St. Chads Church, Shrewsbury
Darwin and St. Chads© John H. Wahlert, 21 June 1999
The parish church of St. Chads played an important role in the lives of the Darwins. There is, however, little mention of it in the autobiography or the many biographies of Chrles Darwin. Perhaps the lack of specific information has to do with the church being a part of ones environment rather than something special in addition to the routine of daily living.
The St. Chads Parish Register of Christenings and Burials shows the following entry in November:
Darwin Chas. Robt. Son of Dr. Robt. & Mrs. Susannah his wife/born Febr. 12 th...| C
The original font, described as a silver christening basin, in which Charles Darwin, Shrewsburys most famous son, was baptised on 15 November 1809, stood in the very centre of the nave. It was replaced by a grey marble font in 1843 (Charlesworth, 1997). The Charles Darwin guide published by the Information Centere, Shrewsbury tells a somewhat different story: The font in use was not the large one now in the new church: it was (in all probablility) the small wooden one with china bowl which can be seen in Old St Chads. The date of christening is a surprisingly long time after his birth in that year.
Francis Darwin (1902: 6, footnote) stated that Charles and his brother Erasmus were christened and intended to belong to the Church of England; and after his early boyhood he seems usually to have gone to church and not to Mr. Cases. Janet Browne (1995: 21) added that It was Caroline [one of his older sisters] who insured Darwins continuing education and that he knew his Bible; who took him to church--moving away from the Unitarian chapel run by Mr. Case in the High Street to favour St. Chads, the parish church where the children had been christened and where Susanna Darwin was brought to be buried...
St. Chads church is was built in 1790-92. Its controversial round form was designed by George Steuart, who was the architect of the elegant neo-classical Attingham House (1785) in the Shrewsbury area.
George Steuart, Architect, in the Isle of Man
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I greatly appreciate the assistance of Ms. Liz Young and the Staff of the Shropshire Records & Research Centre, Castle Gates, Shrewsbury, for locating and sending me a copy of the record of Charles Darwins christening. This modern facility is well designed to support research by historians and scholars.
Browne, Janet. 1995. Charles Darwin: Voyaging. New York, Alfrred A. Knopf. 606 pp.
Charlesworth, M. L., OBE. 1997. St. Chads Church, Shrewsbury. RJL Smith & Associates, Much Wenlock. Not paginated.
Darwin, Francis. 1902 (1995 Studio Editions). The life of Charles Darwin. London, Senate (Studio Editions Ltd.) 348 pp.
Information Centre, Shrewsbury. No date. Charles Darwin. Unpaginated pamphlet.
Last updated 21 June 1999 (JHW)