The line of vicars takes us back nearly 700 years to 1327 when Hugo Leyng was ‘admitted’. But mention in the Doomsday Book of a priest in Tachbroc Episcopi suggests that continuous Christian ministry stretches back for a millennium.
Our village church is dedicated to St Chad who became the first bishop of Mercia in 669 – and his missionary works are referenced in the stained glass window of the north aisle. His ministry based in Lichfield covered a vast area, so 33 ancient churches still recall his name.
Most of the church building was completed in the 14C, with the tower being added in the 15C. Victorian ‘improvements’ included the rebuilding of the chancel and the installation of many fine stained glass windows. The most notable are the East window behind the alter which commemorates Elizabeth Kingsley, wife of Charles, author of ‘The Water Babies’; and a William Morris window in the North aisle which depicts the presentation of the baby Jesus in the temple.
Other intriguing features are the remnants of medieval paintings on the South wall. the nearby late Saxon font, and the 3 bells, still very active, with the oldest having been cast in 1653 and unscripted with IESU BEE OUR GOOD SPEED.
Also worth exploring are the memorial statutory in the chancel to the Wagstaff family who dwelt for many centuries in Tachbrook Mallory (where there has never been a church); and many wall plaques, one of which above the organ is in memory of Walter Savage Landor, the poet.
Outside the porch do look for the huge stones displaying deep groves where medieval archers would have sharpened their arrows; and also nearby the MASS Clock which announced the time of services.
Now look-up to admire the 3 clock faces, dating from 1840, 1887 (Quenn Victoria’s Jubilee), and 1977 (Queen Elizabeth II’s Jubilee), which were all, reguilded in 2008.
Who was St Chad?
Chad was born in the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria, the youngest of four sons, all of whom became priests and monks. They entered the monastery on the isle of Lindisfarne, just off the Northumberland coast, where St. Aidan was abbot. Chad’s brother Cedd had founded an abbey at Lastingham in what we now know as Yorkshire and, when Cedd died, Chad was elected abbot in his place.
Following the decision that the English church would follow the Roman rather than the Celtic tradition, Chad was appointed as bishop of Northumbria. But when already promised to Wilfrid, the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Theodore, asked Chad to stand down in Wilfrid’s favour in 669.
Chad’s grace towards Theodore’s judgement impressed and when he was asked that year by the king of Mercia to appoint a bishop for his kingdom, he had no hesitation in appointing Chad as bishop to the Mercians.
As Mercia covered an enormous area, Chad moved the base of his 10 dioceses from Repton to establish a new monastery and cathedral at Lichfield and quickly gained the respect of his people by his wisdom, gentle character, and tireless travelling on foot.
However, only three years later Chad died of plague in Lichfield on the 2nd of March 672, he was venerated as a saint and buried in his cathedral at Lichfield where his shrine became a place of pilgrimage during the Middle Ages.
Having been for many centuries in the Lichfield diocese, our church in Bishop’s Tachbrook is one of only 30 ancient dedications to St Chad, although the present building is not the original church but a 12th century replacement of the wooden one.
A great man indeed and we imagine 1 Peter 3:15 would have figured well on Chad’s journeys.
‘But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.’
From the first fruits of the English nation who turned to Christ, you called your servant Chad to be an evangelist and bishop of his own people: give us grace so to follow his peaceable nature, humble spirit, and prayerful life, that we may truly commend to others the faith which we ourselves profess.
In Jesus name.