A Brief Story of a Village Parish Church Set in Rural North Warwickshire.

26 Mar 07

St. Laurence’s Church Ansley

  • View of the South Side

This web site article is available in booklet form from St. Laurence’s Church, Price £1.00

  • The North Door

  • The West Door


Our Vision

  • To worship and love God.
  • To share the Good News of Jesus in word and deed.
  • To meet the needs of others with the help of the Holy Spirit.


We are at present in interregnum 

Church Wardens:

Mrs. Margaret Antill
Phone:- 01827 874520
Mrs. Moreen Freestone
Phone::- 024 7638 1833

The parish of Ansley

St. Laurence Church is situated at the centre of the Parish of Ansley. There are approximately one thousand dwellings in the parish in three centres of community, Ansley Common, Ansley Village and the smallest hamlet Birchley Heath, with under 100 homes. Both Ansley Common and Ansley Village contain houses specifically built to house coal miners and their families. Miners from the Common and the Village worked in the pits in the area namely, “Ansley Hall”, “The Tunnel” and “Arley”. There are also many outlying farms and cottages scattered around the parish, which is part of the former North Warwickshire Coalfield.

Ansley Hall Colliery was sunk in 1878, it did not become a profitable venture until William Garside Phillips arrived from Yorkshire and took charge. After his death in 1929 his son Joe, ran the business until the nationalisation of the coal industry when the family left the parish. Ansley Hall Colliery closed in 1959 followed by other local pits. The residents of Ansley have gradually found employment in surrounding towns and cities.

The parish originally formed part of the estate of Countess Godiva of Coventry. After the Norman Conquest it came into the hands of the de Hardreheshill family. Their possessions descended to the Culpepper family of Kent about 1370. After the demise of Thomas Culpepper by Henry VIII, the Ludford family, who had been stewards of the Culpepper’s, became eminent in Ansley until the end of the 19th century.

Apart from agriculture, which has always been present, the main source of employment before mining was ribbon making for the Coventry silk industry.

The Church

Although not mentioned in the Domesday book, archaeologists tell us that the oldest part of the Church’s stone work is outside on the south side of the chancel under the larger of the two windows. This is thought to date from 1050, which seems likely as Lady Godiva had several other churches founded at this time, and they too are also dedicated to St Laurence. It is thought that these churches were dedicated to St. Laurence because her trusted friend Abbot Laurence commissioned those churches to be built.

In the reign of King John, the Church was given by William de Hardreshulle of Hartshill to the nuns at Polesworth. The patronage of the Church stayed with the nuns until the Reformation, when it was given to the Crown until 1883.

A large part of the south wall of the nave and part of the chancel are 12th century although sections have been rendered. The doorway arches at the south entrance, and on the north wall outside are Norman. The wooden door on north side was not made for that opening but altered to fit at a different time. The chancel arch is also Norman, the  top of the pillar on the northern side of this arch shows a man among trefoiled leaves being devoured by a dragon and a lamb; the forces of good and evil

  • Carving on top of the pillar of Norman arch

The stone coffin set in the north wall is from the 13th century and could be that of a child, or the entrails of a Crusader. This was discovered in 1894 in the original north wall. The nearby lancet window is also 13th century and now contains a 20th century memorial to the Heaton family. These items together with the doorway were moved to their present site when the north aisle was added in 1913.

The stonework of the low light windows of the chancel are different on the two sides and together with the larger windows are 14th century, the coloured glass being mostly 19th century.

The tower and the clerestory are of the 15th century although the pinnacles on the nave were added in the 18th century and those on the tower replaced in 1975, and reconstructed in 2006. The tower contains three original bells dated 1580, 1609 and 1669. These were augmented to six and all rehung in a new frame in 1978. See the brass plaque on the South wall.

In 1760 John Bracebridge Ludford had the Ludford family pews placed in the chancel, and their servants’ pews below. A new “altar room” was built with the family vault beneath. The 15th century reset window could have been the former east window and contains some very old glass. The painting of the altar piece, depicts the visitation of the angels to the shepherds, but the artist is unknown. The semi-elliptical communion rails are also of the 18thcentury. The Ludford monuments can be seen in the chancel with the two stained glass windows. The funeral hatchments in the nave and tower are also in their memory. The nave was also re-pewed at this time and a seating plan was drawn up for worshippers. (N.B. There is a notice placed by Rev. W. Couch in 1924 in the porch stating “All seats in this Church are free”) 

The Rev. Charles Heaton, incumbent 1892 – 1924, carried out many alterations, with the church again being re-pewed, the aisles tiled, and a new pulpit and font being added. The old porch was turned into the vestry and the present porch constructed in place of the old vestry.

  • Interior 1892

The North Aisle was also added in 1913 at a cost of £1,100. Mrs Heaton spent 10 years embroidering the white altar frontal and two falls which were completed in 1907 and still much in use today.

