A brief history of our church building

A Brief History of Lawley Church of England Parish church

The first mention of Lawley Township was in 1841, an area then reckoned to be 287 hectares. “It was roughly lozenge shaped, longer from north to south. Its boundaries, though fairly regular, did not for the most part follow roads or watercourses”. In 1894 Lawley was included in Wellington Rural civil parish. The name “Lawley” is Saxon in origin, meaning “a place in the hundred of Blackburn, Shropshire – from Law, low and ley, a place, lea or pasture”.

Lawley village stands on sand and gravel, but most of the township consists of boulder clay beneath which were workable coal seams.

Lawley merits a mention in the famous cycle of poems
“A Shropshire Lad” by Sir John Betjeman in 1896. “……..Captain Webb from Dawley came swimming along the old canal that carried the bricks to Lawley”.

Lawley village, which by the 17th century was centred on 3 farmsteads, changed little until 16 council houses were added in 1930-32. There were many miners’ cottages by 1840 on the margins of Lawley Common, the southern part of which was called Horsehay Common. Newdale, in the north, was a mining settlement founded circa 1759 by the Coalbrookdale Company.

In 1865, owing largely to the efforts of Bartholomew Yates of Lawley House Farm, a chapel of ease was completed on a site given by the Coalbrookdale Company and Lord Forrester .History suggests that a church was requested at the site due to the hardship of carrying coffins on foot to Wellington for funeral services, especially for those unable to have access to farm vehicles for transportation. Building costs were borne by Henry Dickenson, a partner in the Coalbrookdale Company, Mrs. Mary Jones (nee Darby), and others. The chapel was consecrated the same year.

From 1865 it was licensed for baptisms, marriages and burials. In 1867 a consolidated chapelry was assigned to it, comprising Lawley Township and the north-east part of Little Wenlock Parish. The living, a perpetual curacy in the Bishops gift, became a titular vicarage in 1868. The vicarage house was built south of the church in 1865.In 1982 it was bought by the Community of the Glorious Ascension and used as the Priory(or Mother House) of the order who supported worship at St Johns for many years. It is currently privately owned.

A priest-in-charge was appointed from 1965 -1975 when Lawley became a district in the new parish of Central Telford. Thereafter until in recent years, Lawley was in the immediate pastoral charge of successive rectors of Central Telford. 

The Church itself.
The Church of St John the Evangelist was designed by John Ladds in the Gothic style. It is of red and yellow brick with stone dressings and comprises a chancel with apse, north chapel (used since 1905 as a vestry), a south vestry (used as a boiler house), a southwest turret and spire and a nave with gallery and south porch. The single bell, made in 1865 was added in 1915. A red and white marble font stands at the southwest entrance dating from the church’s inception.

The original pump organ was replaced in 1970 with the present 2 manual pipe organ. The church has a 7 sided
wooden pulpit and the original wooden lectern from 1884 was donated to the church by Thomas Machin in memory of his mother. Thomas Machin of Horsehay also donated the stained glass west window in September 1902 in memory of his parents, John and Lizzie Machin.

Thomas Ragg , the first incumbent (1865-81) was a self educated divine and poet who was ordained in 1858. Before becoming the first minister at St John’s, he was a curate at St Leonard’s Malinslee. The stained glass east window is in his memory.

The current church hall within the church grounds was built in 1962 and replaced the original church institute built in 1920. It is used daily by local groups as well as providing the main venue for church activities.

British History online entry about St John’s.