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