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Wrexham Churches Survey

Church of All Saints , Gresford

Gresford Church is in the Diocese of St Asaph, in the community of Gresford in the county of Wrexham. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SJ3464654978.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16785 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Gresford Church, CPAT copyright photo 584-20.JPG

Summary

All Saints at Gresford has been claimed as one of the finest parish churches in Wales. It has a nave and chancel with a clerestory rising above north and south aisles which are all of the same length, and a west tower. Mentioned in Domesday, the building is largely Perpendicular with wonderful carvings on the external faces, but the tower is 14thC and there are remnant walls from the previous century. Internally there are panelled and ornamented camberbeam roofs, 15thC screens of English workmanship, a wide variety of monuments and memorials, and a range of furnishings and fittings. The churchyard is rectilinear and holds a good range of monuments from the late 17thC onwards.

Tower of several phases. A buttress against the north wall survives from a reputedly 13thC towerless church, the line of its roof visible internally, and indicating a narrower nave than the present one. The lowest stage of tower attributed to 14thC on the basis of the tower arch and west door details, but the higher stages are early 16thC, as indicated by documentary evidence, and the south wall has been broadened outwards. External doorway to stair added in ?18thC.

There must have been a 14thC south aisle for this is the date of its west window, but the rest of the church including the nave, chancel and aisles is 15thC to a complete and uniform design. The south porch was added in the 16thC.

Some Victorian modifications include features in the south porch, the east wall of the chancel and elsewhere. North porch added in the 1920s.

Parts of the following description are quoted from the 1986 publication The Buildings of Wales: Clwyd by Edward Hubbard

History

Domesday Book (1086) carries a reference to a church and priest at 'Gretford', but nothing survives of this building and indeed there is no certainty that it was on this spot. The earliest building represented here is probably from the 13thC, for the record of an inquisition held at Gresford in 1333 refers to the church being built on land given by Trahaearn ap Ithel ap Eunydd who is known to have lived at the end of the 12thC.

The Taxatio of 1254 records it as 'Ecclesia de Cresford' with a value of 2 13s 4d (2 according to Thomas), while that of 1291 has 'Ecclia de Grefford' at 24 (23 19s 0d according to Thomas).

There appears to have been a major rebuilding in the 14thC. The tower was added and also a south aisle; the chancel was extended eastwards as far as the present altar rail, and a crypt inserted beneath it.

The church was rebuilt late in the 15thC, and on a remarkable scale. There is stained glass of 1498, and a record of another window having been given by Thomas Stanley, Earl of Derby, in 1500. Together these ought to give a broad guide to the completion of the building programme. Rebuilding may have been dependent on Stanley patronage, but the wealth of the church could have been derived from a relic or miracle-working image, that led to it becoming a place of pilgrimage.

In the rebuilding the nave was widened at the expense of the south aisle, putting the tower arch out of axis. The church was also extended even further east, but the arcades were left as in the previous design, and the altar remained in its previous position, while the 14thC east wall was cut down to provide a reredos. Behind, this was a processional way, linking two chapels, presumably for the circulation of pilgrims.

Building work continued into the 16thC; though the upper parts of the tower are Perpendicular, it is known from wills that the work had not commenced in 1512 and that as late as 1582 the pinnacles had not been completed.

Some considerable time after the Reformation - possibly c.1634-5 and in the course of the Laudian reforms - the reredos wall was removed and the altar placed against the east wall, at a higher level, the processional passage being boarded over. But the original arrangement has been further obscured by changes of level, and the passage is now a vestry.

In 1810 the south porch was converted into a vestry. A restoration of c.1820 concentrated on the chancel roof.

Glynne visited the church at some date prior to 1870, decribing it at some length, as did Archdeacon Thomas some years later.

A sympathetic Victorian restoration of the church was undertaken by Street in 1865-7, following a fire in 1865. However annotations to Glynne's report also indicate that Street was also active in 1871 when the chancel was remodelled and a north organ chamber added.

