The Diocese of Chester was created in 1541. It was formed out of the ancient Diocese of Lichfield which sometimes had the Bishop’s seat at Lichfield, sometimes at Coventry, and sometimes at Chester. For twenty years, from 1075, the Collegiate Church of St John the Baptist in Chester was regarded as the Cathedral.
The original Diocese of Chester included the whole of Cheshire and Lancashire, the western portion of Yorkshire, south Westmorland and the southern half of Cumberland.
The Diocese Today
The Diocese now consists of 18 Deaneries and 280 Parishes in 2 Archdeaconries. This short guide includes some information about certain older buildings and ancient Parish Churches. These notes are based upon those previously provided in the Diocesan Guide to the Teaching of Religious Education produced in 1987. Web links are either to the webpage of the parish concerned, or to other relevant sites.
Archdeaconry of Chester
Birkenhead Priory (St Mary and St James)
The ruins of the ancient Priory lie beyond the Birkenhead Tunnel entrance on the river side. The Chapter House has been restored and is still used for occasional services. The Priory was founded in 1150 A.D. by the Norman Baron Hamon de Masey of Dunham Massey whose family had possessions in many parts of Cheshire, including Birkenhead and Puddington, The name is retained also in Saughall Massie. The Priory was established for sixteen monks of the Benedictine Order. The possessions were extensive and the Prior had right of pasture in Bidston, Moreton and Saughall. He held a Court in the Manor of Claughton. The Prior had the right to ferry passengers across the Mersey. The Monastery was dissolved in 1536. The Priory Church and most of the buildings fell into ruin, and only the Chapter House remained in serviceable condition. This was used for many years as the place of worship for the Parochial Chapelry of Birkenhead until St Mary’s Parish Church was built alongside the ruins in 1821. Owing to the movement of population the Church has been taken down and only the Chapter House, known now as the Priory Chapel, remains in use.
Bidston (St Oswald)
Although this Church has an ancient foundation only the tower remains of the original Church. The present building only dates from 1856. Over the West Doorway can be seen, carved in stone, the heraldic shields of several famous families. These include the Legs of Man, indicating the Derby family; and shields of the Massey and Hastings families. The reredos is a mosaic of Da Vinci’s Last Supper by the Italian artist Salviati. St Oswald is portrayed in a window at the West End of the South Aisle and in a wood carving on the pulpit.
Woodchurch (Holy Cross)
The Church of the Holy Cross is built on one of the oldest Christian settlements in Wirral. Remains of the twelfth century Norman building that replaced an earlier Saxon wooden structure are still to be seen. There is an interesting “Weeping Chancel”, a marked deviation of the axis of the Eastern limb to the North, thought to be symbolic of Our Lord bowing his head to the right on the Cross. The Parish is famous for its “Cow Charity”, begun in 1525, which provided cows for use by the parishioners, particularly the poor. Old Bread Shelves on the West wall of the Church were built when a “Bread Charity” was established in 1641. At one time the Parish included Oxton, Prenton, Barnston and part of Irby.
No building symbolises so completely the spirit and character of the County of Cheshire as does its great Cathedral of Chester. The history, religious aspirations, and the culture of this part of England are summed up in this historic building. The original building on this site was the Saxon Church from about the Ninth Century to which the body of St Werburgh was brought before the Norman conquest. She was the daughter of the King of Mercia. The first Norman Earl, Hugh Lupus, turned the Church into a Benedictine Abbey. St Anselm came from Normandy to help with this project, afterwards he became Archbishop of Canterbury. The dissolution at the time of Henry VIII saw the Monastery changed into a Cathedral and the last Abbot became the first Dean. It did not therefore suffer like many of the other Abbeys. Prayers have been said daily for over one thousand years. The building is full of historic interest and contains the architecture of many different periods. To discuss a school’s individual requirements, contact the Education Officer, Helen Barber, at the Cathedral Office, Telephone; 01244 500957,or by email: email@example.com
The City Churches
St John the Baptist (part of the parish of St Peter and St John)
Situated on the North bank of the Dee, this famous Church is now only a fragment of its former self. At one time it served as the Cathedral for the diocese of Lichfield. Bishop Peter, the first Norman Bishop of Mercia, moved his Seat here from Lichfield and planned the remodelling of the Church on an ambitious scale. A tablet in the Church states that Bishop Peter was also Chancellor to William the Conqueror and that he was buried at St John’s in A.D. 1085. Originally the building had Saxon beginnings. Later it became a collegiate Church of secular canons. Today the Church still possesses early effigies and a few monuments of the thirteenth century.
St Peter (part of the parish of St Peter and St John)
Situated at the Cross in the centre of Chester this Church stands on the site of a Roman praetorium and some stones in the walls are nearly 2000 years old. There is a tradition that the building had its origin when the body of St Werburgh was laid to rest in Chester. The baptistry is quite special. The Church contains one of the finest wall paintings in Cheshire. Today St Peters is regarded as the City’s Ecumenical centre.
Holy Trinity (Watergate Street)
This building is no longer a Church, but it has become The Guildhall Museum, and it contains records, regalia and silver of some of the 23 city livery companies dating back to the fourteenth century. The Parish Church is now situated outside the Walls at Blacon.
St Mary within-the-walls
A former garrison Church dating back to the twelfth century is now owned by Cheshire County Council.
St Michael (Bridge Street)
Today this Church has become the Heritage Centre. It was a pre-Reformation Church linked in early days with a Monastery of the same name, and both suffered in a city fire in 1180. The Church was rebuilt at different times and the present building dates only from 1850.
