All Saints Church

Mercia was one of the last parts of Anglo Saxon England to convert to Christianity.  In 669 AD a mission from St Chad (the Bishop of Lichfield) converted the people of Salloe.  An early Mercian king, probably Wulfhere, gifted Sawley as a manor to the Bishop of Lichfield.

The legend is that a party of monks rowed downstream from Repton to found the first church, which was made of rushes, and this was later replaced by a wooden building.   A church certainly existed by 822 AD when Bishop Æthelwold appointed the Canon of Sawley as a prebendary in his Cathedral Church at Lichfield.

Viking invaders, who used the River Trent to reach Repton from Nottingham in 854AD are said to have attacked Sawley on the way and burned the church. 

Pencil sketch of church

At some point, and certainly by the early 11th century, the church was rebuilt in stone.  At the time of the Domesday Survey, a priest and two Churches were named on the Bishop’s demesne, the two Churches certainly being Sawley and Wilne.

In 1259 (the same year as the granting of the Sawley Charter) Ralph de Chaddesden became the prebendary of Sawley.  He set about enlarging the church, knocking down walls to add side aisles. 

In the 1300s a later prebendary, John de Gauselinus, knocked down the old Saxon church, except for its west wall, and rebuilt it as the chancel to the larger church.  

The main entrance used to be on the south (the side away from the road) which is why the porch is there, though today most people enter through the 13th century north door.  The tower and spire are probably 15th century.  The rear choir stalls are from the Tudor period, and the rood screen from the Stuart period.  The pulpit is from 1636.  The Bothe family built the present roof and put in a clerestory storey to bring more light to the nave.  The clock on the spire was installed in 1880, and the organ in 1906.



1266      Hugh de Scoter

1315      William Patris

1343      John de Salloe

1343      William de Bromley

1363      Richard de Braydeston

1369      John de Apthorpe

1390      Richard de Rodyngton

1390      William Beck

1394      John de Acres

1394      William Stapleford

1394      John Peck

1414      John Besage

1430      John Bloreton

1431      John Rysely



Perpetual Curates

1654      R. Holmes

1670      John Pyme

1686      Henry Greatorex

1692      Joseph Bruen

1693      John Bull

1702      Samuel Lees

1706      Francis Coleice

1750      John Kennedy

1754      R. Holmes

1767      W. Garthwait

1768      Benjamin Wigley

1785      Thomas Humphries

1815      John Holme

1819      William Harding

1823      James Lowther Senhouse

1844      Samuel Hey (rector from 1866)




1893      Arthur Clarke

1934      R. S. Renfree

1934      W. A. Rundle

1941      Gerald Harcombe

1947      Frank Forest

1954      John William Price

1961      Joseph Bennett Hurst

1969      David J. Chapman

1980      John Warman

1998      Peter Henry

2007      Alicia Petty

                Tony Street

The Sawley Angels

The “Sawley Angels”, dating from around 1270-80, are on display in the new sculpture gallery of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.  These beautifully carved fragments come from an ornate tomb canopy, made from Dolomite limestone, and were taken from the church of All Saints, in Sawley.

The angels are perfuming the tomb beneath with incense, just as the body of the deceased might have been censed during the funeral service. Originally painted, the canopy would have drawn attention to the tomb, which must have occupied a prominent position in the church.

Photographs by Barry Cope of the Sawley & District Historical Society

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