The Collegiate Church of St Mary, also known as St Mary’s Church, is a parish church in the centre of Warwick that dates from Norman times.
The church was founded in 1123 by Roger de Beaumont, 2nd Earl of Warwick and it was extensively rebuilt in the 14th century in the Perpendicular Gothic style. The nave and tower were rebuilt again in 1704 after the 1693 Great Fire of Warwick.
What to see at St Mary’s Church
St Mary’s is one of the largest parish churches in England, which is particularly impressive for a church in a relatively small town. The history of the church is intertwined with the Earls of Warwick who had a strong influence over the town and this is reflected in its interior.
The 15th-century Beauchamp Chapel was built to house the tomb of Richard Beauchamp, 13th Earl of Warwick. The chapel is also home to the tombs of Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester and his brother Ambrose Dudley, 3rd Earl of Warwick.
The chancel, vestry and chapter house were part of the major rebuilding of the church that was undertaken by Thomas Beauchamp, 11th Earl of Warwick in the 14th century and many people consider this a highlight of English Gothic architecture. The tomb of Thomas Beauchamp is located in front of the high altar and the Chapter House contains a monument to Fulke Greville, 1st Baron Brooke.
The nave is one of the newest parts of the church as this was rebuilt in 1704 after the Great Fire of Warwick.
The north transept contains the Chapel of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment (Royal Regiment of Fusiliers).
The crypt is the only surviving part of the original Norman church and it contains a rare example of a medieval ducking stool.
Along with the nave, the church’s 36.5m- (120 ft)-tall tower was rebuilt in 1704. The tower dominates the town centre and also offers lovely views of Warwick and the surrounding area. Although the tower offers spectacular views, it is not suitable for children under eight years old.
The church also has a brass rubbing centre where you can make your own brass rubbings onto black paper from one of over 25 brass plaques.
Visiting St Mary’s Church
St Mary’s Church is located in the centre of Warwick and most other points of interest in the town centre are not much more than a five-minute walk from here. It is only a three-minute walk to the Market Hall Museum and a four-minute walk to both the Lord Leycester Hospital and Warwick Castle.
The church is open for visitors during the afternoon between Thursday and Sunday during summer.
It is free to visit the church (donations are always appreciated), although there is a fee for guided tours, to climb the tower and to make brass rubbings.
Due to the historical nature of the building, only the nave and the Chapel of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment are wheelchair accessible.
There is also a small gift shop in the southwestern corner of the nave.