The Old Church of St Peter and St Paul


Internal plan

In November 2011, whilst excavation work was being carried out for the flood defence wall by the bridge, some skeletons were found. As can be seen from the first picture below, the Cemetery extended over the area now covered by the bridge.

Simon Wilkinson has made the following comments:
1. Any remains from the graveyard will be 19th century and not earlier - unless, (unlikely?), some remains from earlier times were reburied there.

2. The graveyard was definitely, not "probably", an extension to the graveyard around the old church. That graveyard was full by the early 1830s and negotiations were underway for an extension when the 1832 cholera outbreak led to the creation of an entirely separate temporary burial ground (not this one) on glebeland out of the town. The negotiations eventually meant that a permanent extension was aquired in 1836. This was used until 1866 when the Enclosure Award had allocated land for a cemetery off Rectory Road. All burials then took place there apart from a few in pre-existing tombs in the old church graveyard.

Burial Pictures

Most of these pictures were scanned from material kindly loaned by Lesley Probert. The picture showing the War Memorial dedication was taken at the Civic Society's Jubilee Exhibition. Copyright will be acknowledged if we are advised.

The Bell Tower (which some refer to as the 'Pepperpot'), which dominates the main approach into Upton, is the oldest surviving building in the town and has great value as a local landmark.

The main body of the Tower is probably fourteenth century, although its base is thirteenth century and it is possible that an even earlier wooden structure of Saxon foundation once stood on the site.

The medieval church is generally thought to have been founded by the Boteler family and was dedicated to St Peter and St Paul. It was built in the Early English style and had a spire and two chancels, one for the parson and one for the parishioners.

On 29 August 1651, considerable damage was done to the church when it was held by Commonwealth troops against the Royalists during the Battle of Upton, one of the bravest actions of the Civil War. The defeat of the Royalists and the consequent loss of the important river crossing put Charles II at a serious strategic disadvantage, and he was to be defeated shortly afterwards at the Battle of Worcester.

The church continued to deteriorate and it was not until 1754 that it was decided to erect a new nave in the then currently fashionable classical style. The new building was simple, with roundheaded windows with semicircular openings above, a tiled roof behind a tall parapet and a small projecting chancel with a Venetian east window. In 1770 the spire of the old tower was considered unsafe and it was replaced by the wooden hexagonal lantern and lead cupola (later sheathed in copper) to the design of Midland architect Anthony Keck, giving the Tower its 'pepperpot' proportions.

By the nineteenth century the church had become too small and a Neo-Gothic replacement was built at the end of Old Street, completed in 1879. The nave of the old church was eventually dismantled in 1937 and the churchyard was laid out as a garden. In 1953 the church was declared an Ancient Monument.

The photo above is from the Upton News, September 17th 1921, showing the Parish War Memorial dedication on transfer from Ham Court to the Old Churchyard.



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