St Mary’s originated as a collegiate church (The Collegiate Church and Royal Free Chapel of St Mary the Virgin, a Royal Peculiar). According to tradition it was founded by King Edgar in the 10th century. By at least the 13th century, it was served by a dean and nine canons Excavations in 1864 revealed the presence of an earlier church with a nave and an apsidalchancel. Building of the present church began in the 12th century, consisting of a nave without aisles, and a cruciform east end. A large west tower was added, and in about the 1170s the transepts were altered to provide altars for the canons. Construction of the aisles followed, first the south aisle with a porch. Work on the north aisle continued until the 1220s. The crossing was then rebuilt. In the early to mid 13th century the transepts were raised, and the chancel was lengthened and raised. During the 14th century the Trinity Chapel was added to the south of the chancel. In the following century, possibly about 1477 when a bequest was made to the church, further improvements took place, including the construction of a clerestory on the nave and chancel, which replaced the tower at the crossing and the chancel vault. At this time the transept roofs were reduced in height, a large east window was inserted, and larger windows were added to the aisles. It is possible that the spire was added to the west tower at this time. Exterior
The plan of the church consists of a four-bay nave, with north and south aisles, and north and south porches, a crossing with north and south transepts, a two-bay chancel with a vestry to the north, the Trinity Chapel to the south, and a west tower. The tower has four stages, the bottom three stages are in red sandstone, and the top stage in white sandstone. The bottom three stages are Norman in style, while the top stage is Perpendicular. In the bottom stage is a west doorway with a round arch of two orders. To the left of the doorway is a re-used Roman stone with a Lewis slot. In the next stage, over the doorway, is a clock face. The third stage contains paired Norman windows, and in the top stage are paired two-light transomed bell openings. The summit of the tower has an embattled pierced parapet, and crocketted pinnacles. There is a stair turret in the northeast corner. The spire is octagonal, and recessed behind the parapet. It carries three tiers of lucarnes. The spire is said to be the third tallest in England.
The windows in the north and south sides of the aisles and clerestory are Perpendicular. In the west wall of the south aisle is a round-headed lancet window, and in the west end of the north aisle is a pointed-headed window. The south porch is built in Grinshill stone. It is in two storeys, the lower storey being built in the 12th century, and the upper storey added in the 14th century. The upper storey has a two-light transomed window. The outer doorway has a round arch and three orders of shafts; the inner doorway also has a round arch, but with one order. There are small windows in the side walls of the porch. The south transept has a small Norman doorway and three lancet windows on the south side, and single lancet windows in the west side. The Trinity Chapel has four large three-light windows on the south, and a seven-light window on the east side. The east window of the chancel has eight lights. Above the north vestry are three stepped lancet windows. To the east of the north transept is a “complex corner” with a variety of windows. The north transept itself has 12th-century pilaster buttresses, a small north doorway, and lancet windows. The north aisle has Perpendicular windows and a porch. Within the porch is another Norman doorway, with one order of shafts.
In the opinion of the architectural historians John Newman and Nikolaus Pevsner, the nave arcades are “the finest piece of architecture in the church”, each consisting of four wide bays, with semicircular arches. The oak ceiling of the nave has 15th-century carvings depicting birds, animals and angels.
The Trinity Chapel contains a triple sedilia. The stone mensa of the medieval high altar was excavated in 1870 and placed below the present altar, which shares the same dimensions. The riddel posts and English Altar were erected during the remodeling of the sanctuary by Sir Charles Archibald Nicholson in 1931. The Altar frontals were worked and embroidered by Beatrix Mary Pennyman, wife of the vicar, during the First World War.
The octagonal font is Perpendicular, and is carved with arcading and (now headless) angels, The pulpit dates from 1853, it is polygonal, in stone, and designed by S. Poultney Smith. The floor of the church is tiled. The organ case dates from 1729 and was designed by John Harris and John Byfield. The canopied clergy stall of 1897 was designed by C. E. Kempe; it was formerly in the chapel of Shrewsbury School. In 1729 Harris and Byfield built a new three-manual organ to replace an earlier organ. This was rebuilt and enlarged in 1847 by Gray and Davison.The present four-manual organ dates from 1912. There is a ring of ten bells, eight of which were cast in 1775 by Pack and Chapman at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, and the other two in by 1911 by John Taylor & Co of Loughborough.
The Nave The choir, organ, pulpit and stained glass windows Stained glass The stained glass is of various styles dating from the 14th to the 19th centuries, and was brought to St Mary’s from elsewhere, much of it from Europe, in the 18th and 19th centuries. It is said that “no other church in the country has a collection to equal it” The “main treasure” is the east window of the chancel, which contains a depiction of the Jesse Tree. The Tree of Jesse is a depiction in art of the ancestors of Christ, shown in a tree which rises from Jesse of Bethlehem, the father of king David and is the original use of the family tree as a schematic representation of a genealogy. It originates in a passage in the biblical Book of Isaiah which describes metaphorically the descent of the Messiah, and is accepted by Christians as referring to Jesus. The various figures depicted in the lineage of Jesus are drawn from those names listed in the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke. The subject is often seen in Christian art, particularly in that of the Medieval period. By tradition it was made for the Franciscan church in Shrewsbury, moved to St Chad’s Church after the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and then to St Mary’s in 1792. Although it was much restored in 1858 by David and Charles Evans, much of the original glass remains. This glass is dated between 1327 and 1353. Glass in the north windows of the chancel and the central part of the south aisle were made for the Cistercian Altenberg Abbey between 1505 and 1532. They depict scenes from the life of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, and were bought for St Mary’s by Rev W. G. Rowland, the vicar in 1845, at a cost of £425 (£40,000 in 2014). Also in the south aisle are two windows from the church of St Aspern, Cologne. Windows elsewhere consist of part of a collection of 15th-century stained glass bought in 1801 by Sir Brooke Boothby at a cost of £200 (£10,000 in 2014). This is the only truly splendid medieval church that exists in Shropshire. The spire is one of the tallest in England and for over 500 years it has dominated the skyline of Shrewsbury’s old town. In 1739, showman Robert Cadman attempted to slide from it, head first, using a rope and a grooved breastplate. His engraved obituary stands outside the west door. Twig., 2015 Sources : Wikipedia, Secret Shropshire