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Parish Church of St. James, Christleton
The information and history of St. James' is taken from a booklet which is available at the church.
A History of St. James' Christleton.
Written by David Cummings and illustrated by Philip Hodges.
New additions and changes to the church with recent photographs
will be added by the webmaster Richard Nicholson
Early Church History
It is almost certain that a more substantial building existed by the 14thC, and the present tower is thought to be from the second church built in the time of Rector Thomas in 1484. The earliest recorded clergyman was Robert, Parson of Christleton in 1215, but as the church was connected to the Abbey in Chester there might have been a small meeting place rather than a formal building at this time. The list of clergy is continuous from 1215 to the present day.
During the Civil War (1642-45) the church did not escape the havoc and destruction suffered by the village. However because it was garrisoned by the Parliamentarian army under Sir William Brereton it was well protected, and any damage was comparatively light. As the Parliamentarians remained in control of the area long after the Battle of Rowton Moor in September 1645, no revenge attack occurred to cause further harm to the building. Any damage was temporarily patched up until the nave and chancel were completely rebuilt in brick in the 1730's.
This part of the church was re-built in Georgian style in 1736 by the Rev. Phillip Smallridge Rector and a Chaplain to Queen Caroline, who managed to obtain money by the issue of a Parliamentary "Brief", a device used to get churches from a wide area to contribute to the building of a new church. £1,250 was gathered for Christleton through this appeal, but £1,000 of this went in legal costs, with local people then contributing "in kind" using their own transport and labour to enable the building to be completed.
On Sunday January 1873 part of the roof of the brick building of 1736 collapsed and some of the congregation were covered with snow. Canon Garnett used the opportunity and his influence to have a substantial rebuild of the nave and chancel. He was determined to provide the best, and spent more money than the church and village could afford to ensure that the new structure would last for much longer that the previous buildings. The red sandstone blocks came from quarries in Delamere and Waverton, and were used together with a creamy white sandstone from Stourton Hill on the Wirral. This building designed by William Butterfield and completed in 1876, was consecrated in July 1877, and is the church we see today. It remains as the place of worship for the people of Christleton, a place where worship has been continuous for well over a thousand years.
The porch itself dates from 1876, when the last major rebuilding of the church took place, thanks to the efforts of Lucy Anne Ince, Lionel Garnett (Rector 1869 to 1911), and their architect, William Butterfield.
As you enter the Victorian porch, notice the brass plaque commemorating the lives of Canon Gorst and the Sellers family of Littleton. Canon Gorst, former Rural dean, was known locally as the 'Farmer's Parson' and he retired to Littleton to live in the Sellers' family home. The Sellers were great benefactors to the church and village, and it was John Sellers who founded the first school in Christleton in 1779. This school known as the John Sellers Charity School was situated to the left of the porch, on the grassed area of the churchyard, adjacent to Christleton House. This two-storey building survived until the 1890's when the school was built on the site of the old 'Ring-O-Bells' public house across the road. Today it is the Parish Hall and the Trust which helped to fund the school (the John Sellers Charity) still plays a small part in the education of children in Christleton, Littleton and Rowton, by providing grants of money for books and travel for the use of local children.
The porch itself dates from 1876, when the last major rebuilding of the church took place, thanks to the efforts of Lucy Anne Ince, Lionel Garnett (Rector 1869 to 1911), and their architect, William Butterfield.
The room under the tower has recently been created with the addition of oak panelling from the South Aisle, and this now provides a small vestry for the choir.
On the north wall is a tablet commemorating the work of Thomas Dixon a merchant of Littleton who gave so much to the church during his time as warden and as a member of the congregation. 2
He founded one of the first banks in Chester, and was head of the family firm of timber merchants and shipbuilders. He became Sheriff of Chester in 1813 and Mayor in 1842. He later became both a Justice of the Peace and and a Magistrate in the city. Thomas(2) was much revered in Chester and was presented with a portrait of himself by the Duke of Westminster which once hung in the Town Hall. However it was his father also Thomas(1) a former Captain in the Navy, timber merchant and ship builder who had permission to erect a gallery at the north end of the church in 1811 for the use of his family and servants, which was reached through a small door in the choir vestry leading to the tower.
