chancel floor commemorate former
rectors. These are 19th century restorations, the original brasses having disappeared long before. There are however
some genuinely old slabs to the memory of members of the family of Arderne in the floor at the East end of the Chantry Chapel
near where the altar formerly stood. The Churchyard contains several old tombstones with quaint inscriptions.
shields to: Queen Victoria; a Bishop of Lichfield (Dr. Lonsdale); Hon. Mary Howard;
Arms: Wulfric Spot, Earl of Mercia; the Abbey of Burton on Trent.
tiling copied as to colour from medieval examples by Messrs. Minton of Stoke-on-Trent.
by Wailes, Newcastle upon Tyne.
Reredos was the gift of Mr Herbert Minton and perhaps the work of Mintons factory. Its pattern is based on the back of St.
Dunstans shrine, Canterbury Cathedral and is probably unique.
scheme renewed in 1963.
texts: Calligraphy by Mr L Prince, London.
window glass by Wailes, restored 1962.
window glass by Ward and Hughes.
window by Clayton and Bell
window by Clayton and Bell.
window with the ancient roses and portcullises was originally in the Stanley Chapel.
Nave, Chancel and Porch rebuilt by
Anthony Salvin in 1848.
Stanley Chantry and South Aisle rebuilt
in 1870 by the design of George Edmund Street to that erected by Sir John Stanley in 1469.