History of the church

St. Michael and All Angels is, and has always been, the Church of England Parish Church for the villages of Great Witley and Little Witley. It has never been a private chapel. The parish of Great Witley was a flourishing community in saxon times and it is believed a parish church had existed on or around the present site for many centuries.

1655: Thomas Foley of Stourbridge, Worcestershire bought the Great Witley Estate (amongst other properties and lands) from the Russell family of Strensham, Worcestershire.

Thomas Foley, now the 1st Baron Foley grandson of above decided to build a new church but died in 1732. His wife Lady Mary Foley and their son Thomas, 2nd Baron Foley at their own expense continued with the project. Lady Mary died in December 1735 just before the church was consecrated and the 2nd Lord Foley continued with the completion of the church including the memorial monument sculpted by Michael Rysbrack and dedicated to his parents and their five children who predeceased them. The cost of the monument was £2000.
At this point in time the interior of the church was quite plain with plain flat ceiling, plain walls and clear window glass. There were box pews, a high pulpit including a sounding board above, a lectern, and the reredos panels were wood with the Lord’s Prayer, Ten Commandments and the Creed written on them.

1747: The church was transformed. 2nd Baron Foley acquired by private sale from the Duke of Chandos’ Canons Palace, Edgeware, near London; the ten stained glass windows and the oil on canvas paintings which were placed insitu on a new curved ceiling, purpose built to hold the central painting ‘The Ascension’. This painting is stretched onto a wooden curved frame. The organ and pipes were also included in the private sale. The moulds for the wall and ceiling decorations were taken from the original designs of the plasterwork at Canons and recreated from papier mache. Papier mache had just been perfected by Henry Clay of Birmingham.

1836: The 4th Baron Foley sold Witley Court and estate to the trustees of William Baron Ward (who in 1860 became the Earl of Dudley.

1843-1846: The Dowager Queen Adelaide lived there as a tenant.

1846: Lord Ward came into his inheritance and he transformed the appearance of Witley Court and the church. The box pews, pulpit, lectern, font and floor were replaced.

Around 1860 the internal workings of the organ were enlarged and rebuilt by Nicholson & Co. of Worcester. The organ is regarded as one of the finest in the Worcester Diocese, combining the best of the classic traditions with romantic tone colours. Sir Walter Parratt was the organist before becoming Master of the Kings Music.

1913: Rachel Countess of Dudley, the 2nd Earl of Dudley’s wife, designed new gold mosaic panels for the reredos. The three sanctuary lamps are inscribed with the names of Lady Dudley’s husband and his brothers in thankfulness for all returning safely from the Boer War.

1920: the 2nd Earl of Dudley sold Witley Court to Sir Herbert Smith, carpet entrepreneur from Kidderminster. During Sir Herbert’s time at the Court he installed the electricity in the church.

After the fire at the court in 1937 the church began to decline, problems began to develop with the deterioration of the interior.

By the 1960s Great Witley members of the parish took the initiative to form a committee for the restoration work of the church.

1993-4: Major restoration work was carried out on the ceiling and walls.

2004-5: The cupola was repaired and the dome gilded.

2006: The larger of the two bells was recast and the smaller one was refurbished and made to chime again.

2012: Three of the vaults in the crypt were open by the Museum of London Archaeology Service to reveal nine lead coffins in various states of decay. The crypt has now been refurbished and is open to the public. See news posts for occasional opens.

2013: The 1804 Samuel Thorp tower clock was moved to the crypt and restored to working order.

2016: The slate roof was stripped and refurbished.

2017: The Foley Memorial was cleaned and returned to its former glory.

2022: The South clock face had the slate centre of the dial replaced and re-gilded.

Today the church committee is still ongoing, always looking for ways and means to raise funds to keep this church open as a PARISH CHURCH and to warmly welcome visitors from all around the world.