*** DEBUG END ***

Shropshire church stands on Neolithic site of worship dating back to 2000 BC

02 June 2017

Sarah Hart

Unearthed: the Stone Age post, with some of the archaeological team, led by Janey Green (second from the right)

Unearthed: the Stone Age post, with some of the archaeological team, led by Janey Green (second from the right)

A FORMER Anglican church in the corner of a Shropshire field could be one of the oldest sacred sites still in use in Britain.

An archaeological dig at the former Church of St John the Baptist, Sutton, Shrewsbury, has un­­earthed evidence that links it to a 4000-year-old Neolithic-ritual site near by, which was discovered dur­ing the 1960s. The present church dates from medieval times, but is known to have been built on the site of a seventh-century Saxon church. So experts were “shocked” when a 15-inch wooden post, excavated in February, was carbon-dated to 2033 BC.

“We thought we had found a Saxon post that formed part of an earlier church among the medieval foundations,” said Janey Green, the owner of Basker­­ville Archaeological Services, which carried out the dig.

“What we actually have is a sacred site dating back over 4000 years. It appears that the current medieval church is built over the site of an ancient pagan burial-ground that has been in use from the late Neolithic period through Bronze Age, Iron Age, Roman, and Anglo-Saxon times, to today.

The findings, she said, indicated that this special place had been honoured by our ances­­tors, from at least 2000 years before Christ. “All this was being built and used at the same time as the ancient Egyptians were building pyramids for their pharaohs. What makes this site different is the continuity of rit­ual practice in one form or other.”

Fifty years ago, in excavations on a neighbouring site, which today is part of a housing estate, Neolithic and Bronze Age burial mounds and cremations were discovered. Arch­­aeologists also found slots for stand­ing stones, two rows of post-holes, and a ditch that they inter­preted as being a processional walkway, ex­­­tending towards the present church.

Over the years, the building has had different uses, including farm storage. In 1994, it was sold in poor condition for £50 to the Greek Orthodox community, which restored it and renamed it the Church of the Holy Fathers of Nicaea. Their priest, Fr Stephen Maxfield, said: “Who would have thought that this little church would turn out to have a history of great significance? “From the moment we first saw this building as a crumbling ruin, full of farmer’s clutter, we thought it was very special. Now we know that it is.”

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Forthcoming Events


Church Times/RSCM:

Festival of Faith and Music

26 - 28 April 2024

See the full programme on the festival website. 

Early bird tickets available


Intercultural Church for a Multicultural World

28 May 2024

A Church Times/Church House Publishing webinar

Tickets are FREE


Church Times/Modern Church:

A Political Faith?

Monday 3 June 2024

This panel will explore where Christians have come to in terms of political power and ask, where should we go next?

Online tickets available


Church Times/Modern Church:

Participating in Democracy

Monday 10 June 2024

This panel will explore the power of voting, and power beyond voting.

Online tickets available


Green Church Awards

Closing date: 30 June 2024

Read more details about the awards


Welcome to the Church Times


To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)