St Lawrence’s Church – Contact information
Vicar: Father Murray – 01565 722304
Churchwarden: Mrs Rosemary Moss – 01477 533976
Treasurer: To be confirmed
Secretary: To be confirmed
Sunday morning Church Services are weekly at 9.30am – all welcome.
If you would like to support Church funds by joining the Church’s 100 Club, please contact the Treasurer, Vicki Irlam – 01565 723595.
There is a monthly draw – first prize £50.
A SHORT HISTORY OF THE CHURCH OF ST LAWRENCE
Church of Saint Lawrence – Over Peover
The church, which is a Grade 1 Listed Building, is neighbour to Peover Hall, formerly the Mainwaring family home, standing in what is today Peover Park. This rural seclusion contributes to its charm.
It appears to have been first built about mid 14th century as a chapel, though there may have been a Chapel of Ease here in the 12th century. By the mid 15th century it had become the Parish Church of Over Peover. The porch is the oldest part of the church. For safety reasons the tower was rebuilt in brick in 1739 and the old bells rehung. The nave and chancel were rebuilt in brick in 1811, but some of the monuments and the two ancient Mainwaring chapels, which had been built in stone, were preserved. In the churchyard can be found an ancient preaching cross, said to have been desecrated by Cromwell’s soldiers, but restored in 1907. The oldest gravestone is one marked ‘Mary Bate 1659’.
The Mainwaring Chapels
In these two chapels, with their fine monumental effigies, much of the Mainwaring history is to be found, making them well worth a visit. Visitors can also share a rich experience of solemnity and beauty.
The South Chapel, the older of the two was built in 1456.
There is an interesting story concerning the building of the South Chapel When Sir Randle Mainwaring died, his wife, Margery, honoured his wish to be buried in the churchyard. Afterwards, however, she erected the chapel and tomb over him, where they have lain together since her death.
The South Chapel is a Chantry Chapel where the priest said daily prayers for the souls of the departed. Spaced between two pointed windows is a fine, canopied tomb, the reason for building the chapel originally. The ancient stained glass window in the South Chapel portraying Thomas Becket, the famous saint, is a rarity, one of only two in England to survive destruction on the orders of Henry VIII.
The chapel’s beauty was further enriched by a number of Victorian additions: the paintings on the reredos were based on famous Italian ones, hanging lamps were brought in from Florence, and the carved oak screen was installed separating the chapel from the nave.
The North Chapel is a mortuary chapel, never used for services. It was built in 1648 by the widow of the then Lord. She installed a marble monument with life-size effigies of them both. The Lord’s actual armour hangs on the wall. Their coat of arms can be seen in an elaborately-carved timber ceiling and the semi-circular windows depict their family crests. The other monuments in this chapel were moved there when the main body of the church was demolished and are equally interesting.
The North Chapel displays a Cromwellian helmet and breastplate. Lady Ellen Mainwaring is known to have assisted Cromwell’s cause and legend has it that Cromwell’s troops were frequently billeted in the church. All the more surprising, therefore, that the glass in the South Chapel has survived.
The Nave & Tower
The nave and chancel, whilst being relatively new themselves, have several older feature of interest:
- The font is 15th century, with typical bold carving.
- The pulpit is Jacobean, made of oak with inlaid panels.
- High on the west wall is an impressive royal coat of arms of Charles II, dated 1661.
- The church-wardens staves date back to William IV (1830).
- A fine monument in the north-east corner of the chancel is likely to be early 14th century because its male figure wears a suit of mail. If so, the female figure could be the first alabaster effigy in Cheshire depicting a lady.
The tower has three bells, the two oldest dated 1625 and 1669.
The porch houses a very old poor box, on a pedestal covered with ornamental iron-work.
A more recent features of interest is the William Morris Window – a memorial window (dated 1936) in the north-west corner of the nave, portraying the charitable activities of a much-regarded parishioner, which bears the signature of the famous designer.
The church also proudly displays an American flag, presented to it by General George Patton, whose Third Army had its headquarters at Peover Hall during 1944 before the invasion of France. It is thought to be unique in an English church.
A charming, illustrated guidebook is available (price £1). A regular weekly service is held at 9.30 every Sunday. Family services are held approximately monthly. Details in the Parish Magazine. In addition the Church is open for visitors on Monday and Thursday afternoon in Summer and at other times by appointment.
Who was St Lawrence?
A deacon of the church in 3rd century Rome, Lawrence was both treasurer and archivist. When his Bishop (pope Sixtus 11) and fellow deacons were arrested and executed during the persecution of Christians in 258AD, the poet Prudentius records that Lawrence wept for them. Lawrence himself was offered a way of escaping execution if he were to hand over the treasures of the church in three days time. When the time came he assembled a large crowd of people whom the Christians had helped: the poor, the sick, the lame. “Here”, said Lawrence, “are the treasures of the church”. He was promptly executed, a grisly legend having him roasted alive on the gridiron which is his symbol in Christian art. Records tell us that the courage with which he faced his martyrdom brought many noble Romans to Christ. The feast day of Saint Lawrence is 10th August.
The Mainwaring Family
Descended from a nephew of William the Conqueror, the Mainwarings were Lords of the Manor in Over Peover for most of the second millennium. They were responsible for much of the church building, at least from 1400 onwards. They were granted their lands after the Norman Conquest in return for their services in battle. The motto of the Mainwarings, in Norman-French, is Devant si je puis (Forward if I Can) and legend has it that a member of the family on one of the Crusades was unhorsed and could only obtain an ass. Mounting this intransigent animal, he exclaimed, “Forward if I can”. Most of the Mainwarings are buried inside the church and the ass certainly appears on many of the monuments.