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THE HISTORY OF CHILDWALL

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It was custom in the more distant past to inter deceased persons within the walls of the church, under the floor of the aisles. This habit was continued in Childwall until a comparatively recent date, the last burial inside the church taking place in 1825. Bones were often removed from their original resting place and placed in the Ossuary or Bonehouse.

 

Until 1810, this was, in the case of Childwall Church, situated beside the Tower. Both Tower and Ossuary were demolished at that time and only the tower rebuilt.  The small square building in the North-West corner of the graveyard was built in 1811 as a new Hearse house to replace the old one which stood beside the old Vicarage on the site of the present Church Hall.  It was the custom for each parish to possess its own hearse in the days before the establishment of firms of undertakers. Since the custom of possessing a parish hease has fallen into disuse, the building has been used as a storeroom.

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The small square building in the North-West corner of the graveyard was built in 1811 as a new Hearse house to replace the old one which stood beside the old Vicarage on the site of the present Church Hall.

It was the custom for each parish to possess its own hearse in the days before the establishment of firms of undertakers. Since the custom of possessing a parish hease has fallen into disuse, the building has been used as a storeroom. Both Tower and Ossuary were demolished at that time and only the tower rebuilt.  

CHURCH MEMORIALS

An old method of commemorating the dead was to erect portraits executed in relief on metal usually called brasses. Some of the finest examples of these to be found in the North of England are in Childwall Church, and are now situated in one of the alcoves in the South Aisle.

They commemorate Henry Norris of Speke Hall and his wife Clemence, who both died in the late sixteenth century. The modern plaque now placed between the effigies states that they were removed from the tomb of the Norris's in 1760 and placed here 1853, however an old document tells another story! It seems that in the first place the brasses were affixed to the Norris tomb, but after the sale of Speke Hall to Richard Watt in 1797, the Norris Chapel passed into new hands, not apparently into those of Richard Wall, but into those of Mr. Nicholas Ashton of Woolton Hall. A number of the past clergy of Childwall have memorial tablets in various parts of the Church: Augustus Campbell 1824-1870; William Ward 1737-1740; George Winter Warr 1870-1895; all of which are fixed to the South Chancel Wall. On the North side of the Chancel Arch is a memorial to John Alexander Wilson, Curate of the Parish 1826-1841, and in the porch is a stone tablet commemorating Theophilus Kelsall, Vicar from 1721-22.The latter is most intriguing, bearing a Latin inscription and a carved skull at the base.

 

 

THE PORCH

CHURCH HATCHMENTS

The hatchment was borne before the body of the deceased person at his or her funeral, and then placed above the tomb, or vault. The colouring of the ground of the hatchment indicated whether the husband or the wife is the survivor. If the ground is white on the right side, and black on the left the husband survives; black dexter and white sinister indicated that the wife is the survivor. If the while ground is black, both husband and wife are dead, and a skull painted below the shield usually indicates that the person commemorated is the last of the family. Hatchments bearing the motto "Raison Pour Guide" (over the Chancel Arch and on the South Wall of the Nave) commemorate members of the Gascoyne family of Childwall Hall. On the North Wall of the Nave, in the one bearing the word "Resurgam" (I shall rise again), Joseph Need Walker of Calderstones is commemorated. Hatchments bearing the motto "So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom" relate to the Ashton family of Woolton Hall. In the Salisbury Chapel, is a memorial hatchment to the wife of the Second Marquis of Salisbury who was also the daughter and heiress of Bamber Gascoyne of Childwall Hall. On the North Wall of the Nave and in the North Aisle are hatchments commemorating the Hardmans of Allerton, and in the North Aisle, bearing the motto "In coelo quies" (Peace in Heaven) is a memorial to Arthur Onslow of Liverpool, Collector of Customs at the Port of Liverpool 1785-1807. The square board above the Chancel Arch is not a true hatchment. It bears the arms of King Charles II who visited the neighbourhood, staying at Speke Hall. In the other recess is a most interesting wood carving. It takes the form of the eagle and child motif, which is incorporated in the arms of the Stanleys Earls of Derby.

