St Johns The Baptist Church, Handsacre

The original church was built in 1160 in a romanesque style but some people viewed the original church as somewhat ruinous state , the church was rebuilt in 1845 as a exact replica or the original building but was enlarged by the addition of a south ailse to match the north ailse of the chancel, the north ailse was built in 1860.

View of Church

When the church removed the clock from the tower they found a date 1860 carved in to the south face and the 3 bells in the tower date 1720, 3 more bells were added in 2001.

The Tower

In the north ailse Josiah Spode lV installed the Samuel Green organ (built in 1790), having brought it from the Lichield Cathedral, it is now subject of extensive study as it is the largest 18th century catherdral organ to survive in the country, a proposal has been placed forward to to restore it.

The font is beleived to be dated around 10th century and some people have expressed the view that it began as a pagan object The font is a savagely magnificent example of early Romanesque figure carving; perhaps the finest and certainly the most alien-looking piece of medieval sculpture in the county

Located at the W end of the S aisle. The bowl is a lead-lined cylinder of grey sandstone, slightly tapering inwards towards the bottom. It stands on a 19thc. cylindrical shaft and a chamfered octagonal base and has a modern step to the W for the priest. The bowl is carved in relief with arcading in seven bays. The arches are round and decorated with a row of beading. They are supported on fictive shafts decorated with single-strand cable carrying multi-scallop capitals. The cable twist alternates in direction to provide symmetrical frames for each bay composition (except for bay 7 - the odd number of bays makes this inevitable). Each bay contains a pair of frontal figures in bold relief, carved to almost fill the available space. Their heads are oversized, and their bodies or garments unarticulated except for surface detail, like Romanesque chessmen, although in most case hands are shown, and in some cases small feet too. They all have large bulging almond-shaped eyes, drilled for pupils, and most are shown with a distinct philtrum on the upper lip. In the descriptions that follow, bays are numbered from left to right starting at the E.

The condition of the font is generally good. Both upper and lower rims are irregularly worn, but the upper is largely obscured by the lining. There is a deep groove in the upper party of the bowl, between bays 7 and 1.


Bay 1 (E)

The L figure, possibly a cleric, has a relatively small head on a columnar neck (he is the only figure on the font with a neck), and wears a short tunic from which his lower legs and feet appear, and over this a heavy cloak or cope decorated overall with parallel reeding. On his head he wears a cap made in left and right halves with raised borders. His hands are shown clasped at his chest. He turns slightly away from his grotesque companion, pressed up against him, who has an enormous egg-like head and no neck, hair shown in oblique zigzags, fleshy, creased cheeks and a downturned mouth. His feet protrude from a heavy cloak decorated with fleshy foliage stems, and his hands are shown pressed against his stomach.

Bay 2

The two figures are similar in proportions. The L has a cap similar to the L figure of bay 1, but with borders decorated with drill holes. He wears a cope or cloak over a long tunic, both decorated with cross-hatching. His R hand lies across his stomach and his L is raised to his chin. The R figure has a cap with a brow band decorated with drill holes. He has a long pointed beard and a moustache and holds his hands across his stomach with fingers touching. His cloak is decorated with parallel grooves and cross-hatching. No feet are shown on either figure.

Bay 3

The two figures are similar in proportions. The L figure has a cap similar to that worn by the L figure in bay 2. His mouth is small and slightly open. His drapery is articulated with parallel vertical reeding. His R hand grips the cloak at his breast, while his L gestures upwards. This hand apparently emerges from a sleeve, articulated with cross-hatching and sketchy folds, but extending right down to the hem of the cloak. No feet are shown. The R figure wears a cap with a drilled brow band and has a thin mouth in the form of a double bow, like a cat's. He also has a wavy chin beard. He wears a long belted tunic, the lower part with parallel vertical reeding, and the upper with symmetrical obliquereeding on either side and a central double band or hem. His hands are held vertically, backs forward (i.e. thumbs out) against his chest. No feet are shown on either figure.

