|St. Bertholine's from the SE on a mid-February morning in 2015|
|Tower from the South West||Norman doorway in the north wall|
|Replacement head above West Door||Older head showing erosion|
|North porch with holy water stoup||The nave and chancel arch|
|North arcade and organ screen||Bell ringers' pew at the back of the nave|
|South aisle altar||Benches in south aisle|
|West window of nave||Capital on first column of south aisle|
|West window in north aisle||16th century organ screen in north aisle|
|Effigy of Sir Robert Fulleshurst||Children shown on the side of the tomb|
|The Pulpit||The White Lion Inn near the church|
The parish church of St. Bertoline is in an elevated position in the village on top of Barrow Hill, an ancient burial ground. It is one of my top ten Cheshire churches, alongside such as Great Budworth, Bunbury, Malpas and Astbury. It once served the whole of the Crewe area including Balterley, Alsager, Haslington and Crewe. The churches within the town of Crewe were built in the 19th century following the arrival of the railways. St. Bertoline was an 8th century prince who became a hermit after the death of his wife and lived on an island in the River Sow in Staffordshire. According to Arthur Mee, this church is the only one in England dedicated to this saint, sometimes spelled as Bartoline. However, the story of an 8th century prince who became a hermit in Staffordshire after the death of his young wife is similar to that told about St. Bertram or Bertelin at Longnor in Staffordshire. There has been a church on this site since Norman times but it was rebuilt in the 15th century. The earliest part of the current structure is the wall of the south aisle between the windows, which dates from the 12th century. The arches of the nave were built in the 15th century and the tower dates from the late 15th century. Restoration was carried out between 1852 and 1854.
The Praers family held the land around Barthomley from soon after the Norman Conquest and were patrons of the church. However, in 1313, Richard Praers married Joanna the heiress of Thomas de Crewe. They had a grand-daughter who married Sir Robert de Fulleshurst and he assumed control of the Crewe and Barthomley estates. His family remained there until the 16th century but sold the estate to one of Queen Elizabeth's favourites, Sir Christopher Hatton, later Lord Chancellor. The estates were bought by Ranulf Crewe in 1608. He was the son of a Nantwich tanner not an heir to the original Crewe family. However, he became an MP, Speaker of the House of Commons, King's Sergeant, Attorney General and Chief Justice of the King's Bench.
In the Crewe Chapel there is an effigy of Sir Robert Fulleshurst, one of the squires of James Lord Audley who distinguished himself at the Battle of Poitiers in 1356. The tomb dates from about 1390 and has small figures round the base; such figures usually indicate the children. Nearby is a large memorial to the young first wife of Lord Crewe when he was Baron Houghton. It was created by Sir Joseph Edgar Boehm (1834-90). The inscription reads "Sibyl Marcia wife of Robert Offley Ashburton and Baron Houghton. Born July 23rd 1857. Married June 3rd 1880. Died September 19th 1887." When I visited the church in 2010 the Crewe Chapel was closed but it can be viewed by application to the vicar.
At the back of the nave are oil painting of Moses and Aaron; it is not know by whom they were painted or when. A plaque in the nave notes that the clock in the tower was the gift of Edward Armitstead, Rector and his wife Cecilia Mary in 1934. A second plaque records that the oak roof of the church, erected about 1450, was restored in 1589 and again in 1933 at a cost of £1500 when Edward Armitstead M.A. was vicar, Henry Asbury and Samuel Bourne were Churchwardens and Dudley Parsons was Treasurer.
The chancel was originally built in the 13th century but rebuilt in 1852 and again in 1924, this time by the first (and last) Marquess of Crewe, patron of the benefice, to commemorate his son, the Earl of Madeley, and his half brother, who died young and were buried in the churchyard. Under the tower, to the right of the entrance to the church is the original reredos moved from behind the altar in 1924.
The clock was installed in 1934 to replace one made about 1710 by the village blacksmith. It was the gift of Edward Armitstead, Rector and Cecilia Mary, his wife. The Norman doorway without a door, was moved to its current position in the north wall of the church during restoration. In the north porch is a holy water stoop.
During the Civil War there was an atrocity committed in the village. On Christmas Eve of 1643, a group of Royalists, after plundering the locality, found that about 20 villagers had taken refuge in the church. Lord Byron's troop and Connought, a Major to Colonel Sneyd, captured the church but the villagers took refuge in the tower. The Royalists made a fire at the base of the tower, forcing the fugitives to surrender. Connought then stripped and killed 12 of the group and cut the throat of John Fowler, then under 21. Three men escaped unharmed, the rest were wounded. For the next two days the Royalists plundered Barthomley. ( I have heard, but not seen definitive evidence, that this story has been challenged in recent years. Some of the men said to have been killed are reputed to have been buried at the church in later years. If you have the evidence I will be pleased to hear it.) A portrait of the Royalist Cavalry Commander, Lord Byron, can be seen at Tabley House.
The church registers begin in 1562 and there is a list of rectors from 1303.
On my visit in 2010 there was scaffolding on the south side of the church and restoration work was in progress. In February 2015 I could see evidence of extensive repairs to the stonework and it now appears in very good order.
The King's England - Cheshire
by Arthur Mee, published by Hodder and Stoughton in 1938, fully revised and
edited by E. T. Long in 1968, SBN 340 00075 9
Discovering Cheshire Churches, produced by Cheshire County Council Heritage and Recreation Service, 1989, ISBN 0 906759 57 9 and available for purchase at Cheshire Libraries.
Old Cheshire Churches, with a supplementary survey of the lesser old chapels of Cheshire, completely revised and enlarged by Raymond Richards, published by E. J. Morten, Didsbury, 1973, first published in 1947.
Booklet available in the church Parish Church of St. Bertoline, Barthomley
There is a Wikipedia article on the church