Tarvin (St Andrew)
The Church was built in the twelfth century. The tower dates from the fifteenth. There is a mixture of architecture due to the development of the building over the years. The Church had long links with the Bishops of Lichfield who for many years held the Manor of Tarvin, as they did at Burton in Wirral. A gravestone in the Church porch is a reminder of John Thomasen who was the finest penman in England and whose work was greatly admired by Queen Anne. He taught in the Village for thirty six years. The Church was garrisoned for Parliament during the Civil War. Half a mile from the Church, crossing the River Gowy, are three ancient Packhorse bridges.
Plemstall Church (St Peter)
This Church is by Mickle Trafford and gets its name from ninth century St Phlegmond who lived here in a cell on the ‘Isle of Chester’ as a hermit, before he was chosen by Alfred to help him reform and consolidate the ‘staet’. He eventually became Archbishop of Canterbury. The Church was rebuilt in the fifteenth century and now contains some notable wood carvings by Rev Toogood who was the Incumbent 1907-1946. St Phlegmond’s Well, where Baptisms once took place, lies beside the lane which leads to the Church.
Frodsham (St Lawrence)
There still remains here much of the twelfth century Norman Church, although the building has suffered radical change over the years. There was an early Church on the site recorded in Domesday. When Edward I founded Vale Royal Abbey the tithes were given to the new monastery having formerly been given by Hugh Lupus to the Abbot of St Werburgh, Chester. Anyone interested in heraldry will wish to see the Coats of Arms of many of the great Cheshire families in the windows at the East end.
Halton (St Mary the Virgin)
This Church was built in 1852 on the site of the old Chapel which had been linked with Halton Castle. The Castle, now in ruins, was built by Hugh Lupus in 1071. The village commands a wonderful view over the Weaver and the Mersey. The present Church was designed in Gothic style by Gilbert Scott.
Ince (St James) (part of the parish of Thornton-le-Moors with Ince and Elton)
‘Go to Ince’ was an old Cheshire saying meaning ‘Go and hide yourself’. This is an old world village alongside the Mersey and the Ship Canal. Today it is almost swallowed up by the Stanlow Refinery with over 400 acres alongside owned by Shell. Edward I and Edward II both visited here when a ferry served Liverpool. The Church occupies the site of a Norman Chapel. Only the tower and the chancel remain of the medieval Church which was rebuilt in 1854.
(From M56, leave at Junction 12. Follow signs to Runcorn and then for Norton Priory. Information from Norton Priory Museum - 01928 569895). The Priory was founded in the twelfth century eventually being elevated to the status of an Abbey. At the Dissolution the buildings and land were sold to the Brooke family who made Norton their seat. A Tudor mansion was built, and this was replaced by a Georgian House. Later the place fell into ruin. However in 1970 Runcorn Development Corporation decided to excavate the site. The excavations have revealed the remains of the Norman Priory. The site is now a popular place to visit and there is much of interest to be seen, included among which is an 11 foot statue of St Christopher carrying Christ.
Runcorn (All Saints)
The present Church was erected in 1847 on the site of an ancient edifice established in the tenth century. During the reign of William I, Nigel, Baron of Halton, gave this earlier Church to Wolfrith, who founded a Monastic House of Canons of the Augustian Order in 1115. Later this Monastery was moved to become the Priory at Norton (1134). During the Middle Ages Runcorn declined. Its revival came in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries with the opening of the canals. The rapid increase in the population necessitated the greater provision of religious and social centres. Many new Parishes were created out of the old Parish of All Saints. Runcorn was designated a New Town in 1964.
Thornton-le-Moors (St Mary) (part of the parish of Thornton-le-Moors with Ince and Elton)
This Church was built on the site of a Saxon Chapel and was mentioned in Domesday. The present building dates from the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries. On the walls are several memorial panels and hatchments commemorating well-known families including the Bunburys, Cottinghams, Gerrards and Harwoods.
Great Budworth Deanery
Daresbury (All Saints)
This is known as The Lewis Carroll Church. Lewis Carroll was born at the Vicarage when his father, Rev Charles Dodgson was Vicar in 1832. There are windows of interest depicting characters from Alice in Wonderland. The earliest Chapel built on the site was founded by Henry, Prior of Norton, in the twelfth century. Other buildings took its place, and the last major rebuilding was in 1871. The Church contains a most elaborately carved Jacobean pulpit.
Grappenhall (St Wilfrid)
There has been a Church on this site since early in the twelfth century. In the Church lies the effigy of Sir William Boydell who died in 1275. The Church contains some Pre-Reformation glass dating from 1334, a Norman Font, and some furniture of historic interest. The village retains its old world character.
Great Budworth (St Mary and All Saints)
There were very many townships originally in this Parish, it being the second largest in the Diocese. The Church is large and it is one of the finest examples of ecclesiastical architecture in the Diocese. Burial rights were granted within the Church to the families of Dutton and Leicester, and to the Warburtons of Arley. Sir Peter Leicester, the great seventeenth century historian lies in the North Chapel. An alabaster monument of Sir John Warburton who died in 1573 lies in the South transept. Grooves can be found here in the sand stone where years ago villagers came to sharpen their shuttles. Against the Churchyard wall the old stocks are still to be seen.
Lymm (St Mary)
In Domesday the records show a Priest and a Saxon Church. The present Church stands high overlooking the Mere. It has replaced the old buildings. The registers date from 1569. The history of the Parish has been closely linked with that of Warburton.
Thelwall (All Saints)
It is the village rather than the Church that is of historic interest. King Edward the Elder founded a City here in 923 A.D. and called it Thelwall. There was an ancient Chapel, but the present Church dates only from 1843, and has since been enlarged. There is a triptych memorial to Edward the Elder, and a painting of St Christopher fording the deep water.