In 1908-10, the floor level in what is now the vestry was lowered. The present chancel steps added by W. D. Caroe, 1913-14, who also restored the Lady Chapel. The north porch was erected by Sir Thomas Graham Jackson in 1920-1 as a war memorial.

A restoration by F. H. Crossley, between 1929 and 1931, included the chancel roof. Further repairs have taken place in more recent times including 1954.

Architecture

Gresford church comprises a nave and chancel with similarly sized north and south aisles and both with chapels at their eastern ends, north and south porches at the western angles of the aisles, and a west tower against the nave. The church is oriented south-west to north-east but for descriptive purposes 'ecclesiastical east' is adopted here. The churchyard is described in conventional terms.

Fabrics:- 'A' consists of medium to large blocks of buff yellow sandstone, mostly coursed. 'B' is similar to 'A' but the blocks are larger and the coursing more regular. 'C' shows further variety with the sandstone sharply dressed and displaying less weathering.

Roof:- roofing materials not observed.

Drainage:- shallow drain along south and north sides, separated from wall by concrete slabs that are also placed between the buttresses. Concrete edges the north side of the tower, tarmac the west and south sides. Overall it is not possible to achieve a clear idea of drainage disturbance.

Exterior

Tower - General. Wall faces exhibit four stages defined by string courses, excluding the parapet. Double basal plinth with chamfers, the upper one hollowed, to height of c.0.6m. At a level with the top of the nave parapet is a quatrefoil band which marks the top of the 14thC tower. Well above this the bottom of the parapet also has a quatrefoil frieze defined by string courses, the upper one with gargoyles; then the panelled parapet and sixteen pinnacles, the two intermediate ones on each side in the form of figures. At the angles, stepped diagonal buttresses with canopied and pinnacled niches for statues.

Lower part of the tower is 14thC, the upper part 16thC.

North wall:- first stage above the plinth has a two-centred arched window with two lights, trefoil tracery and chamfered dressings; the archstones renewed. One mural slab of 1819 set into wall face, another of early 19thC date concreted to the wall. String course has gargoyles. 2nd stage plain. 3rd stage has a quatrefoil frieze immediately above the string course. 4th stage has double belfry windows, louvred, transomed and traceried, though the tracery in the lower lights is different from that above; windows under pairs of crocketed ogee hoodmoulds. Putlog hole on either side of window. Buttress at north-west angle has the lowest string course running around it; above this is one of the statue niches referred to above.

Buttress at north-east angle starts above nave parapet. Set into wall is an earlier stepped buttress, reputedly 13thC and the earliest surviving masonry in the building; the projection of its basal slab sets it apart from the nave and tower; however its lower chamfer matches that on the west face of north aisle.

East wall:- nave roof peaks just below the first frieze. Otherwise of standard appearance.

South wall:- at ground level near the south-west angle is a two-centred arched doorway giving access to the tower stair; the dressings appear reasonably fresh and the date 1731 is incised on a stone beside it; a light above it. Lower part of wall refaced or widened in 'B', but 'A' higher up in 1st stage. Centrally placed at height of c.4m is a rectangular window with a small, round-headed light, and complex mouldings; it looks out of place and could be Victorian. Also in this first stage is a similar but smaller light illuminating the tower stair in the south-west angle; its mouldings are worn and it looks original. Above, the standard first-stage window has a replaced mullion and possibly some archstones too. Rest of wall as north side; clock face beneath belfry window; some of belfry window tracery may be replaced, and parts of the hoodmould and canopy have fallen away. A small stair-light above and to the west of the belfry window lacks the pronounced hoodmould of its first-stage counterpart.