The size of this doorway gives us a clue to the fact that the new nave of 1876 was built at a lower level than the original Tower Although Thomas(2) is remembered in the Church for his generous gifts and work for the church, the Dixon names lives on today because of the early death of his nephew James. When James died in 1865 the family built four alms houses in his memory at Little Heath.
These fine timber buildings were designed by the architect John Oldred Scott son of the famous Victorian Architect Gilbert Scott. The Trust set up by William Griffes Dixon and Mary Anne, James' mother, not only gave fine buildings, but ensured a fund for future repairs, adequate insurance and medical expenses, and a weekly pension for the inhabitants.
The Bell Tower
This Peal Board commemorates a peal rung on the bells of St. James’ the week after David Fisher’s ordination as Deacon.
It was the first peal rung on the bells since 1965, and the first by a largely Christleton band since 1948. Those invited to join the band were the Revd. Bill Wilson, who is Vicar of St. James’, Sussex Gardens, London, with whom David was Pastoral Assistant for a year; the Reverend Brian Harris, now in Lincolnshire, who is a former Master of the Chester Diocesan Guild of Church Bell Ringers, and Trevor Holmes, Captain at All Saints, Hoole, who is a good friend to the Christleton Ringers.
The fine Churchwarden's pews probably date from the 1880's, although there are many references in the records to Churchwarden's pews being sold at a time of great hardship after the Civil War in 1650. They were later returned to the church when the Bishop of Chester ordered the Churchwardens to buy them back from a Mr George Cawley of Cotton for the sum of 20 shillings. Mr Cawley actually had use of them again because he was elected Churchwarden in 1701. The canopies are not just for adornment, but were built to protect the wardens from cold draughts experienced at the west end of the nave!
Above the Churchwardens pews is the fine figure of a pelican (or is it a swan?). Church tradition says that the figure of a pelican is seen feeding her young with her own blood, a symbol of sacrifice. This carved creature used to be the centre-piece of the reredos over the altar table in the 1736 building. There is a theory that the local artist who carved the figure is unlikely to have seen a pelican and that he based the figure on that of the more familiar local swan. The swan certainly figures a great deal in village affairs at that time. When the agreement to build the new church in 1736 was made, the signatories from the church and gentry all sealed their names with a wax seal in the shape of a swan. So, perhaps the swan as the emblem of the village pre-dates this.
The Altar and Santuary
Stourton stone can also be seen at the entrance to the Mersey Tunnel, whilst Keble College in Oxford with it's distinctive chess board design in brick is probably the most famous building designed by William Butterfield, a college attended by Garnett himself ,and also much later by the much loved Canon Gordon Robinson who served at St. James' in retirement for over fifteen years as assistant to the Rector's of Christleton between 1985 and 1998.
A tapestry depicting the Last Supper hangs on the north wall of the Sanctuary and overlooks a beautifully carved folding "hunting chair" (17th C) which acts as a throne when a Bishop visits the church. The altar cloth covering the Communion Table can be one of several used during the churches year.
The most recent addition is one made by Mrs. Dorothy Colley and many members of the Church Family which depicts scenes from the Holy Land as if seen from space. This colourful cloth has a large number of striking patterns and designs in beautiful pastel shades, illustrating the land around the Sea of Galilee.
Above your head sandstone blocks are made in the form of a chessboard design by alternating creamy white Stourton stone from the Wirral, with red sandstone from the Duke of Westminster's Waverton Quarry. This chequered effect is the trademark design of William Butterfield, the eminent Victorian architect employed by Canon Garnett in his desire to provide only the best for his beloved church in Christleton.
The crinoidal limestone (plants of the seabed that lived 2,800,000 years ago) is also to be found much in evidence in rooms and corridors at the famous Chatsworth House in Derbyshire.
A new font cover was designed, and crafted, to commemorate the service to St. James Church of Canon Gordon Robinson. The dedication of the cover took place in March 2000.