Bunbury (St Boniface)
This magnificent Church is the only one in the North of England to be dedicated to St Boniface. It lies just a few miles from Beeston Castle and is one of the finest Churches within the Diocese. A Priest is recorded being here in Domesday Book. Rebuilt as a Collegiate Church about 1386 by Hugh Calveley, Sir Hugh’s effigy has an important place within the Church and is the earliest alabaster monument in the County. The Church has a richly decorated exterior. Ancient stone coffins and mutilated effigies from previous Churches are arranged outside. The spacious and impressive interior, contains a double-drained piscina, 17th Century octagonal font. Incumbents are traced back to 1304. They have been known as Rectors, Wardens, Preachers and Vicars.
Cholmondeley (St Nicholas) (Private Chapel)
Originally a Private Chapel to the Lords of Cholmondeley - joint Hereditary Great Chamberlain. The thirteenth century Nave was rebuilt in brick and stone and old half-timbered Chancel encased with brick in 1716. The architect was Sir John Vanburgh, designer of Blenheim Palace and Castle Howard. Its seventeenth century furnishings are the most complete of that date in the County. The screen, Pulpit, Communion rails and box-pews are dated 1655.
Farndon (St Chad)
There was a Church at Farndon at the time of the Domesday Survey. Another took its place and this was occupied by troops of the Parliamentarians in the Civil War. This was rebuilt in 1658 and has been altered and restored since then. This is one of several Churches in the Dee Valley which still retains the ancient Rushbearing ritual. This Church, at the gateway to Wales, stands guardian over the fourteenth century bridge below it.
Malpas (St Oswald) (part of the parish of Malpas and Threapwood)
The present Church, built on the site of an earlier Church, dates from the fourteenth century. This was remodelled in the fifteenth. Here are memorials to the Cholmondeleys and the Breretons. The East Window is in memory of Bishop Heber who was born here. His father was the Rector. The Bishop, who was Bishop of Calcutta, was the author of several well-known hymns. The Church is unusual in having dual Rectors for many years. This was the Mother Church of the district.
Marbury (St Michael)
This is a border parish and lies close to Whitchurch (in the Lichfield Diocese). It was for a time annexed to Whitchurch. A Church has existed here since 1299. It is in an attractive situation overlooking a mere. The chancel was rebuilt c1822. The carved wooden pulpit is the oldest in the Diocese. The Poole family had their seat at Marbury and there are a number of their memorials in the Church.
Shocklach (St Edith)
This ancient little Church with its Norman doorway lies halfway between Tilston and the River Dee. The Nave is entirely twelfth century. The arms of the Breretons and the Egertons are carved on shields by the baptistry. A castle stood in early days half a mile from the Church, the mound of which can still be seen.
Tarporley (St Helen)
This medieval Church has been completely altered by various restorations. This Church and that of Witton are both situated by the site of old Roman roads, and are dedicated to St Helen, Mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine. The history of the Parish is linked with the Done family of Utkinton Hall. The finest of the Done monuments are the seventeenth century altar tomb of Jane Done who died in 1662. Mary Crewe who died 1690 and grand-daughter Mary Knightly. They are carved in white marble. Alongside the Church Yard stands the old School building (now a Recreation Room). “This School was erected by Dame Dorothy Done 1636”. It displays the arms of the Done family.
Tushingham (St Chad)
Although a modern Church stands on the Chester to Whitchurch Road, there is an older Church standing in the fields three-eighths of a mile away known as Old Chad. Although no road leads to it there is a Church Yard and services are held occasionally. It is noted for its annual Rushbearing Service held each summer. It was built of brick in 1689. The font is Jacobean. The pulpit is a three-decker.
Davenham (St Winifred)
This is a large Victorian Church which gets mention because it is regarded as being in the centre of the Diocese. There was an ancient oak tree nearby (at Bostock Green) which was said to be in the centre of the County. Another suggestion was that if the Diocese was turned over it would spin on the spire of the Church.
Middlewich (St Michael and All Angels)
This medieval Church stands at the centre of one of the salt towns. Stone age tools and weapons and Roman pottery have been discovered nearby. The Church has been restored, but it was at one time a place of refuge for the Royalists in the Civil War. It was first built in the twelfth century and rebuilt in the fourteenth. It now conforms to the fourteenth century plan. Attractive woodwork includes the famous Jacobean screen with the carved Venables arms, and the fine altar rails.
Over (St Chad)
The Church was remodelled in 1543. There is a monument to Hugh Starkey who was responsible for the rebuilding. There was a Church here at the time of Domesday Book. There was a small monastery at Darnhall nearby founded by Prince Edward in 1266 but the monks, of the Cistercian Order, were moved to Vale Royal Abbey when it was built a little later. The Abbey was founded by Edward I. St Chads has been restored and enlarged from time to time.
Vale Royal Abbey
There is now little of the Abbey left above ground. It was built in Delamere Forest. The foundation stone was laid by Edward I in 1277. It was the largest of the Cistercian monasteries in England. The Delamere family own the great house built on the original site.
Weaverham (St Mary the Virgin)
This large Church is fairly unique. There is no Chancel arch, but there are five bays of arcades without any break. Hence the Church is wide and spacious. The Wilbraham Chapel is on the South side and the Heath Chapel on the North. There was a Church here at the Conquest. Tithes were given first to the Abbey of St Werburgh and later to Vale Royal. After the Dissolution the advowson was given to the Bishop of Chester. The Church has been restored but it contains much of historic interest in the furniture and the windows.
Whitegate (St Mary)
The Church was originally erected in the fourteenth century. It stood without the White Gate of Vale Royal Abbey. It served for the tenants of the monastery and others nearby. Owing to a dispute about its legal standing by the Vicar of Over, King Henry declared it to be a Parish Church. The original Church has gone. Its replacement building has been altered. Extensive reconstructions took place in 1728, and again in 1875. The Church contains several old documents, Bibles and Prayer Books.
