St Michael and All Angels
The church at Penkridge had already been granted collegiate status by Royal Charter in the 10th century, indicating its importance from early times. It was a wealthy foundation with extensive lands and quite a collection of buildings, including a chapter house and a refectory, close to the site of the present church. Most of these buildings were lost at the time of the Reformation, though the Old Deanery and Church Farm date from the church’s collegiate days. The structure of the present handsome and rather grand sandstone church dates from the 13th century, though the tower and porch are a century later. Alterations during the 16th century gave the exterior much of its Perpendicular character but the church retains the original 13th-century arcades inside, and the east window is in the Decorated style. There are some distinguished 16th- and 17th-century monuments, notably the double-decker tomb of a father and son both called Sir Edward Littleton, of nearby Pillaton Hall, who died in 1610 and 1629 respectively.
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It was Staffordshire that bore the brunt of the largest non-nuclear explosion of World War II, when a munitions dump at RAF Fauld went up in 1944. It was also the county’s regiment that once boasted within its ranks the most decorated NCO of World War I, in the person of William Coltman (1891-1974). Going back a little further, George Handel penned his world-famous masterpiece The Messiah on Staffordshire soil. During another chapter of Staffordshire history, the county was home to the first canals and the first factory in Britain, and it had front-row seats for the drama surrounding one of the most notorious murder trials of the 19th century, that of Doctor William Palmer.
In outline, Staffordshire looks not unlike the profile of a man giving Leicestershire a big kiss. The man’s forehead is arguably the best region for hillwalking, as it comprises a significant chunk of the Peak District. This area is characterised by lofty moors, deep dales and tremendous views of both. Further south are the six sprawling towns that make up Stoke-on-Trent, which historically have had such an impact on Staffordshire’s fortunes, not to mention its culture and countryside. This is pottery country, formerly at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution and the driving force behind a network of canals that still criss-cross the county.
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