St Martin’s church has its origins in the Dark Ages when it is reputed that Saint Augustine established one of England’s earliest Christian churches in Barcheston.

The oldest parts of the present building date from the end of the 12th century, with a Norman priest’s doorway showing the hand of Norman masons who spilled across England on the heels of William the Conqueror. Considerable rebuilding took place throughout the 13th century and the font, with its carved heads, purporting to be King Edward I and his queen Eleanor, dates from the early 14th century.

The church is noted for its leaning tower “the Pisa of Warwickshire”, which probably settled into its present position not long after the 13th century tower was rebuilt in the 15th century. Although the tower looks somewhat precarious, it is in fact relatively stable. The church was restored in the Victorian era and the pews date from this time.

So why is this church so remarkable?

One of the glories of St Martin’s is the 16th century alabaster table tomb of William Willington and his wife Anne in the south aisle, which was built to house this fine monument. It was Willington who depopulated the old medieval village and enclosed the land, which explains why, apart from the Rectory and Manor House, where he lived, the church stands virtually alone in open countryside.

Mary, one of William Willington’s daughters was to marry William Sheldon, who established what is understood to be England’s first tapestry weaving enterprise in the Manor House at Barcheston in the second half of the sixteenth century. Richard Hykes, the master weaver, is buried in the churchyard. Those tapestries associated with the Sheldon workshop that still exist are of national importance and include the tapestry map of Warwickshire in the County Museum in Warwick, which has been selected for the BBC’s “A History of the World”.

St Martin’s, Barcheston is part of the South Warwickshire Seven Benefice: www.southwarwickshirechurches.co.uk. This site provides details full details of church services in the Benefice as well as other activities and events.