Bay 4

Two very simple figures of similar proportions, both with simple peg doll-like bodies and no hands or feet shown. The L figure has hair shown as nested vees with their angles running back down the centre of the crown. His mouth is downturned. His tunic has vertical parallel reeding and a border decorated with drill holes. The R figure's hair is combed straight back, shown by parallel reeding. His mouth is open but bifurcated; the lips meeting in the middle. His tunic is decorated with curved nested-vee reeding, the angles running up the front centre. No feet are shown on either figure.

Bay 5

The L figure has a doll-like face with nested-vee hair as bay 4, L figure and a small mouth, slightly open. The cloak has borders richly decorated with zigzag and nebuly grooves, and is otherwise decorated with parallel reeding. The hands are raised to touch the jaw. No feet are shown on this figure. The impression, to the modern viewer, is of shock or surprise. The R figure has an even larger head than usual here, with a wide open mouth and eyebrows decorated with oblique ridges. The body may be naked; it is articulated in large, smooth sections. The hands are clasped together over the stomach. An elongated feature hanging down below the hands may be a penis. He sits on a stool, rectangular in shape with a central boss or pellet.

Bay 6

Two more peg-doll figures like those in bay 4. The L wears a crown with a band of leaf forms and spiral terminals above a fillet decorated with drill holes. The face is solemn with a closed mouth and large lips, and hands to the throat. The figure wears a richly ornamented cloak, decorated with a pattern of overlapping scales. The R figure has hair decorated with cross hatching and a long handlebar moustache. His tunic is not belted but the upper and lower parts are differently treated; the upper with cross-hatching with raised fields, and the lower with vertical reeding. No feet are shown on either figure.

Bay 7

The L figure is the only unambiguous female; indicated by long plaits of hair that cross at around waist level and continue to the ground. The face is remarkable for the long upper lip, the garments are unmarked by any ornament, and no hands are shown. Her companion is a king with a crown decorated with a zigzag above a fillet decorated with drill holes, and a large handlebar moustache. Again, no hands are shown, and his body is dominated by a large saltire cross formed of two pairs of three bands of beading,interlaced where they intersect. No feet are shown on either figure

10th Century Font

While investigating the site of a foundation for a proposed handrail at the chancel step( by drilling a 20mm diameter hole into the floor) a void some 1500mm deep has been discovered. a son of a member of the congrgation, is in the Staffordshire Fire Service and he was able to bring two members of the Technical Rescue Unit of the West Midlands Fire Service to investigate the void. Using specialised equipment,(usually used to locate survivable parts of collapsed buildings ) this was able to show us that the void is, in fact, a family vault that has been abandoned. It is built in brick, and from the type and style of brickwork, is consistent with being a part of the 1844-6 rebuild. The vault is approximately 15ft north/south and 6ft west/east. On the east wall is a double row of five arched apertures ( 10 in total) that each lead to a horizontal tunnel approximately 6ft in length. Eight of these are empty ; one has what appears to be rubble in it ; and the other is either, boarded-up or, has a plaque fixed over the aperture ( no inscription could be discerned ).

Font from NE.

Font bowl from E.

Font bowl, bay 1(E).

Font bowl, bay 2.

Font bowl, bay 3.

Font bowl, bay 4.

Font bowl, bay 5.

Font bowl, bay 6.

Font bowl, ba

the South doorway executed in a lavish Romanesque style with a good deal of chevron and scallop capitals of varied forms. The South doorway is said to be a copy of the 12thc. original, pieces of which have been used in the construction of a churchyard cross to the South of the church. In fact the doorway itself contains some original stones, heavily restored, while the churchyard cross is entirely 19thc. work. The chancel arch is neo-Romanesque, and the chancel has a N chapel with a three-bay arcade in a 13thc. style (although the arch from the nave aisle is neo-Romanesque). The tower arch is Ward's work - neo-Romanesque to match the nave . .