West wall:- the double basal plinth (part of the 14thC tower) stops short of the present south-west buttress, indicating a thickening of the wall on the south side, and a change in the masonry is visible close to the south-west angle for the whole of the first stage. A two-centred arched doorway with two orders of wave moulding is 14thC, yet it is central to the broader wall face; its threshold is now below tarmac level. Set in the later walling at the south-west angle are two slit windows with round heads, complex mouldings and hoodmoulds. Also in the first stage a decorated block of stone set into the wall face; similar stones on the inner face of the tower wall have a different trefoil design and are larger. Remainder of the wall is of standard form, comparable with north wall, and there are putlog holes on either side of the belfry window.

North porch - General. In 'C'. Diagonal buttresses, chamfered plinth continuing line of that around tower. Porch looks like the 20thC structure that it is.

North wall:- two-centred arch, complex chamfers with stops; foliate hoodmould with half pinnacles rising from rectangular pilaster columns. Glass doors to the entrance. Above the doorway a canopied niche, richly ornamented and containing a statue of St George in white stone. Top stage consists of a quatrefoil frieze edged by a string course and chamfered coping.

East wall:- plain wall with two pairs of small, broad, ogee-headed lights.

West wall:- as east wall.

North aisle - General. In 'B'. Integral angle buttresses; double chamfered plinth as on the tower and a further chamfered course below window level. Parapet.

North wall:- seven windows to east of the porch; all have four-centred arches with four ogee-headed lights having cinquefoil tracery, and trefoiled, two-centred arched panels above; hoodmoulds with stops displaying animal and human heads etc. The extent to which the dressings have been renewed is impossible to ascertain, though it is frequently the upper panel tracery that is weathered suggesting that some at least of the main mullions and tracery could have been replaced. Above the windows a string course shows as a frieze with small carvings of flowers, animals, grotesques and the like, and incorporates grotesque heads (gargoyles) for water spouts. Buttresses have stepped arches at their tops. Below the most easterly window the chamfered plinth is stepped up and a second less elaborate one introduced beneath.

East wall:- east window has a two-centred arch, but otherwise is very similar in design to those in north wall. Frieze continues from north side, angling up the wall face to run parallel to roof line; one small carving missing. Another animal is set just above frieze in the angle with the nave buttress. North-east buttress is topped by an ogee arch with grotesque stops.

West wall:- four-centred arched window with four two-centred lights but fewer panels than the windows in north and east walls. Standard hoodmould and standard frieze.

Nave and chancel - General.

North wall:- eight clerestory windows in the wall rising above north aisle (for details see south wall below).

East wall:- dominated by large four-centred window with seven narrow lights which have two-centred cinquefoiled heads, with sub-arches and foiled panels above; some renewal of mullion stones is obvious but uncertainty remains about other dressings; the hoodmould is pulled up to form an ogee head and there are the usual stops. Above is the standard frieze with animal carvings, and then a battlemented parapet with a stone cross. Beneath the window is a chamfered string course and a centrally placed buttress with an ogee arch at its top; either side is a small, splayed ogee-headed light comparable with those in the north porch, and closer to the southern aisle is a doorway with a Tudor arch, all Victorian insertions. Finally there are angle buttresses with the usual arches at their tops.

South wall:- eight clerestory window with four-centred arches, four lights with two-centred, trefoiled heads and hoodmoulds which are integrated in a continuous string course. Another string course is set above the windows and then there is a battlemented parapet. At the east end an ornamental pinnacle rises above the wall top. At the extreme ends metal tie-rod plates are visible. There may be some renewal of dressings.

South aisle - East wall:- of comparable appearance to the north aisle but window is the same as that in the west wall of north aisle; some renewal of mullion stones, the roll-moulding of the second chamfered plinth and at least one parapet stone.

South wall:- seven windows of standard form; again minor renewals of mullion stones.

West wall:- two-centred window with four ogee-headed lights and reticulated tracery with two ogee sub-arches; less elaborate hoodmould and stops than the windows elsewhere. In its original form a survivor from a 14thC enlargement. Standard frieze and a diagonal buttress.

South porch - General. Original chamfered plinth, plain parapet similar to that of north porch, and plain stepped diagonal buttresses. Basically 16thC.

