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ST MARY`S PARISH CHURCH

Long before the building was called a church there had been a chapel on the site under the control of Acton church. At that distant time there may have been a simple building erected in Anglo-Saxon times before the Norman conquerors arrived.in 1066.

About 1130 Acton church and Nantwich chapel were granted to Combermere Abbey run by a small group of Cistercians from France. For a hundred years monks came from the abbey to officiate in Acton and in Nantwich.

Around 1380 the present building was started. Masons came from Yorkshire and the red sandstone came from the Runcorn area. Money came from the abbey estates; through the religious gilds; and from wealthy people during the Hundred Years Wars in France.

Built in the Decorated style with later additions in the Perpendicular style the church is huge for such a small place as Nantwich was in the 14th century. Little wonder that it has been christened the `cathedral of south Cheshire.`

The oldest parts are the choir, chancel and nave(13th and 14th centuries) and less old, the 14th century transepts.

Features to look for are: the triple-canopied choir stalls; the misericords(carvings on the undersides of the choir seats - often quite amusing); the ribbed vaulted chancel ceiling; the faint remains of inscriptions (the Ten Commandments), high up on the east wall of the nave; and the effigies in the south transept. One is of Sir David Cradoc in alabaster.

After King Henry VIII ordered the dissolution of the monasteries in the 1530s the church changed from being Roman Catholic to Protestant or Church of England.

In earlier times many people had been buried inside the church - but the church was gradually sinking, resting on sand and rainwater.

In the 18th century the church acquired a small library for the benefit of the clergy. Later the books were very badly cared for. They suffered the hazards of damp, mice and rough handling. Six bells were added. A gallery was erected and a clock added. Various paths were laid out with slabs. Iron gates and turnstile were parts of the whole fence round the churchyard.

In the 19th century, after the worst attack of cholera in the town, the graveyard was closed In the 1850s restoration work was carried out: the galleries were removed, as were the box pews. The interior walls were no longer painted with whitewash. Trees and shrubs were planted but the graves were said to be in a sorry state The floor level was raised in 1887 the year of Queen Victoria`s Golden Jubilee. By the end of the century a new clock was in place and the organ rebuilt.

The twentieth century is notable for the reredos erected in 1919. In 1975 the embroidered curtains hung by the west door marks Queen Elizabeth II`s 25 years` reign. More recently there was been a lot of restoration of the red sandstone in walls and pinnacles.

Further reading

St Marys Church website at: http://www.stmarysnantwich.btinternet.co.uk/index.htm

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