History of the Church
The ecclesiastical parish of Ladbroke covers the civil parishes of Ladbroke, Hodnell, Chapel Ascote and Wills Pastures. The church building is Grade I listed, dating from the 12th century with many later additions and alterations.
The chancel, nave and tower date from the 13th and 14th centuries whilst the porch is comparatively modern and the “butlers pantry” was added in the late 20th century. The use of contrasting layers of stone on the tower adds further interest to the building’s fine appearance and is complemented by the peaceful churchyard and quintessentially English setting.
There are many other features worthy of note, both inside and outside the church. On the south side of the chancel are some fine seats for the clergy (sedilia) with beautifully carved canopies. There is also a curious low window in the chancel, which is sometimes known as a “Lepers Window”, although it is doubtful if this name reflects its real purpose. On the outside wall of the south aisle there appears to be traces of Mass Dials, used to notify times of services. On the south side of the nave is the figure of a priest, said to be John de Pavalay, Rector 1298-1303, which was found under the chancel floor at the restoration.
There are also some interesting remnants from St Helen’s church, Radbourne, which no longer exists. The carved heads inside the porch were brought from Radbourne. They were found in a farmhouse at Radbourne which was being demolished at the turn of the century. The presence of these corbels and the configuration of the roof timbers indicated that the farmhouse was in the fact the old church.
The church was completely restored and refurbished in 1876 by Sir Gilbert Scott at a cost of £3,000, leaving the building in a sound condition for a hundred years. Then the tower became unsafe to such an extent that the bells could not be rung until the spire and the top of the tower had been dismantled and rebuilt. This work was completed in 1993 with funds collected from many sources. The five bells, which date from the 15th to 18th centuries, are rung regularly. The chiming and striking tower clock keeps excellent time. The churchyard is in regular use as a burial ground and for the interment of ashes.
Among the fine stained glass windows is the magnificent East Window behind the altar which depicts Christ on his throne and All Saints, approximately 90 of them. Each panel has a group such as warriors, hermits,martyrs, virgins, bishops or royal saints plus there is one of old testament characters.The group at the centre of the bottom of the window are unknown saints: prisoners, orphans, a widow, beggar, artist, soldier, pilgrim and a farmer.
Ladbroke Church is also extremely fortunate in possession an outstanding set of Communion Plate. It comprises a flagon, chalice and paten, bread bowl and cover and is said to be as fine an example of English silversmith’s work of its period as any in the land. It was the gift of Alice, Duchess of Dudley, and is hall-marked by a silversmith who used the mark ”W.C.” with an arrow between, and is dated 1619-23. The Dudley Communion Plate is normally kept in the County Museum in Warwick where it is frequently on display.
More recent additions to the church include the Royal Arms, high on the nave wall (1985), a bookcase in English Oak (1993), a wide oak shelf over the pew near the pantry (2012) which is invaluable when we serve refreshments, a set of hand-made kneelers for the congregation in their pews, many of them dedicated, donated by the Friends of Ladbroke Church and three fine needlework, altar kneelers whose design reflects one of the patterns in the floor tiles before the altar.
Recently both of our two processional banners have gone to the Straford on Avon NADFAS textile consrvation volunteers for restoration and in December 2015 the one depicting Christ the King was returned to All Saints Ladbroke.
The first recorded Rector of Ladbroke was a Ralph de Lodbrok, 1290-1298, and the Rev. Canon Fishley (1960-1976) was the last of a long line of Rectors, although he continued the care of the Parish as Honorary Priest-in-Charge until 1983. In that year, the Benefices, but not the parishes, of Harbury and Ladbroke were united and the Rev. Canon A.S.B. Rowe became the first Rector of Harbury and Ladbroke. He retired in 1992 and was followed in 1993 by Rev. Roy Brown and Rev Craig Groocock in 2008.
All Saints’ Church is used for services, weddings, christenings and funerals. It also provides the venue for special events such as village festivals, concerts and local exhibitions. In September 2015 the church sucessfully took part in Heritage Open Day, something that is expected to become a regular feature in the calendar.
Some memories of church fundraising, a large legacy and the Women’s Fellowship by Betty Winkfield
When money was being raised to restore the church tower a group of fundraisers were detailed to go to an area of residents of Ladbroke to go a-begging. I went to the Chaplins who lived in Rectory Farm Cottage. When I approached the subject of money, Andrew Chaplin laughed. I suggested that he could hold a concert with his band. He and his contacts put on a Glastonbury type event up at the Websters. For the size of Ladbroke it was enormous. After expenses they raised £4000, the best donation of the lot.
Andrew Chaplin was a skilled craftsman and made the bookcase which nowadays houses the hymbooks, near the door. He charged £800 for the completed article. £500 was donated by Violaine Junod, a South African lady who lived for 12 years at 20 Ladbroke Hall. The rest of the money came from a small knitting group. It was the time when Aran jackets were the rage and we knitted for a commercial firm.
I think George Hedge came to Ladbroke about 1960. He was a builder by trade and built Briarwood in Windmill Lane on a plot of land he bought. George lived there with his wife Constance, known as Connie. They had a son, Brian who was killed in an RTA who though he was married had no children. George was a church warden in the 1960s and 70s. And after he and his wife died the church received a huge legacy (a six figure sum) from them, as 1/3 of their money had been left to the church, 1/3 to Brian’s widow and 1/3 to a nephew. During his lifetime, George Hedge had bought the field behind Village Farm, permission to build on it was granted after his death and when the houses were built there it was called Hedges Close.
Ladbroke Women’s Fellowship ran from 1945 to 2006. This Mother’s Union type meeting was instigated at the end of the war by Mrs Newnham-Davis, the wife of the rector at that time. The Women’s Fellowship was formed to give the wives of the village an interest after the men came back from the war and taking back the jobs the women had been doing while they were away. In the first register everyone was recorded as “Mrs” but later on the members were on Christian name terms.
It raised a fair amount of money for the church by knitting garters for David Rutherford’s shooting fraternity in their college and regimental colours; this picture, from the WF records, is titled Betty Selling Garters but she appears to still be knitting, perhaps a special request.
The Women’s Fellowship eventually closed in 2006 when there were only 10 members, the Women’s Institute was very strong then and interest in the WF declining – the members decided that was an insult to ask speakers to come to an audience of only 6 people. At the time it closed there was £38 in the tin (no bank account) and the members went out for a meal with Rev Brown and his wife, Pam, using the £38 to pay for their guest and making up the rest themselves.