Witton (St Helen)
Like most Churches St Helen is a mixture of architecture. It began as a Chapel of Ease to Great Budworth and later became regarded as the Parish Church of Northwich. The building is a mixture of fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth century masonry with further restoration last century. Its magnificent roof came from Norton Priory. The Venables family were Lords of the Manor in early days. William Venables’ monogram is repeated in the roof. In the walls of the tower are bullet marks from the time of the Civil War when the Church was garrisoned.
Wallasey (St Hilary)
St Hilary’s Parish Church is the Mother Church of the Wallasey Deanery, which is the smallest Deanery in the Diocese. Christians have worshipped here since the fifth century. The present Church is the sixth to be built here. Three have suffered from fire. There is a local saying that it has been twice a Church without a tower, and once a tower without a Church. The tower of the previous Church still stands in the Church Yard. Originally, Wallasey was known as Kirkby in Waleya (a Church town in the Island of foreigners).
Wirral North Deanery
Bebington (St Andrew)
This Church dates to before the Norman Conquest when a creamy-white church of freshly quarried Storeton stone was erected. The name “Whitchurch” was used for the area, and some of the stones are still in the south wall of today’s church. The Domesday Book mentions a priest here in 1087.Then six years later a Norman settler, Scirard Lancelyn, gave the church and several acres of land to the new Abbey of St Werburgh in Chester. His descendents have been linked to the church ever since. The family coat of arms figures three stags. One can be seen on top of the spire, and all three on the pub up at Spital crossroads. In due course a Norman church replaced that of the Saxons, and throughout the centuries ongoing enlargements have resulted in many different styles of architecture, including Early Decorated and Tudor/Perpendicular. Masons’ marks show the tower was begun in 1300, and finished some fifty years later. An old prophecy predicted the end of the world when ivy reached the top of the spire, but fortunately the ravages of the weather kept it in check until its roots were dug out.
Frankby (St John the Divine) (part of the parish of Frankby with Greasby)
The Church, built only in 1861, contains windows designed by Burne-Jones, memorials to The Roydens, and a colourful restored Chancel ceiling.
Heswall (St Peter)
The Church is the third to be built on this delightful site overlooking the Dee and the Welsh hills. The fourteenth century tower has survived them all. Inside the Church “fifteen jewels in St Peter’s crown” describes the famous Kempe windows. (See also Eastham, West Kirby and Chester Cathedral).
Upton, Overchurch (St Mary)
The present Church is the third to be erected in this Parish. The original was a Norman building situated West of the Moreton Road and nearer to Moreton. Overchurch meant ‘The Church on the Shore’. Much of the material of the Norman Church was used in the building of the second Church at Greenbank. A runic stone was discovered during the demolition of the earlier building. This is the earliest inscribed stone found in Wirral and is now housed in the Grosvenor Museum at Chester. The present Church on the corner of Church Road has been extended. When it was built in 1868 its benefactor was William Inman, who also was responsible for Moreton Parish Church. Memorials in both Churches remind us that he was a pioneer of steamship emigration to America.
Thurstaston (St Bartholomew)
The present building is the third Church to be built here. The original was within the Courtyard of Thurstaston Hall. The Manor is of great antiquity. It was presented to Robert de Rodelent by Hugh Lupus, Earl of Chester. The present Church was built in 1868. The interior is richly ornamented with marble and alabaster.
West Kirby (St Bridget)
Originally “West Kirkby”, to distinguish it from the other “Kirkby”. There was an early link with Christianity from Ireland. St Bridget was Patroness of Ireland, and the Parish Church is dedicated to her. The first Church was probably built by the Norse settlers who came over from Ireland early in the tenth century. Another Church was built of stone c1150, but little remains of that in the present structure which has a fine West doorway surmounted by four heraldic shields. Prior to 1758 the floor was strewn with fresh rushes once a year at Rush Bearing ceremony. Worthy of note is a Breeches Bible printed in 1582, and outside the Church modern carved corbels on the West and South elevations and a splendidly carved rainwater head at the West end of the North aisle.
The Hilbre Islands
Off shore from West Kirby lie the three small islands. Hilbre is Old English for Hildeburgh’s ‘ey’ or island. It comes from the seventh century. There was a monk’s cell on the main island and pilgrimages were made in early days to Our Lady of Hilbre. In 1692 a salt works was built to provide salt for the many ships sailing between Chester and Ireland. Oil fires were set ablaze on Middle Hilbre in World War 2 to act as decoys for enemy bombers. The Islands have now become famous for the observation of bird life. (Information can be obtained from the Visitor Centre - 0151-648-4371/3884).
Wirral South Deanery
Backford (St Oswald)
This was a thirteenth century Church rebuilt at the end of the last century with the exception of the tower and the chancel. There is a fine collection of memorial panels including one by Randle Holme (1627-1704). In medieval times Backford was an appendant Lordship of the Maseys of Dunham Massey. It was given to the Benedictine Priory of Birkenhead, which had been founded by that family.
Bromborough (St Barnabas)
Site of a monastery founded in 912 by Aethelfred, daughter of King Alfred. A restored Saxon cross stands in the yard of the present Church.
Burton (St Nicholas)
Home of Bishop Thomas Wilson of Sodor and Man, born 1663. He founded the village school which bears his name. The Bishop of Lichfield was Lord of the Manor in early days, to be succeeded by the Congreves and Gladstones in later years. In the Church, dedicated to St Nicholas, can be seen the fourteenth century Massey Chapel, founded by relatives of Hamon de Masey of Birkenhead Priory; a Bible Box to which a large bible was once attached; the clock in the tower with its single hand, and a Congreve Hatchment. Examples of religious intolerance of former years can be seen in the Quaker graves near the edge of the wood, but outside the consecrated ground.
