St Michael and All Angels Church, Middlewich

Church Plan.jpgThe Venables Chapel, located in the north east corner of the Church was added around the middle of the 16th Century.(1)  The plan pictured left is dated 1858.

It was separated from the main Church by screens located between the pillars in the Chancel and a screen between the chapel and the north aisle.

Barons Door.jpgThe Venables family had their own access to the chapel, a doorway in the east wall, known as the Barons door. This ensured that they didn’t need to have contact with the locals and gave them complete privacy.

The chapel would have had pews facing south towards the Chancel, the Barons family to the front and servants sitting in the pews at the rear. It was in use by the Venables family until the death of Katherine, wife of the last Baron in 1717. The last Baron was Peter who died in 1679.

ZI1.jpgSome of the Barons and their wives are interred within the chapel. There is a plaque in the north east corner which shows that Elizabeth (the wife of Thomas) was interred in the chapel on her death in 1591. The plaque shows Elizabeth and her three children, Thomas, Elizabeth and Mary. It is inscribed

“Here lyeth buried under this gravestone Elizabeth Venables, the wife of Thomas Venables Esquire Baron of Kynderton ye eldest daughter of Sir William Brereton of Brereton, Knight.

Who dyed the ninth day of June 1591”

ZJ1.jpgThe monument to the right of the plaque is a Venables monument in memory of Elizabeth, the shield above the inscription clearly shows the Venables and Brereton coats of arms.

(Full translation below *)

IZJ2.jpgn addition to the above inscription, J H Hanshall notes in his book(2) two further lines of inscription:-

“Non obiit, requiescere

obit ano D’ni 1591.”

Benjamin Llewellyn Vaudrey wrote the following in his book(3):-

“In the latter (Kinderton) chapel, during the progress of the works, the coffins (lead) of Peter Venables, the last of the Venable Barons of Kinderton, and of his widow Katherine Venables, were laid bare. They lay side by side near the centre of the chapel. On the lids, in raised letters, 3 inches long, were the initials and dates:- PV 1679, KV 1717. The coffins remained intact, and were ultimately covered with concrete. From the size of the baron’s coffin he must have been of small stature.”

The blue gravestones that would have covered the coffins are now located just outside the chapel in the north aisle.

Through the years the chapel has been modified in many ways. The screens between the chapel and the Chancel have been moved from the pillars to their present location within the chapel footprint. The screen behind the organ holds the following visible inscription, the text is missing where the organ is fitted (see picture).

P1030363.JPG‘over / is slain / for us / there / fore / let / us / keep / the

/ feast / holy / holy / holy / lord / god / of / hosts’

The first part of the inscription appears to be taken from 1 Corinthians 5:7&8 ‘Christ our Passover is slain for us therefore let us keep the feast’

The second part to be the first line of the Eucharistic Prayer Part 1 ‘Holy Holy Holy Lord God of hosts’.

The screen in the Vestry is inscribed with the following:-

“In Loving Memory of Helen A. Court 1848 – 1918.

This screen was enriched by her Brother & Sisters 1923"

ZH1.jpgThe Chapel window was replaced with the stained glass window now in place, it is the oldest stained glass window in the Church.

Under the window is a brass plate which says “This window was renovated and restored by James France France, of Bostock Hall, in this county, in the year of our Lord, 1858.

With its vibrant strong colours, the Baron’s Chapel window is considered to be the most beautiful of all St Michael’s stained glass windows.  

It is a depressed/flat Tudor arch and has 5 lights and 14 tracery lights.  The five lights depict the five major events in Jesus’ life.  Therefore from the left:

1.  “By Thy Holy Nativity”.  The scene is of Mary, Joseph and Jesus in the stable.  Mary is dressed in red, pink and blue, Joseph in green and the baby in white/gold.  To the right, two shepherds pay homage to the baby, one in purple; kneeling with hands in prayer, his crook under his right arm.  Behind him stands a young shepherd dressed in brown and carrying a lamb across his shoulders.  Above the stable roof is the star which had led the shepherds to the birthplace in Bethlehem.  (Luke 2: v8-20)

2.  “By Thy Baptism”. Jesus is standing in the centre covered with a cloth of pink and blue and is being baptised by his cousin John in the waters of the River Jordan.  John’s right hand is raised above Jesus’ head as he pours the baptismal water on him.  To the left is an angel dressed in red/white.  John is on the right dressed in brown camel hair and a green cloak.  He carries a cross in his left hand and on an attached banner of victory are the words, “Agnus Dei” (Lamb of God).  The Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove is descending and showering light, God’s spirit on Jesus.  (Mt 3: v16, Mark: v10, John 1:v29-36)

