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Bowdon, St. Mary's Church
Bowdon Church 1

Bowdon Church is today surrounded by a paved area made up from the headstones of the very many graves in the churchyard. The position of the stones does not necessarily reflect the siting of the actual grave as the churchyard was levelled and enclosed by a wall and railings in 1860[1]. These memorials have, in recent years, been very carefully cleaned and recorded by a member of the church and compared with the information in the parish registers, providing researchers with a wealth of invaluable genealogical material.

The Saxon Church had been restored in 1100, 1320 and 1570[1] but the old church had fallen into irreparable decay when it was taken down in 1858[2]. The ground was enclosed before pulling down the old church[3] and a new foundation stone was then laid[4]. The restoration, rebuilding and enlarging of St. Mary's was undertaken under the direction of W. H. Brakespear, a London architect, and many of the characteristics of the old church were preserved. Internally, for example, the timbers of the old tie-beam roof of the nave were re-used in the hammer-beamed arched principal roof. The ceremony to consecrate the restored church was performed by the Bishop of Chester in September 1860[4].

Further nineteenth century alterations took place in 1888 when the Ven. Archdeacon Gore, vicar, and Messrs. Samuel Howard, Henry Simpson, Frederick George Whittall, and William Archibald Napier, wardens of the parish of Bowdon, applied for permission to move the 'Brereton' Monument to approximately its old position in the north transept and also to cover over some ancient vaults or graves with concrete as a new vestry was needed[5]. Ten members of the Brereton family had been buried in the Carrington Chapel at Bowdon between 1570 to 1660[1]. The inscriptions of the other tombs were to be recorded in the Episcopol Register. However, the last internement in one of them was as recent as 1885[5].

My personal interest (web mistress) in Bowdon is because the names of my Hard[e]y, Calderbank, Pickstone and Timperley ancestors crop up in the church registers. The Hardeys, for example, were at Dunham Massey (Sinderland) and Ashley, whereas the Timperleys at were Oldfield.

Bowdon Church 2 As part of the 1858-1860 rebuilding of Bowdon Church the old tower was demolished down to the belfry window, about 46 feet above the ground, and then rebuilt to include pinnacles 17 feet 6 inches high. The new total height was 95 feet, some 14 feet higher than the earlier tower[4].

Below is a partial extract about Bowdon from Balshaw's Directory of 1855.[6]


BOWDON OR BOWDEN parish comprises the chapelries of Altrincham and Carrington, and the townships of Agden (part of), Ashley, Baguley, Bollington (part of.), Bowdon, Dunham-Massey, Hale, Partington, and Timperley.

This township may take its name from two Anglo-Saxon words, Bode a dwelling or abode, and Don or Dun a plain upon a rising hill, or a down, so that Bowdon means a town or dwelling on the downs ; or as in Doomsday Book, the name is written Boge-don, it may denote a down or hill by a bog; and towards Ashley there did exist, what Leycester calls, "a great bog, " not to mention Hale Moss.

BOWDON, township and populous village, is pleasantly situated on high ground, 7¾ miles, N. by E. from Knutsford, 1 mile S. E. from Altrincham, and 9 miles S. from Manchester. The township contains 828A. 0R. 26P. of land; the population was in 1801, 340; in 1831, 458; in 1841,549 ; and in 1851, 1164. The vicarial tithes are commuted for £33 10s., and the rectorial for £95 10s. The church and principal part of the village stand on the highest part of an eminence commanding delightful views of the vale of the Bollin to the south, including Alderley Edge, Cloud End, Mow Cop, and the more distant bills of Derbyshire and even Shropshire to the east; Rostherne and Knutsford to the South; and the Parks of Dunham close in the prospect to the west; and to the north the view is extensive over the vale of the Mersey towards the Lancashire hills. From the church tower, Manchester and Stockport are visible in that direction.

Hammon de Massey, the first baron of Dunham-Massey, held Bowdon in the time of William the Conqueror, under Hugh Lupus, Earl of Chester. It subsequently became divided, and Roger Massey sold a moiety of it for £4 7s. in money, and two robes one for himself and one for his wife, rendering annually 1lb. cummin seed at the feast of St Martin. In 1666, Lord Delamere possessed one-fourth of Bowdon ; the Breretons of Ashley another fourth; and the other half, which the baron had given to the priory of Birkenhead about Edward I., at the dissolution of religious houses, was given (1541) to the then created Bishopric of Chester, with the Church of Bowdon. There was a Church here at the Doomsday survey , which records that here is "a Priest and Church, to which pertaineth a half a hide of land." At the Doomsday survey there was also a mill at Bowdon. Dr. Ormerod adds that the estates of Lord Delamere, in time descended to the Earl of Stamford. The estate of Birkenhead priory, granted to the Bishopric of Chester, is held on lease, with the rectory, by Lord Stamford, and the present owner of Ashley, Wilbraham Egerton, Esq. who possesses lands there which formerly belonged to the Breretons. The manor is part of the barony of Dunham Massey, and is included in the barony leet. The delightful situation of Bowdon and the proverbial salubrity of the air, has caused great numbers of neat villa residences to be erected by the merchants of Manchester. The houses have a remarkable light, clean and elegant appearance; many of them are erected of a light yellow kind of brick, others are stuccoed, and some are built of the red brick, most of which have sprung up within the last ten years. The Earl of Stamford has brought a quantity of land into the market for building purposes, which, together with the increased facilities of communication with Manchester, in consequence of the opening of the Railway, has given a great impetous to building and added greatly to the prosperity and importance of Bowdon.

BOWDON CHURCH, a fine old structure, is dedicated to St. Mary, the Blessed Virgin, whose "wakes" or dedication feast was celebrated on the 8th of September, being the nativity of the Virgin ; they are now held on the first Sunday after the full moon succeeding the 14th of September. It consists of a tower, containing a peal of six musical bells, a nave, chancel and side aisles, terminating in two private chancels, appropriated to the Earl of Stamford's manors of Dunham Massey and Carrington. In the nave are various monuments.


Bowdon Church 3
Before 1914.
The exterior is of Runcorn red sandstone and stone from Lymm was used in the interior[4].
The small hut in the foreground is a night watchman's hut, introduced to deter grave robbers
from snatching the bodies of the newly interred deceased for use in anatomical research
in Manchester.

1. Bowdon Church. Valentine's Series, No.48169. Printed in Great Britain. First published in 1905. Unused. © Ann Andrews collection.
2. Photograph of the tower of Bowdon St. Mary © Andy Andrews.
3. The Parish Church (Copyright). Bowdon. Copyright S. Butler Altrincham. Bowdon Series, No.9. Printed in Saxony. Published before 1918 and probably before 1914. Unused. © Ann Andrews collection.
All other information researched and written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.


[1] "Kelly's Directory of Cheshire", 1914.

[2] "Morris & Co.'s Directory & Gazetteer of Cheshire", 1874.

[3] "Chester Chronicle", 21 August 1858. Restoration of Bowdon Parish Church. The ground had been enclosed "two months before".

[4] "Cheshire Observer", 29 September 1860. Consecration of Bowdon Church.

[5] "Cheshire Observer", 28 January 1888. Alterations at Bowdon Church.

[6] "Charles Balshaw's Stranger's Guide & Complete Directory to Altrincham, Bowdon, ..." (1855), pp.37-38

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