Coleshill is one of those churches whose fame is vested in a single treasure - in this case its extraordinary Norman font that dates from c12. It is a cylindrical font decorated with arcading which forms 11 “compartments” within which are 4 foliage designs, 4 “ordinary” figures, a crucifix, the Virgin Mary, and St John the Evangelist. It is carved from Caen stone beloved of the Normans for its ability to support complex and fine carving. Like all Norman fonts, it seems, Coleshill’s has its “lost and found story”, In this case it is believed that the font was plastered over to cover jewels set in its crucifixion scene. I don’t know whether the jewel story is true, but what we can be reasonably sure of is that the parliamentary despoilers would have defaced the “idolatrous” imagery had they seen it, so the theory is extremely plausible. It is generally believed to date from the mid twelfth century. Pevsner felt that the crucifix was ahead of its time
The font - described by Pevsner as “outstandingly good” is not enough to have gained Coleshill Church a place in most books on church architecture. Just a few miles from Birmingham, it was massively restored in the c19 but its core probably dates from 1340. Despite, or perhaps because of, the restoration Coleshill is a very fine example of a Midlands town church. It is wide and light and the pinkish-orange stonework is attractive to the eye. Moreover, its site at the very top of the High Street in one of the oldest parts of the town gives it a commanding position and it can be seen from some miles away.
The Church Guide claims the possibility of a Saxon minster in AD799. There is documentary evidence of a church in 1280 but, of course, the font points to there being a church at least 100 years before this. The church contains effigies of John de Clinton (d.1298) and his son - also John (d. 1316). Their forefather, Geoffrey de Clinton (d.1134) was chamberlain and treasurer to Henry I. It seems eminently possible that the font with its expensive imported stone and fine carving was commissioned by him. Intriguingly, the de Clinton family was connected with two other churches on this website - both surviving in their original Norman state - Iffley Church in Oxfordshire and Stewkley Church in Buckinghamshire. There is more about the de Clintons on those pages. The de Clintons gradually faded into obscurity losing most of their influence in the reign of Henry III. Coleshill Manor was acquired by the Digby family after the execution of the illustrious Simon de Montfort in 1495. There are many Digby effigies within the church but, sadly, not one to the most notorious of the Digbys - Sir Everard - who was one of the conspirators in the Gunpowder Plot and who suffered the dreadful consequences of being hanged, drawn and quartered at Tower Hill.
As for the body of the church, the nave’s 4 eastern bays date from 1340. The chancel is c15 as is the tower. There are some distinctive carvings around the exterior window spaces although they have suffered somewhat from weathering Coleshill. is a very “tidy” church that has been heavily restored, but it has a sense of harmonious wholeness that is in stark contrast to many Gothic town churches that have suffered much from centuries of well-intentioned modernisation and alteration. Coleshill is, very simply, a “nice” church, clean and full of light. And its font is one of England’s very finest.