East wall:- two-light rectangular window, the lights with two-centred heads and cusping; label with head stops, all Victorian.

South wall:- broad flat-headed doorway with roll mouldings; label with much worn head-stops. Above this a niche with an ogee canopy holds a weathered statuette of the Virgin. Apart from the parapet all this looks original.

West wall:- as east wall, the window clearly inserted.

Interior

North porch - General. Stone slab floor, bare walls, wooden ceiling. Of Victorian date.

North wall:- nothing of interest.

East wall:- window with two rectangular lights.

South wall:- Tudor doorway with complex mouldings and hoodmould.

West wall:- window as on east side; dedicatory inscription to the dead of World War I.

Tower - General. Standard Victorian tiled floor, but heating grille beneath tower arch; bare walls with cupboards set against them to height of 2m; wooden ceiling at height of about 8m.

North wall:- plain but for Benefaction board of 1731 and two wooden wall tablets of 17thC date.

East wall:- two-centred tower arch with plain chamfers cut through an earlier wall. Above this is a blocked doorway (revealed by masonry differentiation only) that gave access to a west gallery.

South wall:- supports a second Benefaction board of 1731, three 17thC wooden mural tablets, and a window embrasure with an asymmetric splay. Entrance to tower stair in south-west angle, subsequently replaced by external door in 18thC.

West wall:- west doorway has slightly splayed embrasure, and a chamfered and peaked arch. High up in the wall face is a slab with trefoil decoration, presumably re-used.

North aisle - General. Tiled floor with heating vent grilles towards east end. Bare walls. Roof of six bays with principals springing from corbels, and floral bosses where these intersect with the main purlins, though one boss missing. Organ at east end and 14thC effigy fragments adjacent to it.

North wall:- range of mural tablets, mainly marble and three of 18thC date, together with some 19thC and 20thC brasses. Beneath the fourth window from the west is a recess with a moulded, peaked arch and a 14thC heraldic slab beneath.

East wall:- screen in good condition.

South wall:- six-bay arcade with piers of eight shafts that have deep hollows between; rudimentary capitals with deep octagonal abaci; two-centred arches without hoodmoulds.

West wall:- slightly splayed window, and in the north-west angle, a simple rectangular doorway with chamfered dressings leading to stairway to roof. Wall supports three 19thC marble mural tablets.

North chapel (Lady Chapel) - General. Marble slab floor and altar raised on marble plinth. Bare walls. Roof of two bays as north aisle. Foliate bosses over screen at east end.

North wall:- two splayed window embrasures; stained glass in tops of windows only. Between windows two 18thC marble mural tablets.

East wall:- north of the altar a canopied niche with paint traces, its base resting on a corbel decorated with a 'green man'. Originally it may have held an object venerated by pilgrims, but now contains a Virgin and Child statue by William Webb, 1927. Two 19thC marble tablets to south of altar.

South wall:- to west is a single bay of the arcade. The solid walling to the east is pierced by a doorway with wave mouldings. Adjacent is a monument of 1837 and two 19thC/20thC marble tablets. A semi-circular archway leads to the vestry.

Nave - General. Standard floor finish with grilles running down the edges of the aisle almost to the step which is set in front of the screen; also two marble plaques, one of 1804, set in floor. Seats set on wooden boarding. Bare walls. Camberbeam roof of five bays, moulded roof members and a panel pattern with two sizes of purlin and three sizes of rafter; varied corbels, floriate bosses, angels on wall posts etc.

North wall:- arcade as north aisle, with clerestory windows above, all with four-centred heads, four lights with trefoil heads and plain glass.

East wall:- screen.

South wall:- as north wall but stained glass in windows.

