There's plenty to see in Audlem itself and the surrounding countryside. Pride of place goes to St James' Church in the village centre while the Shropshire Union canal, with its run of 15 locks through Audlem, is a major attraction. There are fine walks along the towpath, now called the Weaver Way, and through the meadows alongside.
Audlem St James' Church
The Church of St James the Great, built from around 1278, was given by Thomas de Aldelim to the priory of St Thomas at Stafford, in the reign of Edward 1 and is believed to be built on an ancient Celtic burial ground.
The Church was enlarged in the 14th century when the "weeping" chancel was added, and re-modelled in the 16th, since when it has remained virtually unchanged externally. In 1886 internal improvement and restoration was carried out and in the same year the brass eagle lectern and Bible were placed in the Church.
The ring of 6 bells, was cast in 1736 by Abel Rudhall of Gloucester and when they were rehung in 1891 the following inscriptions were noted on them:
- 1 "When you me ring Ile sweetly sing. AR 1736"
- 2 "Peace and good neighbourhood. AR 1736"
- 3 "Prosperity to this Parish. AR1736"
- 4 "May the Church of England for ever, flourish. AR 1736"
- 5 "I to the church the living call and to the grave do summon all. 1736"
- 6 "The work of Abel Rudhall of Gloucester cast us all. 1736"
William Baker of Highfields designed/built the two coaching inns which add distinction to the Square, the Crown and the Phoenix. They were built in 1745. He is well known for other municipal buildings in Shropshire, in Ludlow, Montgomery and Bishops Castle to name a few.
The Parish Registers, which began in 1557, include an entry: "In September 1777 when the People were in Church a great earthquake happened which shook the Fabrick so that a large stone fell out of one of the Windows of the steeple."
In the early summer of 1995 Mr Pearson from Wolverhampton found an ancient seal using his metal detector at the site of a medieval market one mile out from the centre of Lichfield. After finding the metal seal he referred it to a Keeper of Antiquities at the British Museum who interpreted the inscription as "the seal of the Vicar of Audelyme" and dated it as early 14th century.
It is not clear who owned the seal but the first recorded vicar of Audlem was Richard Randolf who served there around 1311, at a time when Audlem St James Church was under the authority of the Bishop of Lichfield.
There are no accurate figures for deaths from the plague or The Black Death of 1348 — 1349 in Audlem but the recorded death of the Vicar in 1349 seems to support the belief that it claimed the Vicar of Audlem and two stonemasons, resulting in a change of building style of the Church which was being enlarged at the time.
The Church of St James remains an imposing site to this day attracting many visitors. The current vicar, appointed in 2005, is Rev Helen Chantry. There is an inscription inside the church containing a full record of the vicars of Audlem since the founding of the church. The bells are used every week and there is a practice evening for the ringers on Thursday. Visiting campanologists also call at the church on a regular basis.
Prince Rupert is reputed to have stayed at Highfields in May 1642 during the Civil War, when his army of 10,000 (mostly horsemen and dragoons) was on its way north to the siege of Stockport. Highfields had been requisitioned for use by the officers and there was a local skirmish involving Parliamentarians, who were encamped in and around Nantwich, and Prince Rupert's army, which had camped in fields in Audlem near Highfields.
Highfields can be seen from a public footpath that crosses fields and a farm track between Adderley and the Shropshire Union Canal and Kinsey Heath.
Moss Hall, or Audlem Hall as it appears to have been originally called, was built in 1616 by the Massy family. The Massy family ceased to live there in 1760 when it passed to William Massy's son-in-law, Robert Taylor. By 1810 it was occupied by a farmer and was later bought by Earl Kilmorey of Shavington Hall. The house is now owned by the Vernon family.
A footpath runs from Cheshire Street down the lane near to the cemetery and then left across the meadow before rising to the canal. This gives fine views of Moss Hall.
The Public Hall
A highlight of each year is the Panto put on by 5As Theatre Group with up to one hundred residents of all ages involved in the extremely popular productions.
Recent years have seen many improvements with new toilets, a top quality catering kitchen, a renovated bar and theatrical standard lighting and sound systems.
The Old Grammar School
Situated down School Lane (turn down past Audlem Post Office), the school is an imposing building opened in 1655 and now used as a nursing home for the elderly. Money to build the Grammar School came initially from William Gammull of Buerton, who bequeathed £30 in his Will of 1635 'for and towards the ... erection and continuance of a free school".
The school was finally built when Sir Francis Gammull and William Dod successfully appealed to Cromwell's Parliament to release money which had been collected for building the Grammar School but which had been held back as the Gammulls had supported the Royalists cause during the Civil War.
In 1908 the school closed and for a time became a private residence. It re-opened, however, in 1913 as a mixed senior school offering a curriculum including: cookery, laundry, agricultural chemistry, poultry and beekeeping, gardening, rural carpentry and cheese and butter making.
The Grammar School finally closed in 1965 and was later converted in to use as a nursing home for the elderly.
An attempt to revive the ancient market (Audlem was granted its Market Charter in 1296) was made in 1817 and auctions continued until 1906. A later attempt was less succesful when Mrs Dooles of Meadows Farm and George Goodwin had their own market each week. He brought the butter, eggs and cheese which she bought. After about five minutes trading, the market was over!
Next to the Buttermarket there is a bear stone, with a description of its former use. You will have to bring your own bear in these more enlightened days, however. It is likely that any bear other than a Teddy could attract adverse comment, prosecution and possibly stop the traffic.
Village Centre Monument
The monument commemorating Doctor Richard Baker Bellyse (1809-1877), stands in the village centre. Doctor Bellyse worked as a surgeon in the village for 40 years and the monument was erected in appreciation of a life spent relieving the sufferings of his fellow creatures.
The good Doctor's grandfather was "Cockfighter Bellyse" (1738-1829), well-known for his sartorial elegance. He was reported as being dressed in blue dress-coat with brass buttons, light coloured Kerseys and gaiters, buff waistcoat and a pigtail peeping beneath a conical low-crowned hat.
As his nickname suggests, he was a renowned breeder of racing greyhounds and game birds for cock-fighting, especially at Chester. Training for the fights included feeding the birds for twelve days beforehand on eggs and sugar candy water, hot bread and milk, barley, rice, butter and rhubarb, somewhat better than even the diet of today's finest free range, organic poultry!
Tuesday 21st Mar
Meet in Audlem Car Park at 9.30am
Audlem Public Hall
Methodist Meeting Room