Many of these relate to Christleton and in particular the history of the Townsend, Currie and Ince Families of Christleton Old Hall, Christleton Hall and Boughton Hall. Research into these papers is being carried out at present and will be published in time for the millennium in a new book on the History of Christleton.
On the wall near the bookstall is an alabaster plaque dedicated to the men from the Parish who fought in the Boer War. The area is lit by light from the St Elizabetha window dating from 1883.
Messrs Hollywell, Swindley, Holland and Beech were the last constables to be elected, together with Mr. Sam Broster as foreman of the jury. The staff was their sign of office. This staff belonged to George Mayers, Parish Clerk and Headteacher in the 1840's and was presented by his family.
The Civil War
It is thanks to the efforts of the late Rev. Fred Pryce Parry that we know so much about this unique feature of our church.
The church building was used as a garrison for Parliamentarian troops during the whole of 1645, and there is no doubt that a great deal of the evidence of occupation was lost in the various re-buildings that have taken place since that time. One of the most significant events of the war took place early in 1645 when a Roundhead trooper, standing on top of the church tower saw a mounted troop of Royalists leaving the city. He quickly organised an ambush somewhere in the vicinity of the "Glasshouse" on Whitchurch Road, where over 200 officers and men of the Royalist Army were killed. Later, in the spring of 1645, Charles I gained his 'revenge' on the village by ordering his two dashing young nephews Princes Rupert and Maurice, to ride to Christleton and burn it to the ground. By the time of the main Battle of Rowton Moor on the 24th September of that year, the village of Christleton barely existed. King Charles is said to have watched the battle from the City Walls and was always searching for support and places of refuge following the battle. He escaped from Chester over the Old Dee Bridge under the cover of darkness, and from then on was always on the run.
Charles Mack Window
The window, in modern stained glass, was designed by Cliff Boddy, a long-serving member of the choir and church, who has contributed many fine examples of hand-written manuscripts and scrolls to the church, many of which you will see on display. His finest piece of work, however, is a calfskin scroll commemorating the Beating of The Bounds ceremony in Coronation Year, 1953, which is stored for safe-keeping in the Parish Chest.
A Kempe Society has been formed to catalogue his windows , and to preserve and restore neglected works. He
One of the finest monuments to his work is the Church of St. John the Baptist at Burford in the Cotswolds. Locally Gresford Church also has some Kempe windows. Charles also designed church furnishings. He died in 1907. The firm carried on under a series of chief designers until 1934.
incorporated the most sumptuous peacocks feathers on his angels, as the peacock feather in Christian imagery symbolises the resurrection. He often incorporated a wheat sheaf in the design.We have discovered that several of the Christleton windows also have a tower on top of the sheaf. This denotes that the window was made post Kempe's death when the firm became C. E. Kempe & Co. Ltd. The tower was added as a pun on Walter Tower's name who was the Chairman. He was an architect by profession and was a distant cousin of Kempe having been left the firm and instructions to turn it into a limited company in Kempe's will.
Mr Cliff Boddy
North Aisle Windows
The first window in the north aisle is a modern stained glass window dating from 1960, in memory of Blanche Collins from Littleton. The second already mentioned above, is the memorial to the Rev Charles Mack. The remaining two windows are both by Charles Kempe. One contains the famous lines from the "Crucifixion", " Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by", and is in memory of Richard Henry Williams Currie of Boughton Hall, Captain in the 6th Dragoon Guards & his young son of the same name who died aged 6 months. Richard was born in the Vicarage at Adderley on the Cheshire/Shropshire border and his father had once been a curate at St James' Christleton.
Capt.Richard was closely related by marriage to former Rector Rev Arthur Alyn Guest Williams as Elizabeth Currie of Boughton Hall a great beauty of her day, had married John Williams of Gwersyllt Park near Wrexham in the late 1700's. Another link with Christleton was created when Townsend Ince from Christleton Hall married Mary Currie but when Mary died suddenly aged 25 years, he married Lucy Anne Ince who is commemorated in the next window. This shows "Jesus being arrested", and is one of two windows in church, in memory of Lucy Anne Ince who died in 1903 aged 93years.
Gallery of photographs of the stained glass glass windows
Roll of Honour
The small chapel nearby is often used as an additional place for communion. It has a small table and on it a metal Labarum, an ancient Christian symbol made by Stuart Broom a pupil at the former Christleton Secondary School with the guidance of Philip Hodges. The symbol was used by the early church in times of persecution, and consists of two Greek letters corresponding to our CH and R , the first two letters of the Greek word for Christ.
Pulpit and Lectern
The oak Lectern is dedicated to the memory of T F Lace of Christleton Hall, whilst a Lectern Bible was given by Robert Barker in 1607.
The present Organist & Director of Music is Mr Steve Roberts and he is assisted by a mixed choir of over thirty choristers who sing in services throughout the year. A music group also assists in family services on the second Sunday each month and on special
The East Window
On the south wall stands the Processional Cross given to the church by Mrs. Ivy Clarke, in memory of her parents, Canon Lionel and Mrs. Garnett. From Easter to Ascension the paschal candle is placed in the sanctuary. It stands on a fine wooden base crafted and painted by Canon Robinson. It is placed near the font during the rest of the year.
The Lady Chapel
The stained glass window in the Lady Chapel represents King David and Isaiah and is a memorial to Catherine the wife of Ambrose Dixon a member of the Dixon family who lived at Christleton Bank, now (The Abbots Well.) Another beautifully crafted piece of work is the oak altar table from the Jacobean period. On the wall of the Lady Chapel is an account of the Beating of the Bounds of 1993 created and scribed by Cliff Boddy. The two memorials on the west wall are to soldiers of the Cheshire Regiment who were killed in action in Belgium and Northern France during the first world war. The St. James Youth banner can also be seen, together with one of a number of tapestries made by church members
The wrought iron screen which now separates the chapel from the main body of the church was originally placed across the choir, and kept clergy and choir apart from the congregation. Removing the screen to its present position has opened up the church, making it much brighter and helps everyone to feel part of the church family.
This tapestry was made by children aged 10 to 12 years with the help of their leaders in the Seekers Group of the Sunday School, and children from the top class at the Primary School in 1990/91. The same group of children produced the wall hanging near to the main church entrance, which depicts village life as seen by the children in the same year, and is reproduced in the form of a collage.
The South Aisle Windows
The second window which shows St John the Apostle, the Holy Mother & child and St Luke, is in memory of Lucy Anne Ince. The next with two robed figures is in memory of Mary Nicholls and her two drowned sisters Mary Anne & Madeline who died in 1874. The final window along this aisle shows St John the Divine and Ruth, and is in memory of John Thompson and Mable Watt.
Views from the Tower
The views from the tower are unsurpassed, and was the main reason that the Parliamentarian Garrison of Sir William Brereton took over the church in 1644/5. From here the troops were able to monitor movements of the Royalist Army in and around of the city, and had clear views in every direction. On a clear day there are excellent views across the Cheshire Plain to Beeston Castle and the Peckforton Hills, to Kelsall and Delamere Forest in the east, to Runcorn Bridge and the River Mersey to the north. You can look westwards across the city to St Mary's Church and the River, to Connah's Quay and the Dee Estuary; and beyond to Moel Famau and the Berwyn Mountains. If you look towards the south west on very clear days you will see tall radio masts, some fifty miles away on a hill near the town of Welshpool.
The Lych Gate
Following the loss of the old cross due to age a new cross has been carved, thanks to the work of Charles Smeatham, following a design by Eric Kenyon and this was put in place during March 2000.
The Lionel Garnett Memorial
Just beyond the War Memorial on the church lawn is the Memorial Cross commemorating the outstanding ministry of Rector Lionel Garnett. He was Rector from 1869 to 1911 and can be said to have been the major influence in making the village that we know today. He rebuilt the Church, both schools and the Mens Institute. He arranged for a new telephone, water supply and sewerage systems to be installed,and founded the Football and Cricket Clubs, Village Band, Gardening Club, the Village Fete and Show and the local Temperance Society.
William Huggins Animal Painter)
Merchants of Manchester and Liverpool
John Best Merchant of Liverpool, and James Holden Merchant of Manchester.
In contrast the oldest grave, that of Peter Merryl, which commemorates his death in 1695, is evidence of an earlier church community. We have written evidence that Catherine Hodson was "buried in woollens" also in 1695 and the Hodson family figure prominently in Church life throughout the next two centuries. An earlier record indicates the wish of Margaret Smith of Lambeth in London to be buried in the Churchyard in the year 1506. This appears to have been carried out at great cost, although the location of the grave is not known. Neither is the burial place of a large number of Christleton families killed by the plague that affected the village in 1603/05. These families are listed in some of the earliest records we have of the church, from the births, deaths and marriages registers dating from 1600. Many Christleton residents have been long - lived, the eldest appears to have been Elizabeth Rowe of Woodfields who reached the age of 108, closely followed by Jim Poston aged 105 who lived at the Old Surgery on Village Road.
The other great benefactor of the Victorian period was Lucy Anne Ince. Her life is commemorated on a tablet in the churchyard as well as within the church. It was she, together with several other families and with the active support of Canon Garnett, who influenced the decision to rebuild the present church on its original site. A decision that seems to have been very successful, and benefits us all. St. James stands today as testament to those people, and to the thousands who have worshipped and supported the church in Christleton over the centuries.
Clergy 1215 to the present day
1250 David, Parson of Christleton.
1281 The recluse of Christleton' (Ledger Vale Royal.)
1306/7 Gilbert de Roubery, Canon of Auckland, non resident.
1309. William de Christleton clerk.
1310. Hugh clerk of Christleton.
1318. Magr. Walter de Askeby.
1319. Magr. Symon Pyte.
1321/31.Master Simon de Lich or Lych
1358. Adam de Moels.
1359. Will Abel.
1361. John de Salghale.
1378. Will de Hodynton.
1378. Magr. Roger de Davenport.
1386. Will Pelle or Pette.
1393. Will de Swanton.
1445. Dom Thomas Maderer.
1446. John ap Gruffydd ap Wyllym.
Thomas Dutton brother of Hugh Dutton.
1451. Ralph Dutton son of Hugh Dutton.
1451. Richard Barowe.
1484. Thomas clerk.(Second church built.)
1508. John Fowler.
1513. John Brereton DD
1536. Magr. John Wodeward.
1555. John Wallace.
1559. William Collingwood (Prebendary)
1560. William Bebbington.
1571. Robert Ireland.
1598. Reece Hughes.(Communion table given.)
1616. Edmund Scholes. (Gave to the Egerton Charity.)
1619. Ludovic Lloyd.
1634/69.William Mostyn.(Archdeacon of Bangor.)
1647/60.Hugh Burrowes, Samuel Slater (Intruded Ministers.)
1669. Thomas Weston. (Battlements on Tower added.)
1688. Thomas Clopton.(Nephew of Bishop of St Asaph.)
1717. Philip Egerton DD (Also Rector of Astbury Church)
1727. Phillip Smallridge LLD Preb. of Worcester(Chaplain to Queen Caroline)
1752. Roger Mostyn (Archdeacon of Bangor.)
1775. Thomas Mostyn. (Uncle of Lord Mostyn.)
1809. Griffith Lloyd.(Brother of Lord Mostyn.)
1843. Thomas Lloyd.(Nephew of Lord Mostyn.)
1869. Lionel Garnett. (Hon Canon of Chester Cathedral)
1911. Godfrey Michael Vincent Hickey.
1926. Alyn Arthur Guest Williams.
1965 Lawrence Rainald Skipper. (Hon Canon of Chester Cathedral.)
1972. Charles Derrick Mack.(Hon Canon of Chester Cathedral.)
1987. David Christopher Garnett. (Archdeacon of Chesterfield.)
1992. Kenneth Peter Lee.M.A