The old legend attached to the motif is that the Lathoms were, in the time of Edward III (1312-1377) without male issue. The questions remain - what is the purpose of this particular carving? How did it get there? How old is it? Where did it come from?  The connection between the house of Derby and Childwall was very strong in the Middle Ages and it has been conjectured that perhaps the carving was presented to the church by the Stanleys when they gained the lordship of the manor of Childwall in 1473. The date of the carving supports this, as it seems to belong to the early fifteenth century. As it now is, there is evidence of its having been badly damaged at some time, and the most likely time for this to have happened seems to be during the Civil Wars when much vandalism was perpetrated in churches all over the country. However, the exact date and purpose of the carving remain unknown. By 1914 it was in use as a font cover, but to which font it belong and whether it was originally meant for that purpose must remain a mystery unless or until further evidence comes to hand.

In the North Chancel Aisle is a large and lavish memorial to William Pitcairn Campbell, a Major in the 23rd Royal Welch Fusileers, who died in 1855. Details of his military career are recorded on scrolls, which are part of the design of the memorial. In 1563 the Norris Chapel is known to have contained painted windows in memory of members of the Norris family. In 1797, the Norrises of Speke had ceased to exist, and the Hall was sold to Richard Watt. The Ashtons, of Woolton Hall, gained the use of the pews in the Chapel, and are stated to have had the bones of the Norrises removed from the vault beneath the chapel and to have used it as their own family vault. It was probably during the same period of conversion from Norris to Ashton ownership that the memorial painted glass was removed and the Norris brasses removed from their original position and placed in the old Vestry. All that now remains of the chapel of the Norrisses are the brasses, which were placed in their present position in 1853, the large medallion which commemorates John Garway, who married into the Norris family, and the oak carved bench end.

SALISBURY CHAPEL

The Salisbury Chapel has had a long and varied history. It was built up in the first place as the chapel of the lawyer Isaac Greene who bought the Manor of Childwall after it had passed from the Stanley family in 1718.  The Chapel itself dates from 1744. A doorway in the East wall of the already existing porch was sanctioned, and Greene and his successors were to be responsible for the upkeep of the building.

 

When Greene died in 1749, the chapel was used by his wife and eventually passed into the Bamber Gascoyne family through the marriage of Greenes daughter Mary to Bamber Gascoyne of Childwall Hall. It remained in the Gascoyne family and Salisbury family (Bamber Gascoynes daughter married the Second Marquis of Salisbury) until comparatively recent times when it was taken over as the Choir vestry.  The Salisbury Chapel, as it is now called, opened directly into the South Aisle of the Church until 1952 when the oak screen was erected to divide the vestry from the body of the Church.

Built in the fifteenth century, the South West Porch is still used as the main entrance in to the Church. The four steps leading down to the porch indicate that the level of the ground outside the West End of the building has been raised for the purpose of burials. The position of the Lepers window just inside the West door indicates the same fact; once above ground level, it is now almost entirely below it. Exactly when the level was raised is not known, but some of the gravestones outside bear dates in the eighteenth century, so that it must have been accomplished by that time.

 

Tradition tells that a room was once to be found above the porch but beyond what tradition says there is no evidence, and a sketch of the church as it was in 1775 shows no signs of any building above the present porch. There must however have some reason for the existence of the tradition and it is a known fact that in the days when civil war was a recognised danger, the local men kept their pikes, halberds and other armaments in the Church. When a crisis arose, they would gather there and collect their weapons and armour and depart under the leadership of the Lord of the Manor, leaving the women and children and old people in the sanctuary of the Church until the danger was over. In view of the knowledge of this practice, it may well be that tradition is right, that there was in fact a room above the Porch, but yet it is an obstacle to the confident acceptance of the tradition, that no evidence of its existence remains. Above the center of the arch outside the porch is a niche, now empty, but originally containing the statue of the Patron Saint of the Church. This is just another fragment of evidence that the dedication of Childwall Parish Church has not always been to All Saints. In view of the reference in a fourteenth century document to St Peter of Childwall, we may be in some measure justified in believing that the statue once standing in the niche was that of the Apostle Peter.