3. “By thy Cross and Passion”.  Jesus is crucified on a cross, beneath a triumphal arch of tongues of light.  The cross is quite elaborately decorated.  He is wearing a simple white and purple cloth, with the crown of thorns on his head.  At the top of the cross are the letters “INRI” (Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews).  On either side are the sun and moon.  On the left is his mother Mary, dressed in blue and white.  Her hands are clasped in sorrow and anguish.  A tear can be seen falling from her eye.  On the right is John, in red/purple.  His hand raised heavenwards.  (Mat 27: v33-44, Mark 15: v16-32, Luke 23: v26-49, John 19: v17-37)

4. “By thy precious death and burial”.  Jesus, draped in a green cloth, is laid into the tomb by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. Mary stands between them with hands together.  Jesus’ right arm hangs down, with the nail mark clearly seen.  The discarded crown of thorns lies by his hand.  The faces of the attendants are etched with grief and pain.  Garden flowers decorate the bottom of the picture with palms in the background.  (John 19:v38-42).

5. “By thy Ascension”.  Jesus, in the centre is dressed in crimson and white.  His arms are outstretched and he in ascending into Heaven, surrounded by brilliant flames of light.  At his feet, on either side, are his disciples, one in green/purple, his hands held in prayer and another in blue, holding a large key.  Beams of light from Heaven cascade down on Jesus.  Above Him are seven stars depicting the gifts of the Holy Spirit. (Luke 24: v50-53, Acts 1: v1-11)

Above each of the pictures are stylised patterns, arches and turrets, with mystic roses and leaves above.  Below lights 1, 2, 4 and 5 are medallions of the four evangelists depicted as their symbols.  From the left St. Matthew is shown as a kneeling angel dressed in blue and gold.  St Mark is a lion; St Luke a bull and St John an eagle.  In the 3rd section is an angel, clothed in pink and holding a scroll with the wording “Good Lord deliver us”. (2 Co 1:v10)

At the top of the window are fourteen tracery lights, ten are filled with beautiful white flowers, symbolic of purity.  There are 4 with lilies, 2 with roses and 4 with passion flowers.  (Species of Passifloraceae grow world-wide.  In 15th and 16th centuries, Christian missionaries adopted the unique physical structures of this plant as symbols of the last days of Jesus, especially his crucifixion.  In Spain it is called espina de Cristo (thorn of Christ). Older Germanic names include Christus-Krone (Christ’s Crown), Christus-Strauss (Christ’s bouquet) and Jesus-Lijden (Jesus’ passion).

The Venables screens (located in the Tower at present) were commissioned by Peter Venables (the last Baron). The 1633 screen depicting the many marriages of the Barons was mounted on the screen where the organ has now been placed(2). The 1632 screen honours his father’s two marriages and was mounted on the corresponding screen in the Lady’s Chapel(2).

There are 3 further plaques within the chapel and these are:-

ZK1.jpgThe first is for Franciscus Levenson. This plaque is for Francis Fowler who married Anne Venables (daughter of Peter who died in 1669). Francis inherited the estate of Sir Richard Leveson at Lilleshall and Trentham. This was installed during the time of the Venables. (See Trail 15)

ZL1a.jpgThe second plaque is in honour of Reverend John Hulse, who, as a teenager was taken on horseback by his grandfather to Cambridge where he studied in the University. He bequeathed his estates to Cambridge University for the advancement and reward of religious learning. The Hulsean Lectures are still in existence today. (See Trail 14)

ZF1.jpgThe third plaque is mounted above the Barons door and is in memory of James France France of Bostock Hall.

1. Plan of Church by Joseph Clarke 1858.

2. The History of the County Palatine of Chester (page 565)- 1823.

3. Some Notes on the Parish Church of Middlewich 1875 – B. Ll. Vaudrey.

* The Latin is in a poetic form known as Elegiacs. Here is the full translation into English Elegiacs by Andrew Woode.

Learn, O Mortals! How mortal things are vain.

Learn, O Mortals, that no day is secure;

No day is secure; hanging by a thin thread

are all [the affairs] of men; death comes unlooked-for,

but by Christ death itself, to us who are dying,

is gain, rest, rejoicing, new life.

O world, be you therefore furious! Flesh, rage; Satan, lament!

we live, we do not die! Death is fearful for the bad,

Let these sights move you as you see them,

By which the mind blazes with greater love for God,

See that you live pure in this world, cultivate the harvests

Cultivate, there will not always be time for harvests.

Finally let the glory of the world to come change you,

Let Christ move, let salvation move.

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Click to enlarge East Windows John Hulse Arch and Pillars Altar Table and Chairs East Windows North Aisle Window Poors Box Arch and Pillars Nativity TRAIL TIME TOPIC Windows TRAIL
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