Photo credit: C. Engstrom , 08/1977

Property Name: Shrewsbury Church
Date Listed: 6/4/1986
Inventory No.: K-136
Location: Shrewsbury Church Road, Kennedyville, Kent County

Description: Shrewsbury Church is a rural parish church constructed in 1834. Its present vernacular Gothic-influenced appearance is the result of remodeling carried out in 1890. The church is constructed of brick laid in 7-course common bond, three bays wide by three bays deep, with the entrance centered in the south gable end. In 1890 a three-stage buttressed and crenelated tower was added at the entrance, a low one-story chancel was added against the north gable, window openings were reworked to accept round-headed stained-glass windows, and the interior received Gothic influenced walnut furnishings. Around 1910, a small shed addition was made to the west wall of the chancel to accommodate the organ works. The church is located within a tree-shaded cemetery containing monuments dating from the 18th century through the 20th; a c. 1900 frame rectory adjoins the church.

Significance: Shrewsbury Church is significant for its architecture, which embodies the evolution of a typical Episcopal parish church on Maryland's rural Eastern Shore through the 19th century. Its construction and subsequent remodeling reflect the effects of changing religious and economic forces over this period. Following the Revolution, its English associations rendered the Episcopal Church unpopular, and membership declined precipitously in many Eastern Shore parishes. Church buildings, lacking regular use or maintenance, fell into decline until a concerted campaign for reorganization and reconstruction was waged by the Bishop of the diocese in the 1830s. Shrewsbury Church exemplifies this trend: the present building, begun in 1834 at the urging of Bishop William Murray Stone, replaced an earlier structure which was reportedly only in "tolerable condition" in 1821. The result of this campaign, consecrated in 1840, was an austere gable-roofed brick building, three bays wide by three bays deep, with a center-aisle plan, typical of rural vernacular churches of the period. The revitalized parish occupied this building for over a half-century before undertaking a major renovation in 1890: a buttressed and crenelated tower was added to the entrance, a chancel addition was constructed on the opposite gable, window openings were reworked and fitted with round-arched stained-glass windows, and the interior received a vaulted ceiling and Gothic-influenced detailing and furnishings. The 1890 remodeling reflects a combination of significant influences: it was enabled by the agricultural prosperity which the upper Eastern Shore enjoyed in the last quarter of the 19th century, and was directed by a general movement toward "Victorianization" of Episcopal and Methodist churches in the region during the same period.




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