All Saints' Church, Billesley, Warwickshire

Billesley, Alcester, Warwickshire B49 6NF
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Open daily.
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A light-filled gem with a Shakespearean connection

All Saints' rises from a lovely wooded churchyard in the hamlet of Billesley near Stratford-upon-Avon. From its approach through an avenue of limes, it looks like a Georgian country church - but its origins go back 1,000 years.

The church served the thriving village of Billesley for centuries, but by 1428 only four parishioners were left, and the church's north aisle was demolished. Tradition has it that William Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway here in 1582, and that his granddaughter's wedding also took place at Billesley. Sadly no parish registers survive from this time to prove it.

In 1692, Bernard Whalley rebuilt the church to create a fashionable classical addition to his Billesley estate. He installed a gallery for his staff complete with a butler's boxed seat. Whalley's own pew had a fine classical fireplace. His body lies, with his wife Lucy, in a sealed vault beneath the sanctuary floor.

Some remains of the early church survive, in particular the two spectacular twelfth-century stone carvings, which you can see on the east wall of the vestry. One, a richly decorated tympanum, shows a soldier in a kilt, a snake, a dragon and a bird, all surrounded by wonderfully twisted foliage. The other is part of a stone cross on which is a carved figure of Christ holding the hand of another person

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