West wall:- two-centred tower arch. Above this the pitch of an earlier nave is still visible and the 13thC fabric beneath is faintly rougher than the later masonry rising above it. Below this earlier roof line a patch of fresher masonry shows the position of a gallery entrance (see tower above), and there are two 19thC marble mural tablets attached to this part of wall. Above the line is a small plaque, partly hiding another patch of fresher stonework suggestive of a blocked door or window, and this is confirmed by a photo of c.1908 (in the NMR) that shows a blocked 14thC window.

Chancel - General. Encaustic tiles on floor and seven marble steps to altar, though partly carpetted. Choir stalls raised on wooden plinths. Bare walls. Roof as nave but there are extra ribs and shield bosses (dating from a restoration in 1929-31), and the angels are painted.

North wall:- two bays to the arcade and a round-headed archway from the north chapel with a simple, unchamfered reveal. Three clerestory windows above, two of four lights, one of three, and the two most easterly with stained glass. Three marble mural tablets, the earliest of 1770.

East wall:- splayed window with internally complex mouldings; large reredos.

South wall:- arcade and archway from south aisle as on north side; clerestory windows, again that to the east of three lights. Three marble mural tablets including one of 1797.

West wall:- screen only.

Vestry - General. Beneath chancel. Wooden block floor; bare walls; roof plastered but joists showing.

North wall:- eight steps up to north chapel.

East wall:- contains a splayed embrasure to doorway and double windows. Hanging on wall is an Incorporated Church Building Society plaque of 1866 and another of 1930 in the doorway reveal.

South wall:- old pew panels with brass plaques cover much of wall; a recess behind them.

West wall:- the wall has a hollow-chamfered plinth at a height of c.1.6m, broken by a segmental-headed doorway holding an old door. Most of the wall covered by pew panels and cupboards.

Crypt - General. 14thC in date, adjacent to vestry, which is three steps above it, and below the chancel. Tiled floor, bare walls and segmental tunnel-vault.

North wall:- set in this is a splayed, rectangular window embrasure, covered by an iron grille and blocked behind. To the west of it is an irregular rectangular embrasure like a small doorway; this too is blocked off, but is probably the result of heating apparatus being inserted.

East wall:- main entrance from vestry via a sloping tunnel. To south of this an alcove with a rounded and broken arch, its purpose uncertain. Set against the wall are the figures of four saints in cast iron, formerly below the chancel roof, and dating from a restoration of c.1820.

South wall:- window embrasure chamfered internally; blocking material and, in front, an iron grille. Another door-like alcove boarded off is presumably related to the heating system.

West wall:- some disturbance for the heating system.

South aisle - General. Floor as north aisle with wooden boarding under seats and one obvious heating grille in front of them. Walls and roof also as north aisle. Deeply carved initials 'I.M. and T.P.' on wall. Set on floor is a Roman altar found in the masonry of the east end of the church when the heating chamber was built in 1908.

North wall:- arcade of 7 bays.

East wall:- screen.

South wall:- features from west are: i) doorway to roof stair as in north aisle; masons' marks adjacent. ii) splayed doorway to south porch. iii) under the third window a recess with a figure and at the back of the recess a long stone with a continuous pattern of plain shields in quatrefoils. iv) several marble memorials ranging from 1659 to 1806.

West wall:- stone mural tablet of 1693.

South chapel (Trevor Chapel) - General. One step up from the south aisle. Floor has carpet over tiles; bare walls; roof of two bays is an extension of south aisle, but no foliate bosses. Attached to ceiling at east end are two undated hatchments.

North wall:- one bay of arcade as in the aisle and above this a four-centred arched doorway with chamfered dressings, presumably an entrance to a gallery over the reredos. Further east the blocked doorway for the processional way is now a recess holding a modern mural commemorating the Gresford Colliery disaster of 1934.

East wall:- splayed window; several memorials and monuments, the earliest of 1589, but ranging in date up to an early 20thC brass.

South wall:- two splayed window embrasures, that to west has a splayed sill but that to east, over piscina, a flat sill. Piscina with cusped ogee head and crocketed gable; bowl set in top of corbel-like head.

