Although part of the new town of Telford, which was developed in the 1960s, Madeley was originally a new town in the 12th century. It was attached to the priory of St Milburga at Much Wenlock, who held the manorial rights and titles.
Madeley Court, now a hotel, was one of the satellite granges of Wenlock Priory. It became a place of retreat and rest for travellers, pilgrims and ecclesiastics; and was also used as a summer residence for the Priors of Wenlock.
The first church on the site was dedicated to the Virgin Mary and built at some point during the 13th century. Although it is suggested by some that a Saxon church originally occupied the site, documents have yet to be found to support this.
The first verified vicar, Richard de Castillon, enjoyed hunting and hawking in the wood of Madeley and the deer parks associated with Madeley Grange. Evidence of these parks can be seen in the local place names of today: Rough Park, The Park and Park Lane.
Wenlock Priory's last prior, Sir John Bayley, was buried at St Mary's in 1549. His resting place is uncertain but it is likely to have been close to the chancel, which was the custom for those with high ecclesiastical positions. The name of the church was changed after the Reformation to 'St Michael's' suggesting Henry VIII's displeasure with the Catholic Church.
The Brooke Family
Madeley Court, with its associated manor, was transferred by charter of Henry VIII to Sir Robert Brooke in 1539, a year before the dissolution of Wenlock Priory. The Brooke family became major benefactors to the church; they included knights, baronets and statesmen. Four stone statues of members of the family are situated in niches on the outside wall of the church. Restoration work has recently been completed on the memorials and a full brochure about the history of the period and the Brooke family is now available for visitors and schools for project work.
During the Civil War the church housed a garrison of Parliamentary soldiers. The Parish records date from 1645 and are currently held at the County Records Office in Shrewsbury. Records before 1645 no longer exist probably destroyed by Cromwell's men.
The original silverware may have already been removed by Henry VIII to supplement treasury resources. Subsequent silver was sequested by the crown to produce coinage for King Charles' army pay and minted at either Shrewsbury or Bridgnorth. The current Church silver dates from the early 19th century.
The old parish church, like it's successor, was only about 100 yards from the famous hiding place in which Charles II was hidden after his defeat at the battle of Worcester in 1651. The Upper House and associated barn was within the ownership of Francis Wolfe, who had strong loyalist connections. At the restoration of the monarchy Charles II presented Francis Wolfe with an inscribed silver tankard detailing Wolf's actions and the king's gratitude. The salutation reads "Given by Charles the Second, at the restoration to F Wolfe of Madeley in whose barn he was secreted after the defeat of Worcester in 1651".
The Church of St Michael's
It was during the time of Samuel Walter, within ten years of Fletcher's death, that a campaign was launched by public subscription to replace the old church. An octagonal shape replaced the simple two-celled church with seating for a congregation of one thousand. Designed by Thomas Telford, new parish church of St Michael's was consecrated on Easter Monday 1797. The first major alteration was the addition of the extended chancel in 1910. More recently in 2008 the church was closed for 8 months for major internal reordering to bring 21st century facilities into this fine historic building.
St Michael's Churchyard
The churchyard is probably the most significant in Shropshire. The collection of sixteen cast-iron tombs is arguably the best in the country for their variety.
- On the night of 23 October 1799 a ferry transporting pottery workers across the River Severn capsized with the loss of 28 lives.
- On 27 September 1864 'nine men of Madeley', some just boys, died when a coupling chain to the pit carriage became detached. A newly restored memorial to the nine men lies in the churchyard and interpretive material about the tragedy is available for school project work.
- Revd. J H A Phillips (formerly Gwyther) served the parish of Madeley from 1841-59. Cholera had reached epidemic proportions in the mid 19th century. In the space of nine days in 1856, five of his young children died. A memorial in the chancel gives details of their names and ages.