The order has an angle roll, and all of its component stones; five on each jamb and seven voussoirs in the arch, are carved with relief motifs resting partly on this roll. The stones are continuously numbered here, beginning at the bottom of the W jamb:

1. (L side, jamb, bottom). Grotesque composite human head blowing a large horn. Head and horn are similar in size and side by side; the horn emerging from the left side of the mouth. The stone is set so that these motifs are on their sides, so the horn is below the head. The head is elongated with a bulging jaw tapering to a narrow forehead. It has cat-like ears with grooved hair between them, a long nose flaring at the tip, bulging drilled almond eyes and a small tragic mouth, bound with a gag or muzzle of two straps with drilled decoration crossing over it. The horn is curved and its bell decorated with rows of scooped-out holes.

2. Squarish lion-like mask with curly mane between the ears, drilled almond eyes and jowls decorated with curls of hair. Dots of red paint in the pupils do not appear to be original.

3. Frontal male human head flanked by draped arms, the shoulders alongside the brow, and the hands alongside the mouth. The almond eyes are drilled, the nose long and straight, flaring at the tip, and closed mouth is full-lipped.

4. Triangular beakhead showing a beast with its projecting tongue resting on the angle roll. Ears are large, with a triangle of curly hair between them on the crown of the head. This bounded below by three nested vees, and there is a Y-shaped band of pellets above the eyes and down the centre of the snout.

5 (L side, jamb, top). Four-petalled single-strand knot with an interlacing beaded ring.

6 (Arch, L side, springer). Roundel with central conical boss divided into eight sectors by grooves, outside this a ring of cusping and finally a ring of beading.

7. Roundel with central flat disc, then a ring of beading and two rings of zigzag.

8. A complex knot consisting of a two-strand cable, alternately fleshy and beaded, coiling around a quincunx of conical bosses with radial grooves.

9 (keystone). Agnus Dei in L profile.

10. Roundel with central grooved pyramid boss, then a ring of cusping and an outer ring of two-strand cable as in voussoir 3.

11. As arch voussoir 1.

12 (Arch, R side, springer). Four-lobed knot of a single beaded strand.

13 (R side, jamb, top). As 5 (L side, jamb, top).

14. Beakhead similar to 4, but there is no curly hair between the ears, the brow being entirely decorated with nested vees.

15. Animal head with beaded muzzle or bridle.

16. Grotesque beast head with large pointed ears pointing outwards, wrinkled brow, drilled almond eyes, thin straight nose with vee-ridges and flared tip, and wrinkled jowls.

17. A pair of composite human faces side by side. The stone is set so that the heads are on their sides. Both heads are oval, with cats' ears and drilled almond eyes. The L (i.e. upper) head has a cap of hair in the form of straight nested vees, and wears a T-shaped fillet decorated with beading. The nose is flared at the tip and the mouth is bifurcated (i.e it is open but the lips meet in the centre). It has a short chin beard. The R head is similar but no hair is shown and the head fillet is a beaded band that forms a saltire cross at the front. The head is angled with the chin to the left. Other features are similar to his companion's.

S nave, doorway

Churchyard cross, E face, shaft, upper part.

Churchyard cross, E face, shaft, lower part.

Churchyard cross head, E face.

Churchyard cross, W face, lower part of shaft

. Churchyard cross, head, W face.

Churchyard cross, head, W face, central Agnus Dei.

Churchyard cross, W face, upper part of shaft.


Armitage is not listed in the Domesday Survey. Its name is a corruption of Hermitage, and the parish in which the hermitage stood was Handsacre. In 1086 Handsacre was held by Robert from the Bishop of Chester, and there was land for five ploughs. According to VCH, a hermitage chapel existed here, probably on the site of the present church, as early as the 12thc. It was still known as the Hermitage of Handsacre in the 13thc., although the chapel was no longer a hermitage at that date.

St Johns The Baptist Church, Handsacre — List page from Classic Sites