History of Church House, Areley Kings

Prior to the Middle Ages the local church was invariably the largest building in any community and was not only used for religious purposes but also to hold meetings, parties and celebrations. In particular the Church hosted Church Ales at which ale brewed by the churchwardens was sold at to raise money for the fabric of the church. These “Ales” often involved singing, dancing and bad behaviour and eventually the church authorities decided that such activities were not suitable to be carried on in a religious building.

The Areley Kings churchwardens therefore followed a practice which was taking place all over the country and built a Church House to use for the purpose of holding the Ales. The building served this purpose for many years. However some time later when the Puritan ethic dominated religious life it was felt that church ales were not appropriate and they were discontinued.

At one time most communities would have had a church house but now most have been demolished, converted to domestic residences or been incorporated into other buildings. Church House Areley Kings is the only remaining original church house in Worcestershire. One other at Claines near Worcester is now part of a public house.

After the ending of church ales Church House became a school - the Lord of the Manor gave £5.00 towards its conversion for that purpose and the school continued until late in the 18th Century when the Rector at that time took it into his possession to use as a stable. It was subsequently used as a barn, a place to stable horses whilst their owners were at church and later a single story extension was added in which grooms and servants could wait for their masters to finish at divine service.

At the end of the 19th Century a further small extension was built as a bier house and this held the coffin carrier which transported coffins to the graveyard. In the early 20th Century the building was tidied up and used as a Scout Hut on the upper floor with a stable beneath. It later on became a youth club, a Home Guard post in the War, a Scout Hut again and then was used only as a church store for many years. In the 1970’s there was a rather poor attempt at restoration which actually hastened the decline of the building - but it did enable it to be used for some years as a church meeting room.

By the 1990’s it had deteriorated significantly and was damp, unhygienic and unsafe and so it was eventually closed for public use. In 1997 The Worcestershire Building Preservation Trust Ltd saw the building and realising its great historic significance agreed to help fund and oversee the restoration and repair of the fabric and add new facilities such as kitchen and toilets. With the help of a grant from the Heritage Lottery fund work commenced in February 2005 and was completed in March 2006. Since that time the building has been widely used by many local and regional organisations as a venue for a variety of functions and activities.