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St Alkmund’s Church

(Grade I listed building)

This is the fourth church to stand on this site since Whitchurch was founded. The first was a Saxon church, built around 900 AD by Ethelflaeda, daughter of Alfred the Great. Almost 200 years later, a more substantial church, thought to have been constructed of local white Grinshill stone replaced it. This is believed to be the origin of the name of Whitchurch, or white church, gleaming as it would have been and visible for miles on the top of the hill. In 1350, a new church was built which stood for almost 400 years until it collapsed one night, either because of unstable foundations or because of the weight of the tower. A fund was started for the church to be replaced and unbelievably enough money was collected to rebuild  and re-consecrate it in just over a year.

Painting of St Alkmund’s old church showing the fatal crack

Approaching the church today you enter via a porch surmounted by a balustrade. Above and to the left of the porch is an inscribed sundial on the wall with a wrought-iron gnomon. Also in the porch is a board describing the life of Sir John Talbot, who lived in the fifteenth century and was one of the most important men in England at that time. Inside the church on the south side is Sir John’s tomb consisting of a box tomb with an effigy of a knight lying on it with his feet resting on his dogs. On the north side of the church is the tomb of another Sir John Talbot who lived a century later, and was the founder of the original grammar school. A name to notice among the memorials is that of the noted composer Sir Edward German who was a contemporary of Elgar and Sullivan.

Other points of interest in the church are the fragments of medieval stained glass in one of the windows in the north aisle,  the red and yellow sandstone font dated 1661 and an hexagonal table made from the sounding board of the earlier 18th century pulpit.

The church tower has two clock faces, and the clock mechanism was made by JB Joyce & Co of Whitchurch. It contains a ring of eight bells, the earliest dating from 1714.