The Rectory of St James lies immediately south-west of the church adjacent to the churchyard.
The building first appears in the records in 1612, when Robert Bell was the Rector, although it is certainly of much older foundation. There may well have been a priest's house here from the time of the church’s foundation in the 12th century, and certainly from the early 13th century when the parish of Stirchley was carved out of that Shifnal. The Rectory has been built and rebuilt, extended and altered many times over the years.
In 1662, during the incumbency of George Arden, the Rectory was described as 'an house and barn wth. other buildings wth. two yards adjoyning to ye Church yard.' (A yard at that time referred to a loosely defined area of land.)
In 1698 as a result of a visitation by the Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry during the tenure of George Arden Junior, it was said to be a two-bay house with a separate kitchen.
It is likely that the Rectory at this time was a timber-framed building and that a brick kitchen had been built away from the main house to lessen the risk of fire. The size of timber-framed houses was described in terms of how many bays they had. A bay was the space between the upright timbers and would usually have a window or a door in it.
A Terrior of ye glebe land belonging to ye Rectory of Stirchley given in at ye primary visitation of John Byshop of Lichfield and Coven. 3 of Sept., 1662.
This would have been part of a general reassessment of the parish after the Act of Uniformity 1662, this taken during the time of George Arden.
The last two lines of the terrier refer to the tithes received by the Rector. Tithes were the tenth part of income arising from the profits of land and stock, allotted to the clergy for their support. Rectors were entitled to both the great and the small tithes from their parishioners. The great tithes were tithes of corn, hay and wood. The small tithes consisted of personal and mixed tithes. Tithes were called personal tithes when they accrued from labour, art or trade; and mixed tithes when accruing from beasts fed from the ground and included wool, milk and meat. In effect this was an income tax of 10% levied for the 'living' of the parish priest. In addition the priest would also enjoy an income from his own glebe lands.
The perticulars Above mentioned and not taken notis of in former Terriers was perticularly required by ye Bishop At his visitation kept in ye parish Church of Newport on fryday ye first day of June, 1711.
This visitation occurred during the incumbency of George Arden Junior.
(It. means 'item'.)
This 1711 survey describes the Rectory as 'an house about three bays and half of building, one barn and stable being four bays with two shears adjoyning one hay bay and part new being two bays and one kitchen being one bay.' Clearly George Arden Junior had recently extended the building
Further work may have been done on the house when the church was being encased in brick around 1741 during the incumbency of William Banks. It may be that the timber-framed building was demolished and that the central three-storey block dates from this time.
By 1783 the house was occupied by John Rogers, and in common with many clergy houses, had fallen into disrepair due to the inability of parsons to raise money for repairs.
The 1776 Clergy Residences Repair Act, Gilbert's Act, enabled the clergy to raise money for the repair or rebuilding of their parsonage houses by mortgaging the income from their benefices. In addition, Queen Anne's Bounty empowered clergy to take out loans at low rates of interest. As a result, many substantial Georgian parsonages date from this time.
And so, sometime after 1783 further building work was carried out on the Rectory.
However, by 1817 the condition of the house had again deteriorated and the Rector, Roger Clayton was granted leave to live elsewhere while repairs took place.
The rectory was enlarged with the addition of a three-bay two-storey wing to the south during the 1830s when Hugh Moreton Phillips was the rector.
In 1894 the house was modernised ready for the arrival of the new Rector, William Hunt Painter.
A tablet in the church records that for 15 years he was 'Rector of this Parish, during which time he was mainly instrumental in restoring the church and rectory.'
It is probable that the work he undertook was the important task of general maintenance. However, it is almost certain that it was he who had the Jackfield tiles laid in both the church and the hall of the Rectory.
In 1920 all the glebe land, except for the Rectory and its adjacent yards, was sold to the owner of Stirchley Hall.
About 1961 the Church sold the house for a private residence. A number of alterations have taken place since then with the use of the building as bed and breakfast accommodation from the 1970s, notably the addition of accommodation for disabled visitors to the south of the main block.
The living of Stirchley was abolished in 1975 when Stirchley became part of the new parish of Central Telford.
The Old Rectory was converted for use as bed & breakfast accommodation during the 1970s and was in the same family until 2010. The property has now been renovated and refurbished and is once again run as a guest house by the new owners, Rosemary & Adrian Brown.
The following documents have been prepared for the proprietors of Old Rectory of St James guest house and may be downloaded here.