The small but beautiful and interesting church of St. Chad occupies a slight prominence in the East of the village where some of the older buildings are situated. The earliest church on this site (which is thought to have had religious significance even before Christianity was established in this country) was built in the 12th century, and remnants of this smaller original church still form part of the fabric of the present building. A plan on the wall of the North aisle shows their location and that of building works done in 14th, 15th, 18th and 19th centuries.
The 12th century Norman doorway, probably from the original building, was retained through all of these, and is now hung with a wooden door, bearing the date 1973, which commemorates the wife of the much-loved village doctor. Some renovation works were done in the 18th century including re-roofing (the date “1704” is visible carved in the Westernmost roof-beam). Victorian “improvements” included the construction of the Vestry, the last major addition. Restoration works in the first half of the 20th century included incorporating into the structure of the South porch blocks bearing deep grooves caused by arrow-sharpening in the days when archery practice was legally required of all able-bodied males.
Inside the church, as might be expected, there are many memorials to members of local, important families of yesteryear, and it is possible that a crypt exists under the floor of the nave. The colourful stained glass windows are all commemorative, having been given by local families, with perhaps the most notable one, at the East end of the North aisle, being an early work of William Morris, of the Arts and Crafts Movement; quite different from the others, it has been suggested that the Biblical characters depicted were modelled on prominent members of the Movement. Beneath this window is a small altar dedicated to those in the armed forces who have made the ultimate sacrifice, and nearby hang the flags of the now-disbanded village branch of the Royal British Legion.
An intriguing feature is the lettering, alas now faded and impossible to decipher, painted on the South wall. It appears to be comprised of two inscriptions: one, probably late 15th century and contemporary with the building of the South aisle, is in black lettering, but the other, surrounded by a border of strap work and foliage, about a century later, shows some traces of colour. It was discovered during renovation works in the 1920s, but unfortunately not before much of it was lost.
The two fonts are situated either side of the entrance from the South porch. To the left (West) is the more recent one with a carved wooden cover. To the right (East) is a much older one which does not have a cover and is thought to be of Saxon or early Norman origin. Mounted now on a modern plinth, this old font was lost for many years but was found in nearby Chapel Hill Farm and restored to the church, somewhat battered, in 1928.
The stone pulpit, of Victorian style and bearing a carving of a New Testament scene, was the place where, in 2002, the Reverend (now Canon) K. Mervyn Roberts preached a sermon on “The Bible” which lasted for 48 hours, a World Record duration ratified by the Guinness Book of Records.
The walls of the bell-ringing gallery on the first floor of the Tower bear three black panels recording generous charitable donations made for the wider village as well as the church itself. The largest, recording subscriptions to the free parish day school, founded in 1765 and hence one of the oldest schools of its type in the country, states that pupils were, by studying reading, writing, “casting accounts”, and the Christian religion, to become “useful members of society”. The trustees appear to have had the responsibility of selecting the pupils who would benefit from this tuition.
Above this gallery is the clock room, housing a weight-driven clockwork mechanism that powers the clock-faces on the East and South sides of the tower and also the striking mechanism of the clock-bell, and a synchronous electric motor for the one on the West. In the belfry above are three bells hung for full-wheel ringing, in a substantial timber frame. The lightest and oldest of these, the treble, cast in 1653, the year in which Oliver Cromwell dissolved the Rump of the Long Parliament declared himself Lord Protector, and the heaviest and youngest, the tenor, cast in 1740, are protected by preservation orders so may not be recast. The clock-bell, fixed to a roof-beam and struck on the hour by a hammer controlled by the clockwork mechanism, was cast by Thomas Mears at the Whitechapel Foundry in London some 14 years before he cast Big Ben.
The known vicars of St. Chad’s stretch back in an unbroken line to 1327, and mention is made of a priest for the Manor of Tachbrook in 1086, suggesting a permanent Christian Mission in the area for nearly a millennium. One is bound to wonder how long this unbroken line will continue; how sad if it should ever come to an end.