Church House only came completely into possession of St Nicholas Church in 1992.
Prior to then the rear section and upstairs had been property of Coventry Diocese
as part of the then Rectory, serving as its stables until the 1960’s, after which
it became derelict. The front hall, then a dwelling house, had been purchased at
auction by St Nicholas Church in 1910 and converted into the hall as it remains today.
When the Rectory was sold, the rear section of Church House was given by the Diocese
to St Nicholas Church, thus reuniting the whole building.
1869 to 20th Century - becoming Church House
The property, a former bake house, was purchased privately in 1869 for £650 by the
then Rector, Rev. Alfred Williams, a clergyman of considerable standing, from William
Wadams, a local butcher. It comprised of two adjoining cottages with an ancient
passageway between, the smaller cottage becoming Vergers Lodge, its original timber
framed structure almost unchanged to this day. The larger cottage ‘a dwelling house’
extended substantially to the rear, housing the Rectory stables, and by the time
of Rev Williams’ death, the two front ground floor rooms, each with a bay window,
were being rented to the church as Mission Rooms for £4 per year. Rev. Williams successor,
Rev.William Booth tried to persuade the Church Commissioners to buy the whole property,
but only the stables were taken up for use by the adjacent Rectory, resulting in
the dwelling house and adjoining cottage being put up for auction in 1910 by Rev.
Williams’ executors. They were bought for St Nicholas Church by Rev. Thomas Chapman
and his Churchwardens with the aid of a mortgage, finally paid off in 1915. The
dwelling house was immediately converted into the hall as we know it today and formally
opened on 12th December 1912.
The history, use and life of Church House is more fully documented in the following
1) One Hundred Years of St Nicholas Church, Norman Barker, 2001
2) Church House – Restoration and Research, Richard Osborne, Alcester and District
Local History Society journal Local Past, June 2012
3) The Acquisition of Church House, Richard Osborne, ADLHS Local Past, December 2014
1451 to 1869 - the first 400 years
Looking back through the known history of the building prior to Rev Williams’ acquisition,
the deeds record that the property, No.17 Butter Street, originally belonged to the
Greville family who became the Lords Brooke, with named tenants since 1562. Recent
tree-ring dating sponsored by Alcester Civic Society and Alcester and District Local
History Society has established that the trees that provided the oldest surviving
frames were felled for house construction use in 1451, when Henry VI was on the throne,
just prior to the Wars of the Roses. At least one tree was growing as early as 1285.
This suggests that the whole of 15th Century Butter Street was built at around the
same time. After a succession of Brooke tenants, in 1862 the property was sold by
a Mr Ladbury and a Mr Simpson to William Wadams, an Alcester butcher, and then, as
mentioned above, sold privately in 1869 to Rev Alfred Williams, Rector of Alcester.
The Church House Development Committee was formed in 2006 to take on the refurbishment
into modern facilities, at a projected cost of £250,000. In 2008 an Architect was
appointed and by 2010 sufficient funds were in hand to commence, with the church
toilets (first phase) being opened in July that year.
The second phase to provide the new kitchen, office and disabled toilet in 2011 involved
gutting the remaining back section of the building, which revealed that the original
timber framed property had been not one but possibly two medieval buildings comprising
a ‘grand’ house at the front and a utility house at the back. Nothing remains of
the front house other than its rear gable which remains intact between the hall and
kitchen - the modern hatch being sited through an original window in the timber frame.
The rear house was less altered although many modifications had taken place including
removal of the bottom section of its front timber gable, probably to make the gap
sufficiently wide for a coach house where the kitchen now is. Much original timber
can however still be seen upstairs.
In 2013 as part of the overall scheme, a new cedar board clad corridor extension
was added to enable all the rooms to be accessed from the hall under cover.
Refurbishment of the upstairs, begun in 2014, is now completed, creating a flexible
area Upper Room for small meetings and storage space for archives, and on the opposite
side of the new stairs, a larger Hayloft Room is created from the old hayloft over
the former stables.
The passageway beside Church House at one time extended through to The Moors, and
is clearly marked as a road on the 1754 Brooke estate map, predating the current
passages off Alcester’s High Street to its car park. Never adopted as a public path,
the surviving section was in 2008 finally registered as part of Church House property,
and now serves as a courtyard and step free path to the church toilets, the back
door of Church House, and a private access to St Nicholas Rectory.