St Peter's Church Willersey
There has been Christian activity in Willersey at least as far back as the 8th century when King Offa (of Dyke fame) presented the Abbot of Evesham with "seven manses or farms in Willersei" The Doomsday Book (1084) mention "a priest with six plow tillages", worth £4 p.a. in the days of Edward the Confessor (died 1066) but £5 just 20 years later. 25% inflation in two decades!

'The Willersey Mound'. The lawn is slightly elevated along the west wall of the churchyard - "the Willersey Mound" traditionally said to have been a communal grave of Willersey men who fell in the Battle of Evesham (1265) when Simon de Montford was defeated by Prince Edward (soon to be Edward I). Some say, however, that Willersey was too far from the battlefield (six or seven miles) to have been the probable place of burial.

Votive crosses. Scratched into both walls of the North Porch are a number of crosses. Crusadrers and merchants from the 12th century and later sometimes put these marks on church walls as a promise of financial aid to the church if they were safe or successful in their ventures.

List of Rectors. The list is taken from the Hockaday Abstracts (in Gloucester) and the Bishops' Certificates of Institution (Public Records Office). There are periodic gaps in the list (eg between 1444 and 1553) but also because the first ten listed Rectors apparently all served within the space of two decades! What could the explanation be? Perhaps, that they were actually a succession of religious (monks) visiting to put in periods of service from Evesham Abbey?

Music and musicians in Willersey. In 1577, Queen Elizabeth I granted tithe land in the village to Thomas Tallis and William Byrd. Nice association - but we don't know whether they ever came here. (Dictionary of National Biography, Note 349)

There's a description of the choir's work in 1848: "The Choir consisted of a Bass-Viol, flute and several voices. The old man with the flute took upon himself the leadership; and now and then, when he deemed it necessary to interpret certain passages with unusual emphasis, he would sing in one of the richest nasal twangs I ever heard, at the same time using his flute as a baton, and flourishing it about to the imminent danger of the eyes and ears of his compeers. (John Noake, Rambler in Worcestershire, p 231)

The Royal Arms of George III can be seen on the south wall of the Nave. There's nothing specially unusual about a royal arms board in a church. But this one, which dates from 1801, is interesting because it incorporates a mistake. In the first quarter, we see three lions where there should really only have been two.

The Crossing and the Tower pillars. One of the most remarkable features of Willersey church is its central tower and crossing - both relatively unusual for a small church of this age. The abbots of Evesham had Willersey manor house as their summer residence and so took a special interest in the parish church here. Abbot Zattan (1379-1418) designed the magnificent pillars, based on those in Evesham Abbey (destroyed in the Dissolution by Cromwell and Henry VIII). In vaulting above was replaced in the 19th century, in a remarkably good imitation of the original 15th century work.

The Vestry, and an exploded myth On the floor just inside the vestry (to the south of the chancel) is a monument to Anthony Roper. A local tradition is preserved in the 1960 guide book (extracts from which form the leaflet about the church, still available by the north door). This tradition states that "he was a descendant of an Anthony Roper who was a landowner in the time of Queen Elizabeth I. Sir Thomas More, who was involved in the religious difficulties of the time and was beheaded in the Tower of London, married a daughter of that Anthony Roper.?€? Wrong. Sir Thomas More's daughter Margaret married a William Roper. But there may still have been a lineage connection between More's son-in-law Will Roper and the Anthony in Willersey vestry.

Visitors to the church will be able to trace work from various architectural periods of the Middle Ages and since, by referring to the available leaflet.
See Also...
St Nicholas's Church Saintbury
St Lawrence's Church Weston-sub-Edge
St Andrew's Church Aston Sub-Edge
St Lawrence's Church Mickleton
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(c) Cotswold Edge (North) Benefice
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