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St. Lawrence's Church Building

The Parish Church of Darlaston is dedicated to Saint Lawrence, a Spaniard who became Deacon to Pope Sixtus II.  It is said that he was burned alive on a grid-iron in the year 258AD.  (Our Church Magazine is entitled "The Grid".

It is not possible to state definitively when the Church of Darlaston was founded.  The Episcopal Registers ke[t at Lichfield date from 1297 and in 1310 they recorded that Richard Diriday was inducted as priest.  As the previous priest might easily have help office for more

than 13 years the church must date from the 13th Century at the latest, but the names of the previous incumbent may be impossible to trace.

The status of the early church is difficult to place:  during the 14th century it is referred to as a chapel whilst in the 14th century it is referred to as the church or chapel.  The first priest to be termed 'Rector' was John Carles in 1369.  Some of the earlier facts suggest that the original church was a chapel-of-ease attached to the church at Sedgley, but that at some period, probably in the late 13th or 14th century, Darlaston became a separate parish.

After becoming a separate parish, the Rector would receive all fees.  Prior to that, the priest would only have been a perpetual curate to the Vicar of Sedgley.  At the same time, the Lord of the Manor of Darlaston would have made the appointments of the church, previously it would have been the Vicar of Sedgley or the Prior of Dudley who made the appointments.

When Richard de Darlaston became Rector in 1323, the patron was William, Lord of Darlaston.  From then the to the appointment of William Janneston in 1417 the patrons were all members of the 'de Darlaston' family.  The patrons have changed many times, including:-  1428 Henry VI, 1438 Earl of Stafford, 1458 Anne Duchess of Buckingham, 1490 Henry Lord of Stafford.  In 1800, when John Waltham was appointed Rector, the patrons were John King, Rector of Bisley, Charles Simeon, Vicar of Holy Trinity Cambridge, William Richardson, Minister of Michael le Belfry, York.  The living is now in the hands of the Simeon Trustees and the Bishop of Lichfield.

There have been at least four church buildings occupying this site.  The first was almost certainly built in the 13th century.  The original was burnt down and the second built in the 17th century.  Both were wooden structures.  The building was enlarged in 1721, the north side being built of brick and the south of different sorts of stone.  The Third church building was built of brick and was opened on 17th May 1807 having been built under the direction of Reverend John Waltham.

The present church building was built in 1872 during the time of Reverend John Richardson, except for the tower and the spire.  There was accommodation for 1300-1400 sittings.  The exterior walls are cased with Codsall stone and Greenhill stone dressings.  The roof is covered in Brossley tiles.  There are Purbeck marble columns and corbels in the chancel.  A four east-light window is filled with stained glass produced by Walls of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.  The ironwork was by Broad and Dowling of Birmingham and the pulpit is of Paiswick stone and Devonshire marble of a Paiswick stone base.  Mr A P Brevitt was the architect and Lovattas of Wolverhampton the builders.  The total cost of the new building was 3,800.

About 32 years later during the incumbency of the Reverend Thomas Hamer, the old tower was replaced by the present spire.  In 1931 (Reverend James Augur), the church all was added and in 1943 (Reverend A Bannerman Lovelle) the lych gates were erected.

The churchyard became a Garden of Rest in 1953 (Reverend Ivor Brunmor Jones) to celebrate the coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.  The gravestones were removed and placed along the perimeter wall.  A plan of the churchyard is available with a list of all the names on the original gravestones.

Following the closure in 1947 of St George's Church in the Green, Darlaston and its demolition in 1975, the Lady Chapel in St Lawrence's was furnished with some of the items and renamed St George's Chapel.

Since the mid 1980s (Reverend Stephen Rawling) major restoration work has been carried out on the spire and the stonework of the building and a new peal of bells added.

In the 1990s (Reverend Gwilym W Lloyd) the interior received a facelift, including new carpeting and decorating, adding a Parish Office in the old organ vestry, completely reordering the Rector's vestry, and modifying the screens between the chancel and St George's Chapel.  The west end of the building has also been modified, and new lighting and heating have been added.

At present the church building needs various repairs following the quinquennial inspection, and a fund raising drive is underway to raise the cost, which is estimated to be in excess of 100,000.