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A Brief History of the Parish St Barnabas Bromborough and its Churches
No one knows for sure when the name Bromborough came into existence or its meaning. There are two theories, one that it means the town or stronghold of Brun, Brun meaning a dark haired man and Burh a fortress, or that it comes from the word Brunna meaning wells, there were several important ones in the area including St Patrick’s well in Brotherton Park.
The present Church A Grade 2* listed building opened in 1864 and is the third church on the site. It is believed that the first church was built in Saxon times and pieces of a Saxon cross were found when the second church was demolished in 1828. The pieces were moved to the Rectory garden; in 1958 these were mounted with newer pieces of plain sandstone to mark the Bromborough Society’s Silver Jubilee. The restored cross can be found to the right of the south door of the Church.
The Anglo Saxon chronicles record that in 912AD Aethelflaeda, Lady of Mercia founded a monastery at Brimesburgh, exactly where the monastery was situated has never been discovered, and recent research suggests that in fact Bromsberrow in North Gloucestershire is the most likely site for the monastery. But we do know that there was an Anglo Saxon church and where the Saxon Church and the one that followed it were sited. They were to the north of the present church and the position of the chancel is marked in the Church yard with a sandstone slab and brass plaque, also by yew trees marking the extent of the church. About 1152 Earl Randle de Gerons granted the church and manor of Bromborough to the Abbey of St Werburgh at Chester.
At the dissolution of the monasteries, including St Werburgh’s Abbey in Chester the manor and the Church passed to the Dean and Chapter of the new Cathedral. The Dean and Chapter remain the Parish’s Patron to this day.
Ormerod’s history of Cheshire written in 1816 has a description of the Saxon Church ‘The Church of Bromborough is small but very ancient; it consists of a body and a chancel, both of which are entered on the South side by two semicircular doorways, and a North aisle, which is separated from the body of the Church by four pointed arches. The body of the Church is separated from the chancel by a large massy semicircular arch, the piers of which are inclined inwards at the base. The door way of the chancel is also included within a semicircular arch, exhibiting a good specimen of the zigzag, or chevron ornament, and originally resting on pillars with fluted capitals.’ This church had fallen into disrepair and was demolished by the Rev James Mainwaring in 1828.
In those days the Parish was that of the two townships of Bromborough and Brimstage. To raise the funds James gave £100 in memory of the late Jas Mainwaring, and the rates from Brimstage raised £100 8s 4d (£100.42 at 2/6 (12 ½p) in the pound) and of Bromborough £217, 12s 6d. (£217 62). Brimstage was detached to form part of the new parish of Thornton Hough in 1868).
The new church was a rectangular building of no particular note and it only served the parish for a generation. With the introduction of steam ferries to cross the Mersey and the coming of the railway the parish began to attract new and wealthy residents and the 1828 church was deemed unsuitable and inadequate for the rapidly growing population. By 1857 the Revd Charles Barton had already started fund raising for a new Church and by 28th June £375 had been pledged. (£31,210 at today’s value).
When the Revd Edward Dyer Green became Rector in 1860 he set to work to collect the necessary funds and the Lord of the Manor, Salusbury Kynaston Mainwaring who was only 18 years old gave an extra acre of land and he laid the foundation stone of the new Church. The Church was designed by Sir Gilbert Scott RA, grandfather of Giles Gilbert Scott the designer of Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral.
The church did not look like it does today as the tower and spire were not added until 1880. The stone for these coming from the quarry near Bromborough Mill; the upper portion of the spire is sandstone from Woodward’s Quarry.
The area now known as the Common at the junction of Allport Lane and Allport Road (Allport Road was known as Station Road in those days)
The present church was consecrated on 17 November 1864 by Bishop Graham of Chester.
There are two entrances to the Church, the North and South doors. The South Porch has the original stone seats. The North Porch was enclosed in 1992 to provide a choir vestry, toilet and small kitchen.
The first impression on entering the church is one of space with a lofty Nave and Chancel. The Sanctuary is semi-circular with a three light window. The Reredos is of Derbyshire stone and represents Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper.
Many of the wealthy merchants now living in the area made handsome gifts to the church. The Dale family who lived at Bromborough Hall gave the Rector’s and Curate’s stalls in memory of Edmund Peter Dale and Robert Norris Dale who both died in 1893. The oak screens were given by the Hobson family of the Marfords in memory of their son Richard Leigh Clare Hobson, killed in action at Englebrecht’s Drift in 1900 during the Boer War. The brass lectern, Altar Cross and candlesticks were the gift of Sir William Bower Forwood, the last resident of Bromborough Hall. He was one of the founders of Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral. The organ was given by James Rankin who also lived at Bromborough Hall; the organ was originally hand blown but was adapted to electricity in the 1930’s. There have only been four main organists in the 150 years, three of them, W A Watson 1885 – 1897, J P King 1897-1947 and David Beel 1947-1996 were all also Head Teacher of the Church School. The current organist is Mrs Joan Astill.
The wrought iron cross which stood at the end of the chancel roof was found to be seriously corroded in the early 21st century, and was removed, this was incorporated into an embroidery by Mrs Joyce Whitfield and framed by Mr Eddie Griffiths, it now hangs to the left of the North door by the Children’s corner.
The peal of eight bells were donated at a cost of £800 by Mr Charles Bamford of ‘Brookhurst’ and were cast by Taylors of Loughborough. The clappers for the bells have been refurbished by the same company in 2014 after one of them fell from its bell. In total the bells weigh 4 tons, 10 cwt 16 lbs (4,583.58kg) Each is inscribed with a couplet written by Revd E Dyer Green. The clock and chimes were placed in the tower to mark Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887, they were paid for by public subscription. The clock has no face on the West face of the tower as there were no houses in Mark Rake at that time. Originally the clock required daily winding by raising the weights from the box in the vestry to the top of the tower. The clock was converted to electricity in 1971 by Mrs J D Buxton in memory of her parents.
The Lady Chapel altar came from a church in Birkenhead when it was closed and demolished.
The windows are mainly by Clayton and Bell and were given in memory of family members of people connected with the Church. The East Window which has three lights is by Ballantine and Son and is one of the glories of the Church. The central one depicts the Crucifixion, the one to the south east The Presentation of Christ in the Temple and the one to the north east The visit of the Shepherds. The West window portrays scenes from the life of St Barnabas. The Rose window above depicts Jesus the Lamb of God surrounded by angels. The window on the north side of the west wall shows Aethelflaeda holding a church and is inscribed ‘Abbey of Brumburgh founded by Countess Aethelflaeda AD 912’ The one on the south side of the west wall shows King Edward 1 presenting the Carta Brubergensis which took place on 5 April 1278. The charter allowed the people of Bromborough to hold a market every Monday in the manor of Bromborough and a fair there every year lasting three days, that is on the Eve, the Day and the Morrow of St Barnabas Day (11 June). Edward 1 has stayed at the Court House, Bromborough Pool for two nights in 1277 when he was travelling north to supervise the building of the castle at Flint. During the visit he met Scottish Ambassadors at Birkenhead Priory.
The Church has been re-ordered several times, the Caen stone font which is supported by Connemara marble was originally situated to the West of the South door but was moved to its current position in 1959. The portable font by the lectern which is used nowadays was given in memory of Mrs Pat Rhodes 1923-2010.
Written by Mrs LJ Hope MBE
First published in 150th Anniversary Brochure