Marton Church Congleton is one of the finest examples of a medieval wooden church. It is reputed to be built on a pre-historic mound. This beautiful little half—timbered black and white church, dedicated to St James and St Paul is the oldest longitudinal aisled timber framed church in the world.
Marton Church Congleton beautiful stained glass window.
Marton Church Congleton was –
Founded in 1343
Formerly the Chapel of Merton, it was founded and endowed in 1343 by Sir John de Davenport and Vivian his son. In 1370, Sir John gave messuages and 60 acres of land to maintain a priest for the parish of Marton. At the Dissolution by Henry VlIl, this chapel of Chantry and its endowments were confiscated by the Crown, but were later regained by the Davenports.
NB The Bromley Davenports living at Capesthorne Hall are descendants of John and Vivian. Even today they are patrons of the church.
The oldest part of the Church is the Nave, the Chancel being a later addition. The belfry was built separately from the Nave, being of wooden uprights and cross-pieces: the tower and the bell chamber above are roofed with wooden shingles.
The original entrance to the body of the church was from the north side —the door fasten is still to be seen on an upright wall pillar. The main entrance was from the South Porch along a path leading to a stile at the corner of the old graveyard. The Registers, dating back to 1563, tell us that the church roof was lowered and the Minstrel Gallery and dormer windows were discarded in 1804. Three years later Norman tiles were discovered in the West End.
The church was restored in 1871, at the cost of £1500, by Mrs Barber, as a memorial to her father, the Revd. John Darcy, a former incumbent. During this restoration work a new main entrance was made from the road up the steps and through the belfry. Further restoration was undertaken in 1930 31 at the cost of £2000, when most of the panels on the North and South sides were renewed.
The roof was stripped and the rafters replaced where necessary and the Tower re-shingled. The South door was brought back in 1953, having been used at a farmhouse in Swettenham and replaced in its original position.
Records indicate that the bells and Tower date from about 1540, there being four bells at that time. In 1800 one bell was removed and not replaced, leaving three inscribed:
1. God Save the Queen and the Realme 1598
2. Jesus bee our speed 1663
There are six bells now. There is an ancient handmade wooden ladder which gives access to the Bell Ringing platform.
On the west wall are traces of early medieval paintings which were discovered under plaster in 1930. Fortunately only a small portion was damaged before it was realised what it was. The pictures which probably represent the Last Judgement (a common subject in a medieval church) are divided into sections by the timbering.
A haloed male figure with long yellow hair at the top right possibly represents Christ and a haloed kneeling female opposite might represent the Virgin Mary. The bottom left panel contains figures with raised hands mainly looking towards the viewer, these represent souls under judgement. The frescos are the only surviving examples in Cheshire.
Also on the west wall are large oil paintings of Moses and Aaron holding tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments dating to the 1700’s. The artist was Edward Penney of Knutsford, one of the founders of the Royal Academy. These paintings were skilfully restored in 1951 during the incumbency of the late Revd T E Davies.
The octagonal stone Font is original, it was lost and replaced by a Victorian font. Later the original one was recovered from a nearby farm in a sheep field and placed on the Victorian pedestal.
The pulpit with its inlaid coat-of-arms dates back to 1620. It is thought to have been a triple decker pulpit, part of which is now in Siddington Church.
Two worn effigies in the Belfry are thought to be those of Sir John de Davenport and his son Vivian. Of these Ormerod the Cheshire historian wrote in 1882:
‘Two mutilated effigies placed in the chapel yard, to the south, but which some
years ago were removed into the chapel tower, representing knights, armed as far
as can be traced , in plate armour, with conical helmets, with boots, pointed at the
toes, and much curved. The hands are clasped in prayer, the feet of each figure are
pressed against an animal and under the head of each is the Davenport crest. A
felon’s head couped — a rope is only visible round one of the heads: the other is
placed on something which has more the appearance of a chapeau or cap of
The Marton Oak
The Marton Oak is said to be over 1200 years old and possibly the oldest oak tree in England. It is to be found in the village.
Church of St. James and St. Paul Congleton Road, Marton
Cheshire SK11 9HE .martonchurch.co.uk