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A Brief History of St Mary’s Church, Sudeley
St Mary’s is probably the second of the four churches of Winchcombe parish to be built, in about 1050. Although the Abbey’s Landboc and the Bishops’ Registers mention several of the incumbents and gives some details of their lands, no recognisable trace of the building survives. The current church was built by Ralph Boteler, Lord Sudeley about 1460, quite possibly as a memorial to his friends and associates, most of whom he had outlived. The head stops of the west door are Henry VI and Queen Margaret and those of the east window probably Ralph and his first wife Elizabeth.
The next significant event in St Mary’s history was the funeral on September 8th 1548, of Queen Katherine Parr, the widow of Henry VIII. After the Service her lead coffin was interred in the crypt and an impressive memorial erected. Queen Mary granted the castle to Sir John Brydges, whom she created Lord Chandos and that family made the vault of St Mary’s their burial place for the next century. In 1644 the Castle was garrisoned by Parliamentary troops, a mixture of religious iconoclasts and politically motivated egalitarians who desecrated the church by, amongst other things, destroying Katherine Parr’s memorial and removing the roof, leaving the building exposed to the elements. The coffins of the dead buried in the vault under the church were also destroyed. The body of the church lay in ruins for the next two centuries, though services continued to be held in the lean-to vestry on the north side, conducted for the most part by the vicar of Winchcombe, who doubled as Rector of the Parish of Sudeley Manor.
St Mary’s and the castle remained in ruins until the Sudeley estate was bought by John and William Dent, two bachelor glove makers from Worcester, who set about restoring the castle with the aid of Sir George Gilbert Scott. Following their deaths, the estate was inherited in 1863 by John Coucher Dent and his wife Emma Brocklehurst, who continued the work of restoration. In 1863, St Mary’s was rededicated following its complete restoration. In 1887, Emma Dent, now a widow, designed its stained glass windows, by Preedy, to commemorate significant figures in the castle’s history. She commissioned a new tomb for Queen Katherine Parr, with an effigy by J.B.Philip and a canopy by Sir George Gilbert Scott.