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Ancient Church Is No Shrinking Violet

To find the oldest building standing in the city boundaries, you have to leave the city centre and travel to the “sinking church.”

The church of St Mary Magdalen in Wyken Croft dates back to the 12th century, and has its strange nickname because locals were convinced it was subsiding.

St Mary Magdalen

Parishioners had been convinced that they used be able to see the church from the Coventry to Walsgrave Road, but it had since slipped out of the line of vision.

Experts showed that the church hadn’t moved at al, but it is one of the tales that gives the church a unique atmosphere.

For much of its time it has been serving a tiny community, isolated from the hustle and bustle of Coventry’s city life.

As recently as 1910 there were just 260 people living in Wyken, and St Mary Magdalen was known as the “church in the fields”.

However, this isolation means that it has escaped “improvements” throughout the ages.

There are examples of Norman windows, a 12th century font bowl and a rare sacramental cupboard. The walls are one metre thick.

Its origin is shrouded in mystery. It is thought to have been built by Ranulf, Earl of Chester as one of four chapels for the monks of Coombe Abbey.

In those days they would have to travel there by boat, across pools and swamps.

There are few concrete facts about the early days, but the tower and bell are both dated at around 1420.

One of the rarest treasures is a 1480 wall painting on the north wall of the nave. It was only uncovered in the 1950s when electric lights were being fitted and shows St Christopher carrying Christ across a river.

It had been plastered over during the Reformation.

Once Wyken started to grow, the church was deemed too small, but instead of replacing it, another church was built next  - the Church of the Risen Christ. 

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CWN / Heritage / Heritage Open Days / 31 Aug 00

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This page modified on 10 November 2008 09:49:15AM