Eastham (St Mary the Blessed Virgin)
St Mary’s Church, rebuilt on Norman foundations, is interesting for its splendid Kempe windows depicting Prophets and Priests of the Old Testament; its tenth century font; the Stanley Chapel where members of the famous family are buried in the vault below; its fine broach spire (“the steeple is thirty eight and a half yards high”, according to Church records). An ancient Yew tree stands in the Churchyard and is probably about 1500 years old - it was regarded as ancient in 1152.
Neston (St Mary St Helen)
Saxon and Norman stone carvings can be found in the South aisle of the Parish Church dedicated to St Mary and St Helen. Four splendid Burne-Jones windows are worthy of note. Neston became an important port, providing a regular service to Ireland, after the silting up of the Dee had caused the decline of Chester about 1541. As the silting continued, it too was abandoned about 1730 and shipping moved to Parkgate in the same parish. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Neston was the largest town in Wirral, and a direct coach ran three times a week between Parkgate and London. Many important people came here on their travels, Edward King, Dean Swift, John Wesley, Handel, Daniel Defoe and Turner the artist. Emma, Lady Hamilton, associated with Lord Nelson, was baptized in Neston Parish Church in 1765. “Grenfell of Labrador” was born at Mostyn House School, Parkgate in 1865.
Shotwick (St Michael)
Probably the smallest parish in the Diocese. The Vicar is known as the Chaplain of the Ford, because in early days there was a ford across the Dee to Flint. In those days Shotwick Castle was nearby, built c1090, but not a stone remains to be seen. The Church of St Michael is full of interest with its box pews; the old three-decker pulpit; the Norman doorway; old glass, and the grooves in the sandstone of the porch where soldiers once sharpened their arrow heads. Kings and warriors waited here to ford the Dee to proceed against the rebellious Welsh. The Plantagenets, the Tudors and the Stuarts embarked troops on their Irish expeditions.
Stoak (St Lawrence) (part of the Ellesmere Port Team parish)
St Lawrence Church was largely rebuilt in 1827, and was originally built in medieval times. It retains its Tudor roof beams, and has hatchments and a fine collection of memorial panels, supposed to be the finest in the county. Some of these belonged to the Bunbury family which worshipped here for generations.
Archdeaconry of Macclesfield
Ashton-upon-Mersey (St Martin)
The parish dates from 1304. There was a rebuilding after the storm of 1704 and further restoration in 1886. The roof is massive with open timbers. The old stocks are in a recess in the Churchyard wall.
Bowdon (St Mary the Virgin)
A Norman Church served the district until the fourteenth century. It was linked with the Priory at Birkenhead and possessed windows representing some of the Priors. These have been lost. Fragments of the Norman Church can be seen in the North transept. There was a second remodelling in the sixteenth century, and a further rebuilding last century. The old carved roofs were retained over the North and South aisles. There is a large shield containing sixty quaterings of the Booth family including the coats of the Fittons, Masseys, Egertons, Venables, Fitz-Hugh and Hugh Lupus. All of interest to students of heraldry. A list of Vicars dates from 1210.
Dunham Massey Chapel
A Norman Castle once stood nearby, and this was the home of the Masseys who had extensive possessions in Cheshire, and who founded Birkenhead Priory. The Castle has vanished, but Sir George Booth erected a large Elizabethan House here. This has been remodelled on different occasions and obtained its present form this century under William Grey, the Ninth Earl of Stamford. Throughout the years the Chapel has remained intact. It is panelled in oak, and is several hundred years old. The Hall is now in the hands of the National Trust. The present Church of St Mark is a more recent building serving the needs of today’s parish.
Warburton (St Werburgh)
The present Church, built at the end of the last century, replaced the ancient Church which stands now desolate some distance away. An early Chapel or Cell was founded here by the Brothers of the Order of Premontre, known as the White Canons. This became a Priory but did not last for many years, being subordinated to the Abbey of Cockersand in Lancashire. The old Church, said to be on the site of a Saxon Church, was built in the fourteenth century and rebuilt in the seventeenth century. It is a strange mixture of wood and brick and possesses pillars of oak. St Werburgh’s is one of only 27 surviving timber-framed parish churches in England. The pulpit, altar and rails are Jacobean. Among the benefactors of Warburton Church were the Duttons, who adopted the name Warburton. It is difficult to obtain a correct list of the Rectors as their appointments are mixed up with the Rectors of Lymm.
Chadkirk (or Romiley) (St Chad)
The present Parish Church of St Chad was only built in 1866. This was to replace Chadkirk Old Chapel which stands some distance away. In the seventh century St Chad was Bishop of Lichfield, and claim is made that he founded the original building. It is an ancient Chantry Chapel of half-timbered stone with a chancel in black and white Elizabethan style. It probably began as a monk’s cell and finds mention in Domesday. By 1347 there was a “Chaplain de Chaddkyrke” and Elizabeth Davenport wrote about it. In the seventeenth century it is said that Oliver Cromwell stabled his horses here when Judge Bradshaw of Marple Hall signed the death warrant of Charles I in 1648. From 1747 it served as the Parish Church until the new St Chad’s was built.
Disley (St Mary)
A Chapel was built on land belonging to Sir Piers Legh of Lyme in 1524. This was rebuilt in the nineteenth century but retains much that is mediaeval.. The early sixteenth century roof has been retained. The nave pillars and the Tudor arches are original. The original glass was removed, but this was replaced by Thomas Legh with a splendid collection of European mediaeval glass.
