St Laurence

Ludlow possesses one of the great parish churches of England, and one of the largest, St Laurence's, is known, with good reason, as the Cathedral of the Marches.

About this church

With the castle, the lofty 15th century tower stands proud in any distant view of the town, though it can only be glimpsed from the warren of old streets and passages that lead to it: the best view is from the north.

Set in a loop of the River Teme, Ludlow's hill was always a natural site for a stronghold in these turbulent border lands, and the first church was built soon after the Norman castle of 1085.

There are few obvious remains of that church or of its 12th century successor, which was nearly as big as the present building. Improvements and additions were made through the 13th and 14th centuries, including the unusual hexagonal south porch (one of only three of its shape in the country).

By the late Middle Ages, Ludlow's burgeoning prosperity from cloth and other trades enabled the various guilds to be generous in funding a transformation of the church into the masterpiece of Perpendicular style that had emerged by the late 15th century.

The work touched almost every aspect of the building: the chancel, which is just as long as the nave, the west front, and the tower, with its soaring fluted arches flooded with light from the large windows above. The height of the nave and transepts was increased. Interior detailing included exquisitely carved roof bosses and corbels, as well as furnishings such the misericords in the choir stalls, which portray a whole cast of colourful characters, human, animal and mythical.

A good deal of medieval glass has survived, restored in the 19th century but not spoiled. The east window in the chancel depicts the life of St Laurence, while the Lady Chapel, with its excellent screen, has a restored 14th century Tree of Jesse window. There is more fine medieval glass in the windows of the north (Palmer) chapel.

St Laurence's has a fitting collection of elaborate 16th and 17th century monuments, some with finely costumed effigies. Outside, near the north door, is a wall memorial to the poet AE Housman (1859'1936). He is also commemorated by a cherry tree in the churchyard, recollecting famous lines from A Shropshire Lad.

Key Features

  • Captivating architecture
  • Spectacular stained glass
  • Magnificent memorials
  • Glorious furnishings
  • Fascinating churchyard
  • National heritage here
  • Famous connections

Visitors information

  • Level access to the main areas
  • On street parking at church
  • Parking within 250m
  • Accessible toilets nearby
  • Dog friendly
  • Walkers & cyclists welcome
  • Space to secure your bike

Other nearby churches

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St Mary the Virgin

A pleasant hour's walk above the River Teme leads from Ludlow to St Mary's, which began life as a Norman priory church and still shares its riverside setting with the old Priory Gatehouse.

St Giles

Tiny, remote and very rural, the church here has a great treasure: a Norman tympanum showing the Lamb of God flanked by a griffin and a winged bull.

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