Our church enshrines much of the history of England, and has great architectural beauty and significance. It is a home of prayer and worship, with a strong musical tradition.
St Mary’s was founded on its present site in 1123 by Roger de Newburgh, the Earl of Warwick.
The glorious Beauchamp Chapel was built in the Fifteenth Century to house the tomb of Richard Beauchamp, the Earl of Warwick and one of the richest and most powerful people in the history of our country.
It is a magnificent example of the European ecclesiastical architecture of its time, and ranks as one of this country’s greatest treasures. The Chapel also houses the tombs of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, his brother Ambrose Dudley, Earl of Warwick, and Robert’s son, the “Noble Impe”.
The Chancel, Vestry and Chapter House were rebuilt in the Fourteenth Century by Thomas Beauchamp, and this section of the building represents one of the highest peaks of English Gothic architecture. The tomb of Thomas Beauchamp stands in front of the high altar; the tiny figures around its base give a fine depiction of Fourteenth Century English fashion. Fulke Greville's enigmatic monument takes up most of the Chapter House.
The Nave and Tower were destroyed in the great fire of Warwick in 1694, and rebuilt by 1704 by the brothers Francis and William Smith, builder architects of Warwick.
The chapel of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment (Royal Regiment of Fusiliers) occupies the North Transept.
Here, with a translation, is the Latin text inscribed around the tower of St Mary's Church (just above the balustrade). It begins on the North face, and where it stops in mid-sentence a hand engraved in the stone directs the reader around the corner to the continuation on the West face. In due course another hand points round to the South face, where the inscription ends. The date given for the first rebuilding (exactly 300 years before the Great Fire) should perhaps not be taken too literally.
"St Mary's Collegiate Church was first established by Roger de Newburgh, Earl of Warwick, in the time of King Stephen [1135-1154]; then, under Thomas Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, ..."
"... in the year 1394 it was completely rebuilt, and on the 5th of September 1694 it was reduced to ruins by an amazing fire that spared nothing in it's path."
"The new church was built by charity, public to begin with, royal in the later stages, and was completed, under the happy auspices of Queen Anne, in the memorable year of 1704." [The Queen had donated £1,000]
"This tower was restored in 1885 A.D. There being no funds available to finance the work, Louisa Ann Ryland generously provided the necessary means." [When Miss Ryland died, four years later, the main beneficiary of her will was Charles Alston Smith, the son of her man her father had forbidden her to marry. Samuel Ryland, rich but untitled, had wanted his daughter to marry the then Earl of Warwick, but neither she nor the earl was interested in the match.]
The Crypt still remains from the original Norman building, and houses a rare example of a medieval ducking stool.