Taxal (St James) (part of the parish of Whalley Bridge)
There has been a church at Taxal since the 12th century. The first recorded rector was in 1287. Part of the tower is very old and possibly 12th century. The church itself has been enlarged and restored mostly in the 17th and 19th centuries. The Jodrell family (of Jodrell Bank) from 1375-1756 are buried in the chancel. Included is Roger Jauderell, who fought and died at the battle of Agincourt in 1415. There is a memorial to the Yeomen of the Mouth, (King's food taster during the reign of George II), who died in 1768 and a well preserved coat of arms of Queen Ann, 1702-14, over the south door.
Cheadle (St Mary) The Church was largely rebuilt from the 1520s to 1556. The screens are of interest. The one in the North Chapel has an inscription referring to Sir John Savage 1529. In the South Chapel lie the recumbent figures of three Knights. In the same Chapel is a seventeenth century altar table. The list of Rectors dates back to 1200.
Astbury (St Mary) This Church with its detached tower is one of the most attractive in the Diocese. It contains more ancient fittings than any other. Built on the site of an old Saxon Church it dates from the early thirteenth century and was enlarged to its present size in the fifteenth century. It is famed for its magnificent roof, its medieval furniture and screens. It is the Mother Church of Congleton and is situated not far from the famous Elizabethan Moreton Old Hall. The Church was used by the Parliamentarians in the Civil War. It was said to be used as a stable, windows were broken, and the organ burnt. (The field nearby is still known as Organ Field).
Barthomley (St Bertoline)
St Bertoline was an eighth century Prince who became a hermit. The Church dates from the fifteenth century. It suffered in the Civil War when villagers who had taken refuge in the Church were massacred by the Royalist troops. The Church has a Norman doorway and an unusual three-and-a-half feet high ‘Devil’s Doorway’. It has a panelled roof, and a delightful screen at the North Chapel, an Elizabethan Communion Table and fourteenth century tomb of Sir Robert Foulshurst.
Brereton (St Oswald)
Brereton-cum-Smethwick is famous for its Church and Hall which stand together by the River Croco. Formerly this was a Chapel in Astbury Parish built about the reign of Richard I. It became a Parish Church about the time of Henry VIII. Here there was only a floor of clay until the end of the eighteenth century. Hence the need in earlier days for the spreading of rushes and the holding of Rushbearing Festivals. Within the Church a huge altar stone with its five medieval crosses is still plain to see. There is also a tablet to William Brereton, who lived in the Hall in Elizabeth’s day, together with armour and helmet.
Church Lawton (All Saints) (also known as Lawton)
The Church was founded in Norman times, now rebuilt but retaining its Norman doorway with zig-zag carving. Tradition says that the body of St Werburgh rested here when being taken from Trentham to Chester. A memorial tablets contain the arms of the Lawton family.
Congleton (St Peter) (part of the Congleton Team parish)
Starting as a Chapel in the Astbury Parish, the Church was rebuilt in 1740 and became a Parish Church in 1868. It has close connection with the civic life. There are memorials to many outstanding professional people. A few wooden and canvas hatchments in the gallery, and a Jacobean pulpit stands in the nave and right in front of the sanctuary reminding us of the period when the sermon was regarded as the main event of the service.
Goostrey (St Luke)
The original Chapel was in existence in 1244. It is now a brick building erected in 1792. It contains a fifteenth century octagonal font, and the royal arms of George III painted on canvas and framed.
Holmes Chapel (St Luke) (also known as Church Hulme)
There existed a place of worship here from an early date. The list of incumbents dates from 1579. The present building is early eighteenth century. It is unusual in that the Chancel is lower than the Nave. The pride of the Church is the old oak roof. The tower is pitted with holes made during the Civil War. The alternative name is Church Hulme.
Sandbach (St Mary)
This place is famous for its ancient Saxon crosses erected to commemorate Mercia’s acceptance of Christianity, which Cheshire historian George Ormerod helped to restore early last century. There was a priest here before the Conquest. There is evidence of a Norman Church. The present building is the third on the site and was designed by Sir Gilbert Scott in the nineteenth century retaining some of the sixteenth century fabric.
Swettenham (St Peter)
The present Church is the result of the restoration of 1720. An earlier timber-framed Church stood on the site. Today the roof is the most interesting part of the fabric. A list of Rectors dates from 1304. A Saxon cross was discovered during restoration and this can be seen in the Church. Today the Parish is joined to that of St Oswald, Brereton.
Warmingham (St Leonard)
This is a timber framed Church with a pinnacled tower erected in 1715. The timber framed part was rebuilt in 1870. It has some old stained glass and traces of wall paintings. The Registers date from 1538.
Alderley (St Mary)
The present building belongs to the fourteenth century and the list of Rectors dates from 1300. An old yew survives in the Church Yard, and there can still be seen grooves in the South porch where arrows were sharpened years ago. Inside the Church much of the old furniture has been lost, but the ancient font from the fourteenth century has been retained. There is a musicians’ gallery, and on the front panel are nine shields of the Stanley family. At the Eastern end of the South aisle is the famous Stanley Jacobean pew, unique in the diocese. At one time ownership was contested with the Fittons. The old School at the entrance to the Church Yard was built in 1693. The famous sixteenth century Water Mill, still in use, stands nearby alongside the main road.
Birtles (St Catherine)
This delightful Church with its octagonal tower only dates from 1840, but it contains a fine collection of woodwork and stained glass from a much earlier period. The windows are exquisite “burnt” glass from the Continent, one dated 1429 and another 1508. There is a collection of black oak woodwork of Flemish and Dutch origin.
Knutsford (St John the Baptist)
An ancient Church had stood in fields beyond Crosstown and was a Chapel of Ease to Rostherne. This collapsed in 1740 and an Act of Parliament created Knutsford into a distinct parish the following year, and the present Church was then built. A good hatchment to the Leigh family is fixed to the wall in the North Gallery. Mrs. Gaskell, author of ‘Cranford’, lived for some time in Knutsford. She married a Unitarian minister from Manchester.
