South of the Mersey
Old Churches near Liverpool @ allertonOak
Last updated 31st March 2016
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All Saints Church, Daresbury
There was a chapel belonging to Norton Priory on this site in the 12th century. This was replaced by a stone church around 1550, of which the tower remains. The rest of the present church dates from 1870-2. The church seems to be generally open for visitors. The interior is particularly fine, with beautiful stained glass and a Jacobean pulpit.
Daresbury is perhaps most famous for its association with Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, alias Lewis Carroll, in 1832. He was born in the parsonage at Newton-by-Daresbury, the son of the minister at All Saints and achieved international fame through his books Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There. In the church is the famous Lewis Carroll Memorial Window.
To mark the centenary of his birth Carroll enthusiasts from all over the world subscribed to a memorial fund, which resulted in the gift of a striking and unusual stained glass window, designed by Geoffrey Webb and dedicated in 1935. The main panels depict a Nativity scene with the figures of Carroll and Alice in the left-hand one. Beneath are panels featuring characters from the books, from left to right: White Rabbit, the Lizard, the Dodo, the Caterpillar, the Fish-Footman, the Mad Hatter, the Dormouse, the March Hare, the Duchess, the Gryphon, the Mock Turtle and the Knave and Queen of Hearts with the Cheshire Cat.
St. Lawrence's Church, Frodsham
There was a church on this site at the time of the Domesday Book, though the earliest parts of the present church, constructed from beautiful local sandstone, date from about 1180. The tower is 14th century, at which time the chancel was also lengthened; further building work was undertaken in the 16th century and after. There are some Saxon and Norman carved stones inside the tower and the nave is said to be one of the finest examples of Norman architecture in Cheshire.
The Church of St. James the Great, Ince
The Church of St. James the Great is built on the site of a Norman chapel, no trace of which remains. The present church dates from the early 16th century, though the tower and part of the chancel are all that remain of this; the remainder dates from a major rebuilding in 1854. The area is rich in ecclesiastical associations, the site of the historic Cistercian abbey of Stanlow, founded in 1178, being nearby at Stanlow Point.
St Mary's Church, Thornton-Le-Moors
A chapel was present on the site of St. Mary's in Saxon times and is recorded in the Domesday Book. The nave, chancel, south aisle and south door of the present sandstone church (formerly dedicated to St. Helen) date from the 14th century and the chancel retains its medieval hammerbeam roof. A chapel (the Elton Chapel) was added in the 16th century. The tower also dates from this time, but was damaged by fire in 1909 and rebuilt in 1910. A south porch was added in the late 17th century and a full restoration was carried out in 1878. Inside, the altar rails and altar table are dated 1694 and here are two 17th century fonts and a mediaeval piscina.
The unspoilt village of Thornton-Le-Moors stands hard up against the vast Stanlow Oil Refinery, which forms a surreal backrop to the otherwise peaceful rural location.
St. Lawrence's Church, Stoak
A Saxon chapel was originally on this site and fragments of architecture still present in the 19th century showed that a new church must have been built soon after the Norman conquest. Sources from the 14th century speak of 'a sumptuous fabric of stone and wood, of great size, with four bells, [...] then becoming ruinous'. The present church of St. Lawrence dates from the rebuilding of 1827, though the north wall and the Tudor hammerbeam roof of the nave were left largely intact.
The little village of Stoak is these days entirely encircled by motorways and the Shropshire Union Canal, but still manages to retain its rural character and relative tranquility.
St. Plegmunds' Well
St. Peter's Church, Plemstall
There are records of a church here as far back as the 7th century, when the Mersey used to flood the surrounding land and the locality (barely elevated) was known as the Isle of Chester. A legend, perhaps of the 5th or 6th century, tells of a shipwrecked fisherman who, on finding refuge here, built a church as an act of thanksgiving, dedicating it to St. Peter the fisherman. Although the surrounding land has been drained, the church still stands in an amazingly isolated location.
The name Plemstall or Plegmundstall ('the habitation of Plegmund'), derives from an eponymous 9th century scholar who took refuge from the Danes as a hermit on the Isle of Chester. He became tutor to King Alfred and assisted him in the consolidation of his kingdom; he was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury in 890 and is buried in Canterbury Cathedral. Nearby is St. Plegmund's Well, one of two holy wells in West Cheshire, its first recorded mention dating from 1301. It is thought to have been used for baptisms up to the end of the 19th century.
The original church was 12th century, but the present sandstone building is mainly 15th century. The tower was added in 1826. Most of the original glass has gone, but there are fragments from the 14th century. In a display case in the north aisle are a Breeches Bible of 1608, a King James Bible of 1611, a folio edition of the bible printed by Edward Whitchurche in 1549, a black letter bible of 1549 and a King James Bible of 1623.
A strikingly macabre 14th century tomb of the Hurleston family is located at the rear of the church.
St. Bartholomew's Church, Great Barrow
There was a church on the site of St. Bartholomew's (left) in the 12th century. The present tower dates from 1744 and the chancel, the oldest part, from 1671. Much of the remainder is more recent remodelling, since by the 18th century many parts were in a poor condition. The nave and aisle were rebuilt in a matching late Perpendicular style in 1883.
St. Oswald's Church, Backford
A church is mentioned on the site of St. Oswald's (right) in the 13th century. The chancel is late 13th century, the east window c.1375 and the tower c.1500. The nave was rebuilt in brick in 1728-31 in the classical style but remodelled the later 19th century in the then fashionable Gothic style. Inside is a chained bible of 1617 and an early 17th century oak chest. Three of the church bells date from 1714.
St. Andrew's Church, Tarvin
There was a church on this site in the 12th century, which was rebuilt in the 14th century; the south wall and south arcade survive from this time. Most of the remaining building, including the tower, is 15th century, with further restorations taking place in the 18th and 19th centuries. The church seems to be generally open for visitors. There are reminders of the Civil War in musket and cannon ball marks to the side of the tower. The approach from Church Street is very attractive, with 18th century gatepiers and an avenue of lime trees, and the churchyard is interesting and atmospheric.
Acknowledgements and Further Reading
As ever, indispensible further reading is provided by the Pevsner Architectural Guide: Cheshire by Clare Hartwell, Matthew Hyde and Nikolaus Pevsner, Yale University Press, 2011.
The colour photo of St. Oswald's Church is copyright John Lord and is licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License.
This is a non-commercial website that is intended entirely for research and educational purposes. If I have unintentionally breached copyright with any images, I hope that the copyright owner will tolerate my usage in the present context, otherwise I will remove the material. Modern colour photographs are by the author unless otherwise indicated.