About this church
The parish is mentioned in the Domesday Book and was originally spelt ‘Handeswrde’, meaning ‘the land enclosed around Hand’s farmhouse’. In around 1225, a chapel dedicated to St Katherine of Alexandria was added. It is said to have been built by Maud de Lovetot as a chantry so that masses might be said for the soul of her husband Gerald de Furnival and perhaps that of her son Thomas, both of whom died on crusades in the Holy Land.
In 1698, the church spire was destroyed by lightning. A new steeple was built which was so small and squat it was nicknamed ‘the Handsworth stump’. It was replaced in the 1820's by another new tower, which was also struck by lightning in January 1978.The Earls of Shrewsbury had connections to St Mary’s since Tudor times and it is said that one Earl kept a mistress in what was then a Chantry House for clergy but is now the Cross Keys pub, said to be the only pub in England in a graveyard. Also nearby is the Old Rectory, with parts dating back to Tudor times, and a small museum on site.
St Mary’s is an interesting mix of architecture, with differing ceiling heights and columns dating from various periods. It has some outstanding stained glass window and an ancient graveyard. Our parish records date back to Elizabeth I.