Lower Peover (St Oswald)
Formerly a Chapel of Ease to Great Budworth, St Oswald’s was founded about 1269 by Richard Grosvenor of Hulme Hall, Allostock. This was a timber Church enlarged at later dates. Much of its old furniture has been retained: a medieval oak chest; some old box-pews; and a Jacobean pulpit and screen. A few of the old pews, possibly the only ones still to be seen in the Diocese, possess half doors. These pews were built at a time when rushes formed the ground covering, and were so made to prevent the rushes spilling out into the aisles.
Mobberley (St Wilfrid)
For a short time in the thirteenth century there was here an Augustinian Priory but this did not last. The oldest part of the present Church was built about 1245. This was rebuilt in 1533. Since then there have been further restorations but the magnificent Rood screen remains. The roof is also medieval. There is some old glass with shields in the South window representing early families linked with the Church. A modern window is in memory of George Leigh-Mallory who, together with Andrew Irvine, lost his life on Everest. There are monuments in the Church to other important members of the Mallory family.
Over Peover (St Lawrence)
This was a Chapel in the parish of Rostherne built in the fourteenth century. The nave and chancel were rebuilt in brick in 1811, but the ancient Mainwaring Chapels were preserved. These are famous for the monumental effigies. Nearby is Peover Hall, the old home of the Mainwarings, a fine Elizabethan house. The seventeenth century stables are of special interest.
Rostherne (St Mary) (part of the parish of Rostherne with Bollington)
Situated near Tatton Park and Rostherne Mere, little is known of the earlier building. The list of Vicars dates from 1188. In 1741 the steeple of the Church collapsed. The present Church tower was erected a few years later and the Church restored. There are memorials to many famous local families including the Egertons, Venables, Cholmondeleys, Leghs and Brookes. The old Lych gate at the entrance to the Church Yard is dated 1640.
Wilmslow (St Bartholomew)
There have been Rectors of Wilmslow since 1250. The present Church dates from a rebuilding between 1517-1537, but it has been altered at other times since then. Much was lost in the restoration of 1861. In the chancel floor is the earliest brass in Cheshire dated 1460. This represents Sir Robert Booth and his wife.
Capesthorne (Holy Trinity) (part of the parish of Capesthorne with Siddington)
The Chapel, built in 1722, stands alongside Capesthorne Hall, the home of the Davenports. The family hold a manorial pew in the West Gallery. The pulpit is of Flemish origin. The Chapel and the Hall are open to the public. (Telephone: 01625 861221).
Gawsworth (St James the Great)
Gawsworth Church is in one of the most delightful settings in the country. The lanes leading to it are lined with avenues of limes. Grouped round the Church are the former Rectory, fifteenth century and half-timbered; the old fifteenth century Hall, and the eighteenth century new Hall. In front of the Church lies a small lake with wildfowl. The Church is fifteenth century, built on the site of a Norman Chapel. There are monuments to the Fittons. The family Arms adorn the Chancel. On the North side is a monument to Dame Alice Fitton widow of Sir Edward. She is represented together with her family. Mary is famed as maid of honour to Queen Elizabeth and was possibly “The dark lady of the Sonnets”. A list of Rectors dates back to 1262.
Macclesfield (St Michael and All Angels) (part of the Macclesfield Team parish)
This was originally a Chapel in the Parish of Prestbury. The Church was extended or rebuilt by Queen Eleanor, wife of Edward I around 1278. The list of Ministers dates only from the Reformation when for two hundred years the Bishops directed that there should be two ministers. One was styled King’s Preacher and the other curate. Vicars date only from 1847. In 1422 the Legh Chapel was added to receive the body of Sir Piers Legh who fought at Agincourt. The Savage Chapel was built about 1504 by T. Savage, Archbishop of York. There are tombs of Knights in armour, a monument to Sir John Savage who was a commander at Bosworth Field 1485, and an interesting “Pardon Brass”. The latter is quite exceptional. It is one of the few “superstitious” brasses to survive the Reformation. It claims pardon for saying five “Our Fathers”. This is probably the only Parish Church in the Diocese to possess a ring of twelve bells. The church was reopened in 2004 following a major reordering.
Macclesfield Forest (St Stephen) (part of the parish of Rainow with Saltersford and Forest)
This remote Chapel stands 1282.6 feet above sea-level four-and-a-half miles east-by-south of Macclesfield, in the Parish of Rainow. Of the original Chapel built in 1673, little now remains, and in 1834 the fabric was entirely rebuilt. Records date from 1759. The custom of Rushbearing is still maintained with an annual service on the 2nd Sunday in August, the Preacher standing on a flat gravestone in the Churchyard to deliver the sermon.
Marton (St James and St Paul)
This half-timbered black and white Church, not many miles from Capesthorne, is one of the oldest surviving specimens of wood and plaster Churches in Europe. It was founded by Sir John Davenport in the fourteenth century. The tower is unique and, with the bells, dates from 1540.
Pott Shrigley (St Christopher)
This Church is situated up in the hills beyond Bollington where five glens meet. It was founded in the fourteenth century and completed in its present form by the erection of the Downes Chantry Chapel. The roof dates from the fifteenth century. There are monuments to the Downes and Lowther families, who were patrons of the Living.