 

The loss of the effigy probably took place at the time of the Civil Wars when church all over the country suffered damage and loss, if not destruction. Inside the porch, high up in each of the four corners are the heads of the four Evangelists, each identified by his symbol. These heads were found outside the Church at the beginning of the nineteenth century and were given by the Vicar, the Rev. Augustus Campbell, to the proprietor of the Abbey Inn. They were not restored until some twenty to thirty years later, when they were placed in their present position. Some indication of the stonemason responsible for the building of the porch and probably the rest of the Church, which was built in the fifteenth century, are to be found in the mark carved into the stonework above the door. Though we cannot tell from this exactly who was the craftsman, it is interesting to note that a similar mark is to be found on some of the masonry in Lichfield Cathedral. The rough cross carved on one of the stones in the west wall of the porch is of Saxon design, having barbs half way up the stem. The barbs were thought to keep the evil spirits from invading the cross. This particular cross is carved upon a stone which was originally the lid of a childs coffin, presumably removed from the burial ground when the masons were short of a stone to fit into the wall of the porch.  

 

The war memorial on the east wall of the porch is erected to the memory of the men who gave their lives in the First World War. The wood was taken from H.M.S Britannia, a cadet training ship from 1869-1905. The heavy door, which connects the porch with the body of the Church, is made of oak. In the early centuries of its existence, the sections were fitted together leaving large gaps between them. Perhaps Christians were hardier then, or believed more in the mortification of the body.

THE NORRIS CHAPEL

This Chapel on the South Side of the Church is one of the oldest parts of the building. We have no record of the date of the building of the chapel, but it is referred to in a document of 1484, as follows: Thomas Norris of Speke, to the pleasure of God, encress of His service, and for the helth of my sawle, and all myne antecessors, and for the helth of the sawle of John of Lathum, prieste, sumtyme parson of Aldeforth, and all cristen sawles founded a chantry in this chapel. This chapel was known as the chantry of St. Thomas the Martyr. There are references to two chapels in Childwall Church, the Norris Chapel, and an earlier one, of which the exact position is unknown; indeed nothing at all is known of it, except that it existed, and there is only one reference to indicate that. On 10th May 1396, John Sherman was presented by the King to a living in Bisley, Hampshire. Until that time he had been chaplain of the chantry of St. Mary in the parish church of Childwall. On 10th May 1396, John Sherman was presented by the King to a living in Bisley, Hampshire. Until that time he had been chaplain of the chantry of St. Mary in the parish church of Childwall.

THE ALTAR

The altar section of the building is the oldest part, dating from the fourteenth century.  The windows on the North and South are genuine fourteenth century windows, but the East window belongs to the nineteenth century, though designed in the same style as the other two. The wall immediately behind the choir pews was originally the outer wall of the church, but extensions were added in 1744 and in 1853, so that the ancient wall now looks out of place and causes many to wonder why it is there. The priests door in the South wall was part of the early chapel, and is still in use today, a tribute to the workmanship of the fourteenth century craftsmen. A title and tile fragment made of rough clay and with impressed patterns of a quatrefoll motif in the centre surrounded by a circular scrolled design was recently found during restoration. A further discovery was made outside the church at the East wall in the form of an undercroft, or burial vault. Little is known about it except it is possible it was built when a faculty was raised to build a vestry. This is shown in the picture bottom right.

 

The hatchments are the large diamond-shaped boards, decorated with heraldic designs, which are now hanging on the wall of the Nave and the North Aisle. The original purpose of the hatchment (achievement of arms) was to display the arms of a deceased person upon the outer wall of his house.

The first mention of a graveyard at Childwall is found in a document of 1386, but no detailed records were kept until 1557. The oldest gravestones bear the dates 1620 and 1686. Burials have continued to take place here until the present day and tombstones now number many hundreds.  Among the people interred in the graveyard are some who will be known to many people. Bishop Ryle, the first Bishop of Liverpool is one such person, and also his wife who lies beside him. The world of literature is represented by the late nineteenth century poet, Sir William Watson, of whose work the "Coronation Ode" to King Edward VII, written in 1902, is probably the best know example.

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