South porch - General. Standard floor, bare walls, modern ceiling with large joists. Two steps down into south aisle.

North wall:- wide Tudor arch with complex chamfers and a hoodmould.

East wall:- rectangular splayed window embrasure which looks recent; figure of an angel in south-east corner.

South wall:- rectangular wooden door frame, and inset stone just above this could indicate some reconstruction.

West wall:- as east wall and irregularities in masonry above the window suggest that some rebuilding. In the south-west corner is the carved figure of a bishop.

Churchyard

The churchyard is large and well-maintained, occupying level ground just to the south of the Alyn valley. Its irregular rectilinear form now edged by roads on all sides results from additions to the graveyard in the 19thC: in 1831 and again in 1862, when the road around the south-west corner was taken up and re-routed. The extension in the north-west corner cannot be distinguished on the ground, but parallel lines of yews on the south could mark a former boundary.

Boundary:- a mortared stone wall with railings on top.

Monuments:- some re-organisation with graveslabs laid flat to edge or form paths; east of the church the ground has been cleared. On the south there are groups of chest tombs in situ but clear areas around them. Earliest monument seen is from 1696, others of 1765 and 1770. A number of graves, mainly 19thC though at least one from the previous century, are enclosed by iron railings - of sufficient interest for some of them to be listed in their own right.

Furniture:- sundial on stone baluster plinth. Elaborate plate with inscription and date of 1732; gnomon in place.

Earthworks:- south of the church is a slight scarp by the yews mentioned above, and there is a second one beyond it; together they suggest a track or earlier boundary. Churchyard is raised slightly: from 0.8m+ on east side to 0.3m or less on the south.

Ancillary features:- main entrance on west has elaborate iron gates, now locked. Plain iron gates at south-east angle and similar ones on north. Tarmac paths, but graveslabs used on north side of church.

Vegetation:- numerous yews but of no great age except for one on the south-east side of the churchyard near the entrance.

Sources consulted

Cadw Schedule of Listed Buildings
CPAT Field Visits: 17 May 1996 and 20 February 1997
Crossley 1946, 17
Faculty: St Asaph 1862 (DRO/PD/34/1/411) churchyard addition
Faculty: St Asaph 1865 ( DRO/PD/34/1/280) repairs to chancel
Faculty: St Asaph 1883-5 (DRO/PD/34/1/259ff) church tower repairs
Faculty: St Asaph 1908 (NLW) new heating apparatus
Faculty: St Asaph 1911 (NLW) churchyard addition
Faculty: St Asaph 1920 (NLW) north porch
Faculty: St Asaph 1954 (NLW) church repairs
Glynne 1885, 122
Gresham 1968, 150; 165; 185; 218; 228
Hubbard 1986, 168
Jones n.d. Church Guide
Lloyd Williams and Underwood 1872 pl 12-17
NMR Aberystwyth
Neaverson 1953-54, 18
Quinquennial Report 1985
Quinquennial Report 1993
Ridgway 1997, 84
Thomas 1913, 243
Click here to view full project bibliography

Please note that many rural churches are closed to the public at certain times. It is advisable to check when the church will be open before visiting. Information about access, or how to contact parish clergy, can often be obtained from the relevant Diocesan Office which can be found through the Church in Wales website. Further information about Gresford Church may also be found on the St Asaph Diocese website.


The CPAT Wrexham Churches Survey Project was funded by Cadw as part of an all Wales survey of medieval parish churches.

This HTML page has been generated from the Cadw Churches Survey database & CPAT's Regional Historic Environment Record - 17/07/2007 ( 22:03:19 ).
Further information about this and other churches surveyed is available from the Regional Historic Environment Record, Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust, Curatorial Section, 41 Broad Street, Welshpool, Powys, SY21 7RR tel - (01938) 553670, fax - (01938) 552179, email - chrismartin@cpat.org.uk, website - www.cpat.org.uk.

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