In 1930 after the death of W.G. Phillips, the gallery was reduced in size and the vestry screen changed to their present proportions. The west window, given in his memory, depicts St Laurence on the left hand side being roasted on a grid iron. The children offering gifts at the nativity are his three grand children.

The pulpit was moved to its present position and the chancel aisle widened in 1975. At that time the removal of the wall panelling and the lowering of the Ludford pews to their current level revealed the two low light chancel windows.

  • The North side 19th century

With the Church having had building work from most of the past ten centuries, it is fitting that the 21st century has not been omitted. In 2003 the annexe was constructed to provide a meeting room and facilities for visitors to the Church and churchyard.

It is our prayer that the Church, the annexe, plus the two village halls in Ansley Common and Ansley Village will continue to be used by residents and visitors, to the glory of God and the good of the community.

Ansley Church Today

Under the leadership of Rev. Peter Allan, Ansley has the following regular services.

At St. Laurence’s there are services each Sunday at 10.30 a.m. and 6.30 p.m., alternating between Holy Communion and Morning Worship / Evensong. The evening services take a more traditional format.

At 4.00 p.m. each 1st Sunday of the month a very informal family service is held, especially geared to the young.

There are also services each Sunday held at St. John’s Church Hall in Ansley Common at 10.30 a.m., with a Sunday School.

In the Village Church Hall at 10.00 a.m. on the third Tuesday each month a short act of worship is held.

Baptisms, Weddings and Funerals are by arrangement.

Each year we have special services to celebrate Christmas, Easter and Harvest, and over the August holiday weekend our Annual Flower Festival.

We hold an annual Memorial Service in January and special services for Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Remembrance Day.

During the summer, we have the Church Open and serve light refreshments on alternate Saturdays. The Churchyard is always open, as is a toilet in the annexe.

Please see the " What's on" section of this web site, Parish Magazine, Ansley News or notice boards for more details. Alternatively contact the Vicar or wardens.

Ansley Parish Today

Each week there are a variety of activities in the parish including:-

  • Senior Citizens.
  • Parent and Toddlers.
  • Youth Clubs.
  • Community Cafés.
  • Indoor Bowls.
  • Bingo.
  • Bell Ringing etc.

During the year other activities include:-

  • Plant Sale weekend in May.
  • Allotment Association Sales of surplus produce at various times in the summer.
  • Cake sale in aid of Spurgeon Child Care in June.
  • Christmas events
  • Bring & Buy Coffee Mornings and various social events.

Notes of interest

The Co-operative Society branch in Ansley Common was the second to be opened in the country, but is now closed.

Peter and Zara Phillips, the children of The Princess Royal and Capt. Mark Philips are the great great grand children of W.G. Phillips.

In the 16th century William Ludford claimed the manor of Ansley and was accused by Sir Alexander Colepeper of stealing a deed relating to the lease of ‘Ansteley Hay ‘ and ‘Oxehay’ from Alexander Colepeper’s house in Kent.

The name Ansley is said to derive from ‘ansetl’ meaning lonely dwelling or hermitage. ‘leah’ means a clearing thus - a clearing marked by a lonely dwelling.


The Vicar and Churchwardens hope you will enjoyed a visit to Ansley Church and look forward to meeting you, when perhaps they may have the privilege of welcoming you to one of the services.



  • W. Gibson.
  • D. Oliver.
  • P. Simpson.

Black and White:

  • Church Records. Sources

The Antiquities of Warwickshire.

  • Dugdale. 1730 The Victoria History of Warwickshire. Salzman. 1945
  • Ansley Remembered, Bland, Callwood and Hayfield 1988.
  • The Parish Church of Ansley, Arnold 1965.
  • The Parish Church of St. Laurence Ansley, Callwood, 1995.
  • The West Window
  • View of the interior facing East.

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Personal Profile
Rev. John Langlands

 It is with great pleasure that I would like to welcome you to St Laurence.  Frances, my wife, and I have received a very warm welcome ourselves, so you will not be disappointed when you visit St Laurence.  I am also the Curate of the other churches in Ansley and Arley – St John’s, St Michael’s and St Wilfrid’s.

Being in a rural and farming area in the north part of Coventry Diocese is like coming home for us.  A number of years ago I pastored a church in rural Norfolk which was mainly surrounded by arable farms with some pigs and chickens.  The strong sense of community life was something very special.  This should be particularly valued in these days when many folk live such individual, separate and often lonely lives. 

We have just had hot off the press a visiting card which I hope reflects what our church stands for: ‘You will not walk alone.  Together we are with you on life’s journey’.  Over these next weeks, months and years, I hope we can get to know you better and that you will find Frances and myself not just ‘churchy’ people but friends as well, who enjoy life and plenty of laughter!