Prestbury (St Peter)
This is the Mother Church, historically, of the whole Macclesfield area. (It was an offshoot of the Monks of St Werburgh in Chester). Actually there are two Churches at Prestbury, the Parish Church and a little Norman Chapel. The Norman Chapel is a unique little building, although only the doorway with its Norman arch and the figures above the doorway were built in the 12th century. The rest of the building has been restored, but it retains its character, and feels like a place of prayer. The Parish Church, a large building, alongside the Norman Chapel, is nearly as old as the Chapel, being built about 1220. The building of the Church is linked with one of the locally important families, one of whom, William Pigott, was descended from the knights who came over with William the Conqueror. There are many interesting and ancient tablets and other features in the Church. There are some very interesting inscriptions on the tombstones in the Churchyard, and there is a Saxon Cross. The Church retains its ancient registers (and other documents) going back to 1560. In 1877, the church was extensively restored and extended by Sir Gilbert Scott.
Siddington (All Saints) (part of the parish of Capesthorne with Siddington)
This was a timber framed building, but much of the original has been replaced by brickwork. The chancel screen is medieval. The pulpit is seventeenth century. It lies close to Redesmere and Capesthorne Hall.
Saltersford (St John the Baptist) (part of the parish of Rainow with Saltersford and Forest)
This remote Chapel is situated in the East Cheshire hills, five-and-a-half miles north-east of Macclesfield, in the Parish of Rainow. It is a small grey building erected in 1733, known locally as “Jenkin Chapel” probably because of its location at Jenkin Cross on the old salt road into Derbyshire. The building is of simple architecture, consisting of nave and chancel with small western tower, erected by local builders. The interior is quaint with original fittings and furniture intact.
Mottram-in-Longdendale (St Michael)
This is the only medieval Church in Mottram deanery. Set high above the town it has been known as the Cathedral of East Cheshire. The Rectors date from 1290. The font is thought to date earlier. The present building dates from about 1487, but was restored in 1857. Within the Church can be seen the tomb of Sir Ralph de Staveleigh and his wife (about 1400); Reginald Bretland about 1660; Ancient bread racks. The church features a fine alabaster pulpit, and several stained glass windows, including a Kempe window dated 1917.
Woodhead (St James)
This tiny Chapel in the far East of the Diocese lies high in the Etherow Valley. It is said that the original building was paid for by Sir Edmund Shaa, Lord Mayor of London in 1482. (He was the founder of Stockport Grammar School. His parents were buried at St Mary’s Stockport). The Chapel served the drovers and salt traders on the route from Cheshire to Yorkshire. The present building dates from about 1800.
Acton (St Mary) A Church with two priests is mentioned in Domesday Book, but the present Church dates from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. It features a richly embattled and pinnacled exterior and a well proportioned tower. Saxon carved stones in the South aisle suggest an earlier Saxon Church. The font is possibly from the Norman Church of 1151. The screen, oaken nave roof and altar rails are seventeenth century. This is one of the few Churches left which still retains the stone seating against the inner walls. In early days the congregation would stand while “The weakest went to the wall”.
Audlem (St James the Great)
Originally built in 1278, enlarged in fourteenth century, remodelled in sixteenth century, it has since 1590 remained basically unchanged. The Church, mainly perpendicular, stands prominently in the centre of this small town. The Chancel is mostly fourteenth century. On the North Wall are the remains of an old fresco. There is some old stained glass and medieval tiles. A first century Roman burial urn discovered in the Church in 1985 has no local significance. The Registers date from 1557.
Baddiley (St Michael)
Although the Registers date from 1597, the Church was mentioned in the Recognizance Rolls of 1308, and was appropriated to Combermere Abbey. The Church is in an isolated part of the Diocese off the Nantwich to Wrenbury Road. It is one of the smallest and most interesting of the half-timbered Churches. The Chancel is lower than the Nave, and is divided by a Pre-Reformation Screen and tympanum, one of the most colourful in England. The Mainwaring family from the Old Hall were closely linked with the Church and their Coat of Arms is placed on the Screen below the Royal Arms of Charles II. The nave roof and much of the woodwork are medieval, and the old box-pews are still retained.
Coppenhall (St Michael)
This is the Mother Church of Crewe. The rectors date back to 1371. The present Church built in the style of Elizabeth’s reign was restored in 1875.
Nantwich (St Mary)
A Chapel is recorded in 1133 appropriated to Combermere Abbey. The present Church is essentially fourteenth century, Decorated and Perpendicular with an octagonal tower. The north transept contains a water oven and piscina. The rich carvings on choirstall canopies and misericords are dated 1390. The three-tiered stone pulpit is dated 1601. There is a Library of Theological Books formed in 1704 containing fifteenth and sixteenth century publications. The first recorded Chaplain was in 1259 and the Register is complete from 1571. It is often referred to as the ‘Cathedral of South Cheshire’.
Wrenbury (St Margaret)
The first written reference to the Church is 1226 when it came into the possession of Combermere Abbey. It is described as ‘debased perpendicular’ of the sixteenth century. The tower is attributed to the time of Henry VIII. The Church is noted for box-pews and an organ loft. An unusual feature is ‘Whipper’s Pew’ for Church officials to evict unruly dogs. The Registers date from 1593, and the list of Incumbents from 1563.
Stockport (St Mary) This stands alongside the Market Square. Although rebuilt in 1817 this is the old Parish Church of Stockport and district. The new Church was built on to the old Chancel, which dates back to the fourteenth century. An effigy of an early Rector, Richard de Vernon, lies in the Sanctuary. This was the largest Parish in the East of the Diocese including places as far away as Bramhall, Disley, Marple and Hyde. It has retained four Churchwardens. These were required in early days to represent the outlying districts. The earliest recorded Baptism is of a Davenport of Bramhall Hall in 1548. Judge Bradshaw, who signed the death warrant of Charles 1, was baptised here in 1602. There is a mural tablet in memory of John Wainwright (and a grave in the Churchyard). He was the composer of “Christians Awake”.