BIRLEY S.Peter is small and off the beaten track. Knapton on the A4110 is home to most of the population of this tiny parish of just over 1,000 acres —blink, and you will miss the turning to Birley. Centuries ago, the importance of the two places was quite different. The road is ancient, and was rashly called Watling Street (there was more than one) in early ordnance maps. It was therefore just as suitable to serve as a boundary as for a local thoroughfare. The main settlement was to the east, where the great house was and the church still is. Eighteen households are recorded in Domesday. Information after that point is patchy. The chancel and parsonage house were in ruins according to the Visitation Returns of 1387. Down to Victorian times a significant part of the parish was a detached portion of Sarnesfield, specifically Lye Court and parts of Bush Bank and Birley Hill. The endowment was small, so the benefice has usually been held in plurality with King’s Pyon since 1767, long before the present group came into being. The building was repaired in 1854 and very carefully and comprehensively restored some twenty years later. It has an atmosphere of rich and gentle calm.
BIRLEY is a 13th century building of coursed rubble with ashlar dressings and a tile roof. It was extended in the 14th century and restored in 1873-1874. The four-stage west tower is early 13th century with a 17th century belfry stage and a shingled pyramidal roof. The porch is 19th century, but the semicircular arch of the south (main) door dates probably from the 12th. The nave is early 14th century, The late 14th century south chapel comes off the east end of the nave. The two-bay chancel is also 14th century, but the two lancets in the south wall, between the original priest’s door, are from the 19th century, as is the vestry on the north side of the chancel. The east window of three stepped pointed lights has a 19th rose window above it.
Inside, the tower arch is 17th century, the arch to the south chapel late 14th century (notice the blocked squint in the east respond) and the chancel arch is early 14th century ; there is a moulded capital to the north respond and the capitals of the south respond have dogs’ heads and a fleur-de-lys. The piscina in the south wall of the chancel is 14th century. There is also a 14th century piscina in the south wall of nave and a square-headed piscina in south wall of the south chapel : both presumably served now-vanished altars. The roof of the nave and that of the chancel are of the rafter type common in 19th century. The roof of the south chapel, however, is 14th century. The font beneath the tower is 12th century, and the semi-octagonal pulpit bears a small shield with the date 1633. There are two wall monuments in the south chapel with broken pediments and urns, to Mathew Croose (died 1798) and to Thomas Croose (died 1776), both of them from the great house opposite.
The church is listed Grade 1 and much of the information has been taken from the listing description.
SERVICE TIMES AT BIRLEY
Second Sunday: Evensong (BCP) at 3:30 pm
Fourth Sunday: holy communion (BCP) at 11am
Services are held on the second and fourth Sunday of each month
- Second Sunday: 3:30pm Evensong (BCP)
- Fourth Sunday: 11am Holy Communion (BCP)
During lockdown some of the choir and the Curate have put together sung services of Matins and Evensong. The videos include images and shots from both S. Mary's, King's Pyon and S. Peter's Birley. These provide a taste of the worship offered in the parish of King's Pyon.
Please use the below links: