St Wilfrid's Church



Grappenhall is listed in the 1086 Doomsday Book as a small rural cluster of homes with 6 adult male inhabitants.  In 1881, around the time of the last major building improvement to St Wilfrid’s Church, the civil parish had grown to 788 adults.  By 2011 the civil parish had 9,700 inhabitants. The population continues to grow, as the village meets the edge of suburban Warrington. 












The oldest part of Grappenhall is the picturesque village centre on Church Lane. Church Lane is now a Conservation Area, comprising a mixture of mainly 17th to 19th Century buildings.  It is cobbled and is flanked on its south side by substantial sandstone boundary walls. The focal point of the village is St.Wilfrid’s Church. The Church is constructed in local sandstone and parts of it date back to the 12th century. 

St Wilfrid’s Church

The church continues to be the sole, local Parish Church for the people of Grappenhall, as it has been for 900 years.  Perhaps it’s greatest cultural and religious significance is this record of continual service to local people. In 1086 Grappenhall was waste, but the Normans were enthusiastic church builders, and early in the next century, probably 1120, local masons were commissioned to create a small stone church which today forms the foundation of the present, mostly 16th century, building.


The church has a plaque with a continuous record of Rectors of Grappenhall going back to Robert of Gropenhale, who witnessed a charter in 1189.  Throughout the turmoil of the reformation, civil war and then the 20th century aerial bombing that hit much of the Mersey valley, Grappenhall people have treasured their church and protected it’s artefacts.  Today, babies can be christened in the Norman font, which was saved from destruction by being buried during the reformation. 

The churchyard originally only ran to the south of the church, as can be seen on the 1828 Tithe Map.  During the 19th century, additional land was purchased on the North side (in several tranches) to extend the churchyard and enable the vestry to be built. It is an active churchyard, which is well maintained by volunteers known as God’s Gardeners.  The oldest memorial, dated 1624, is of the Drinkwater family of Thelwall.  This is on the south side of the church.  Church burial registers date back to 1574 and are preserved in Cheshire Records Office.

The setting of the ancient church within the conservation area provides a reassuring sense of the continuity of Christian worship, and rural peace in a rapidly urbanising landscape. 

In More Detail

The foundations of the 1120 church lie within the present nave and chancel.  The North aisle, the outer wall of which would form the inner wall of the planned annex, was added during the Tudor rebuilding in (1525- 1539). 

The piers of the arcade at the south side of the north aisle were found, in 1873, to be resting on the foundations of the north wall of the Norman church.  The original corbel table, which once supported the Norman roof, can be seen above the arches of the south aisle, with its ornamentation of rudely carved gargoyles.  Cheshire has very little Norman stonework as, in Norman times, it was the poorest county in England.

  The stone effigy of a knight in the chancel (north side) is of Sir William Boydell, who died in 1275.  It was found, buried in the churchyard in 1874 and placed in church after some major restoration.  The Boydell family, who were descendants of the first norman Lord of Manor, built a chapel which has become incorporated into the south aisle. 













In 1539 the tower appears to have been built before the north wall, as the north east buttress runs down to the ground and the west wall of the north aisle has been built to meet this with a straight joint without ties.  The handsome Tudor bell tower now has a peal of 10 bells which were recast by J Taylor of Loughborough in 2019. Two of the older bells dated 1701 and 1704 Bagley of Ecton Northants are retained on the new bell frame but can no longer be struck. Bell ringing at St Wilfrid's goes back to at least 1660 when the ringers were documented in a Court case associated with the restoration of the old Rector when the Monarchy was restored in England.  During Medieval times St Wilfrid's was under the control of Norton Priory.  Excavations have shown that the Priory had its own bell foundry, so maybe St Wilfrid's tradition of bell ringing could go back to the 1300s.   .

There is an inverted V shaped marking on the tower showing where the roof beams of the original St Wilfrid’s School were attached in 1712.  The school relocated to it’s present building in 1846.

Visible on the tower is a relief sculpture of a “Cheshire Cat” which may have inspired the young Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll), whose father was vicar of the nearby Daresbury church. 

In 1851 the vestry was constructed to the North and the east end of the north aisle was converted into a transept.  The church is built of local red sandstone from the now closed, Cobb’s quarry near Lumb Brook.  The 1874 reconstruction was a major interior change to the church, when in addition to installing a floor covering over the previous beaten earth and some wooden carving in the chancel, most of the pews were removed. 

Do come and visit our fascinating church and discover more about it.  Children and families can enjoy our knitted Mouse Trail.  What do you think that can tell you about the Cheshire Cat? 



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