St Michael's Church, Shotwick

Special features of the church



The massive South door dates from the 15th Century, as does also the Font.



                                                                  The Clock

This clock, which replaced an earlier one, was bought in 1726. It was built by the Chester clock maker Joseph Smith and until its electrification in 2000 was worked by winding up the massive stones remaining in the tower.


The Royal coat of arms on the tower wall was bought in 1727 during the last months of the reign of George I.

It may have replaced an earlier one, as coats of arms were placed in churches after the Reformation when they were often put above the chancel arch in the place formerly occupied by the Great Rood.


The Bells

The present peal of six bells consists of 4 new bells bequeathed by the Rev. F. R. Wansburgh, and two old ones, dated 1616 and 1621, recast.


In 1938 when the new ones were hung, one of the old bells dated 1664 was removed when found to be untunable, and until October 2010 stood at the base of the tower. Sadly this bell was stolen in broad daylight and no trace of it has been seen since.

The Churchwardens' Pew

The Churchwardens’ pew, which some young visitors have called “The Punch and Judy show”, has the date 1673 carved on the lower part, together with the Wardens’ names, The canopy dated 1709 is thought to have been added at that date. It is a piece of furniture befitting the dignity of the office and reminds all and sundry of the Churchwardens’ job of keeping order and putting out unruly folk. At some time it must have been furnished with curtains and a mat, as these are charged for in the accounts.


The Commandmenst Boards


Canons of 1604 ordered that the Commandments be exhibited on the East wall of the chancel.  

The Commandments boards, Lord's prayer and Creed were bought in 1752.  

They were conserved and relocated in 2012


The 'unveiling' celebration with conservator Vanessa Andrews


The “Devil’s Door”

The door in the North aisle, no longer used, is known to local people as “The Devil’s Door”. The name goes back to the Middle Ages when the ground to the North of the church was unconsecrated and thought to be the haunt of evil spirits. In pre-Christian times, the North was the “holy” place, and this, together with the fact that the church hid the sun from this ground for most of the year meant that superstitions surrounded it. During the Middle Ages only suicides, the illegitimate and criminals were buried there, all other burials, apart from those actually in the church, taking place to the South. Superstition had it that if the “Devil’s Door” were opened during a baptism the evil spirits would leave the infant’s body and fly out through it.


The 3 decker pulpit

In the same Commission which dealt with un-uniform seating in 1706, the parishioners were bidden to move the pulpit from its position in the South aisle to that in the North aisle where the present pulpit now stands. The old one was replaced in 1812 by this 3 decker Georgian pulpit which is said to have come from a church in Chester, thus giving rise to the story that most of the church furniture also came from the same source. The minister took the service from the middle deck, going to the top one to preach, whilst the clerk occupied the lower deck. It was he who led the congregation in their responses. In these days, although used at harvest and other special occasions, most clergy tend to prefer to deliver their sermons either from the lectern or the chancel steps.


Passing on down the North aisle, notice the remains of the old Rood Screen which now forms part of the pews.




The organ was purchased in Chester, second hand in 1909. Prior to this the harmonium was used.





The reading desk takes us back to earlier forms of church music. It is late 18th Century, and was formerly the fiddlers’ desk. From various entries in the Churchwardens’ accounts we learn that during the 18th Century the church music was supplied by paid musicians, fiddlers and singers.



The Vestry   



The screen which forms the vestry was formerly at the end of the lady chapel, before the organ was installed. In the vestry is the recess which was the aumbry where the holy oils and Communion plate were stored. Before the Reformation it would have had a stout oak door. The table in the vestry dates from the 17th Century and the chest from the 18th. The three locks on the chest were for the two Churchwardens and the Vicar, each of whom held a key.

The Sanctuary

The panelling behind the altar is part of the box pews removed to make room for the organ.


Prior to this the interior churchwalls were plastered and you can see the inscription above the chancel 'Do this in Remembrance of me'.


An interesting local story concerns a grave in the chancel. Tradition has it that there lies Squire Hockenhull who died when his old horse stepped into a rabbit hole, fell and rolled on his master. The dying man is supposed to have charged his eldest son that there should be no inscription on his grave stone, but instead a bridle bit and two stirrups cut in the stone above the date, to show that he died as he had lived, a sportsman. It is now generally believed however that the signs are simply the letters I.C.C., being the initials of John Carter, Curate, whose will dated 1587 stated that he wished to be “Buryied in the chancell of Shotwyke”. There are still parishioners who prefer to believe the old story, and who will blame them?


The East Window

The memorial window was placed in the church in 1938 by parishioners and friends of the Rev. F. R. Wansburgh, Vicar of Shotwick from 1902 to 1936, and his wife. He is remembered as being a typical sporting parson who would ride into Chester wearing a tall silk hat and riding a big white mare. In the centre of the window is the figure of the Archangel Michael, patron saint of the church, and in the side-lights appear the old arms of Shotwick and those of the Abbey of St. Werburgh. 

The artist was Trina (or Trena) Mary Cox (1895-1980) who was born in Wirral and set up a studio in Birkenhead in 1916. In 1923 she moved to Chester, where she continued to work until 1971.Trina Cox is little known outside of the North-West; she designed windows for churches as far away as London and Yorkshire, but the majority of her work is in Cheshire and Lancashire with more than 30 churches in Cheshire containing her art. The work of one of our greatest local artists is in our Church for all to appreciate.


The brass chandelier dates from the late 18th Century.




The Memorials in the church are mostly to members of the Nevitt-Bennett Family, already mentioned in connection with Shotwick Hall. From the 1843 Tithe Map for the Township of Shotwick we find that apart from the rectory they were the owners of all the land in the township.





The Tithe map dates back to 1843 and shows details of the tithes due from the local tenants to the then land owner John Nevitt-Bennett Esq.

Revd. James Cottingham was the minister of Shotwick at the time. 

It marked the change from paying tithes in money rather than hay, eggs, milk or a calf!

Page last updated: Saturday 31st July 2021 5:58 PM
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