The Domesday Book confirms that there was a Saxon Church and a priest here in 1086. The Norman nave is seen to be the oldest part of St Laurence’s Church. After the Norman Conquest the town of Church Stretton was one of the manors given to Roger de Montgomery, Earl of Shrewsbury, but in 1102 it reverted to the king. In 1336 Edward III gave the manor to Richard Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel, and it stayed with that family until 1579.
The present cruciform structure of St Laurences Church dates back to the early 13th Century when a larger chancel, north and south transepts and the central tower were added. The Victorian restoration of 1867-68 saw major internal refurbishment including the addition of two western aisles to the transepts, new pews, and a new pulpit and organ.
The church is built partly of uncoursed rubble and partly of dressed stone. It consists of a chancel, a crenellated and pinnacled central tower, transepts with west aisles, and a nave with south vestry in place of a former porch. The nave is 12th-century and has nearly opposing north and south doorways of the period. Reset above the doorway are fragments of 12th-century carved stone and a sheela-na-gig. Sheela na gigs are unusual decorations for churches, being pornographic images carved in stone. The origins of the practice are unknown, some believe they are left-overs from Pagan religions and may have been built into the churches after having been removed from an earlier structure. But no-one knows for certain. There are believed to be less than fifty sheela-na-gigs in Great Britain, and another hundred in Ireland.
The south doorway, now connecting nave and vestry, is of one order with attached shafts. About 1200 the church became cruciform with the building of transepts, tower, and a new chancel. Chancel and north transept have doorways contemporary with their build: towards the west end of the chancel a priest's doorway pierces the south wall, and until 1882 another doorway pierced the north wall and perhaps gave access to the tower stair; the blocked doorway in the north transept ceased to be external when the west aisle was added in 1868. A low side window and a window above it, at the south-west corner of the chancel, are probably 15th-century. The sill of the upper window, recut from a tomb cross, contains a piscina presumed to have served an altar in a rood loft at the west end of the chancel; window and piscina are the only evidence of the existence of a loft. The font also is 15th-century, and the ashlar upper storey of the tower and the south-transept roof, arch-braced with the wind braces arranged in quatrefoils, perhaps date from c. 1500.
In the early 17th century Bonham Norton's widow Jane (née Owen) rebuilt the west wall of the church, and at her death in 1640 she endowed the repair of the west end. The north transept was roofed with Broseley tiles in 1833 The tower was repaired in 1839, and in 1841 the nave was roofed with Broseley tiles and crests.
In the chancel the north window and the low side window contain Flemish roundels and panels of the late 16th and 17th centuries the high window includes fragments said to have come from St. Mary's, Shrewsbury. Several windows have Victorian glass. The south window of the south-transept aisle contains glass commemorating Edward (d. 1455) and Elizabeth Leighton.
The church was restored in 1867-8. The top of the tower was rebuilt with a new, pyramidal, roof and new pinnacles in 1880-1.
Review St Laurences Church, Church Stretton.