This page includes
- A Statement about the History and Significance of the Church Building
- Illustrations of Memorials on the walls of St Thomas'
- Illustrations of Stained Glass in the windows of St Thomas'
Elsewhere you will also find
(Based on the official "Statement of Significance" drawn up for the Church Council in 2007)
1a. History of the Area
In the 19th century Keresley was a very desirable area. Many prominent Coventry businessmen kept large houses in this village, and a number of these got together to found the church building and the parish. By the end of the 19th century the area was still rural, dominated by a few big houses. During the 20th century the general housing of Coventry was developed right up to the churchyard wall on the South and East sides, to the North there is still only the Vicarage and a (Roman Catholic) Secondary School.
1b. Setting of the church
Today the church stands in an extensive churchyard (closed) of about 4 acres, fronting onto the busy B4098 Tamworth Road. There are some large very mature trees (subject to Tree Preservation Orders) set in the grass between the church and the road. The oldest part of the churchyard is surrounded on the South, West and North sides by a fine sandstone wall with triangular coping. The City Council have designated the area as a Greenbelt, but it is not a Conservation Area. The attractive setting is popular for weddings and other events.
Within the West end of the graveyard there are monuments to quite a number of the wealthy families of this part of Coventry including William Hillman the car maker. There is also a large War Memorial situated between the main road and the church tower.
1c. Description of the church
The church was completed in 1847 to designs by Benjamin Ferry, the land and stone were the gift of T.B.Troughton. The whole premises are quite small, they were described by one architect as “Disney Style” (ie built at slightly less than life size to accentuate the romanticism). The original church consisted of a 4-bay Nave (16.5m x 8m) with West end Gallery, a Chancel (5.5m x 5.5m), and a West end Tower with Spire (approx 30m high). There is a small South porch.
Externally the walls were all of dressed sandstone, pierced with rather small gothic arched windows on the North and South sides. The only stained glass is from the 1870s at the East end: a rose window depicting the Beatitudes above 3 lancets showing the Resurrection and the raising of Lazarus and the widow of Nain’s son. The roof is covered with clay tiles, over exposed black wooden beams. Internally the walls are white painted plaster with a simple string moulding. The tower now houses 6 bells (recast in 1980) and a clock whose 2 faces were recently restored. There is a large octagonal font placed in the main aisle in front of the main door. The organ by Whitely (1897) is located in the Gallery.
Because of the small size of the church, it was built with 2 very narrow aisles between the pews in the Nave and Balcony to maximise the seating. Clearly this was impractical, and since then nearly half the seating has been removed, the central block of pews was taken out many years ago making way for the organ in the balcony and a strangely wide aisle in the nave. About 40% of the pews on the North side of the Nave have been removed at various times, together with all the original chancel furniture apart from the communion table. The pulpit was also moved to its present nave position about 100 years ago.
The pews once all stood on plinths of suspended wooden flooring which by the time of the 1st World War was rotting, at that time the decision was taken to make a solid concrete floor under the pews with wood block covering. A small amount of suspended flooring remains although it is showing signs of rot. The centre of the nave is the only part of the church to have York flagstones (It has been infilled in patches with concrete where an earlier heating system had vents all the way down.) The original Chancel flooring was replaced with tiles in the 19th century, then covered over in the 20th century – see below.
A flat roofed vestry was added in the 1970s to the South East side, this is in matching (salvaged) stone. The communion table was brought forwards within the chancel and the platform extended in wood to accommodate this, there is a carpet glued onto the tiled floor. In order to provide better access to the Gallery, a large wooden staircase was erected in the nave which overshadows the Font. (The alternative access is via a very steep and narrow spiral stair in the Tower.) In the late 1980s a church room was added on the North side of the Nave, called the Galilee Room - due to shortage of funds this was rendered externally in coloured mortar instead of matching stonework. Part of the Nave floor has been covered by a loose carpet for a number of years in order to make it look better.
There remain about 25 original pews, they are made of oak with large Fleu-de-Lys ends and low doors to the aisle. Some are still in their original position though some were rearranged, there is evidence of some rot and woodworm damage. The pews arouse very mixed feelings amongst present day church users, some people express a fondness for them even though though most agree that they are uncomfortable, and the large “Poppy Heads” provide a very effective block to the lines of sight in the Nave. A modern gas fired central heating system was installed in 2000 which cuts through the base of every pew.
The Church Council has been working for a number of years on plans to improve and extend these premises, it is hoped to add the details of this scheme to the website in due course.
Monuments on the walls of St Thomas' Church Building
Chancel - North Wall
To the memory of Thomas Wilmot, Esqr. One of the founders of this Church to whose zeal and energy the inhabitants of Keresley and Coundon are mainly indebted for the consolidation of the two Hamlets into one Chapelry for all Ecclesiastical purposes, and for the Erection and Endowment of this Church.
He lived to see the Work for which he had laboured long and anxiously completed, but died before its Consecration at his house in Coundon, on the XXVth day of March MDCCCXLVI, in the LXXIXth year of his age: and was buried at Allesley.
Grant for Seats
Nave - West End
This Church was erected in the Year 1847. and contains accommodation for 420 persons. A grant for £200 in aid of its erection was made by "The Incorporated Society for promoting the Enlargement, Building and Repairing of Churches and Chapels on condition that the seats for 320 persons, described on the annexed plan, should be set apart and declared to be free and Unappropriated for ever.
William Thickens M.A. Minister
David Waters Churchwardens
Chancel - South Wall
To the Glory of God and in loving memory of the REV GEORGE DEERR B.A. for 31 years Vicar of this Parish who died Oct 1st 1906 aged 77 years, and of EDITH JANE , his wife who died April 21st 1911 aged 73 years.
This tablet is erected by their Children.
Hubert David Waters
Chancel - North Side
In Memory of Hubert David Waters
Churchwarden of this Parish from 1897 to 1907
Oliver Robin Octavius Jagger
Nave - East End
Sacred to the memory of Oliver Robin Octavius Jagger Cadet R.N. Lost in H.M.S. Bulwark November 26th 1914 aged 16.
Stained Glass in the windows of St Thomas' Church
The only stained glass in St Thomas' Church is at the East end, there are 3 narrow windows (refered to as lancet windows) underneath a round window (refered to as a rose window).
The lancet windows each portray resurrection: On the left, the scene is the raising of Lazarus from the dead, with an inscription from the Authorised Version of the Bible, "He that was dead came forth". On the right, the scene is the raising of the widow of Nain's son, again there is a Bible text, "Young man, I say unto thee arise". Triumphantly placed in the middle, in the largest of the lancet windows, is the resurrection of Jesus Christ himself. The text is, "I am the resurrection and the life". Across the bottom of all 3 lancets is the dedication, "To the glory of God and in memory of William Thickens first vicar of this parish died Oct 5TH 1873"
The rose window has 8 sectors, each depicting an angel holding a banner with the words of the 8 beatitudes from Jesus' famous Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5-7)
- Blessed are the Merciful
- Blessed are the Pure in Heart
- Blessed are the Peacemakers
- Blessed are they which are Persecuted
- Blessed are the Poor in Spirit
- Blessed are they that Mourn
- Blessed are the Meek
- Blessed are they that do Hunger and Thirst
In the centre are the initials IHC which is another form of the Greek IHΣ these are the first 3 letters of the Greek spelling of JESUS ( IHΣYΣ). This is called a Christogram, follow the link for more information.
Clicking on any of the idividual windows in the picture will open a new screen window with a bigger picture of that window.