|St. Catherines, 9 am on a Feb morning|
St. Catherine's at Birtles was built in 1840 and is distinguished by its octagonal tower. The woodwork of the interior and the stained glass was provided by Thomas Hibbert of Birtles Hall. Much of the glass is 16th and 17th century Dutch. There is a pulpit dated 1686 and a lectern that pre-dates the Reformation, thought by Pevsner to be Continental rather than English.
Birtles Hall is said to have been built in the early 19th century by Pevsner although he notes that Earwake in his History of East Cheshire dates it to 1795. It was destroyed by fire in 1938 and rebuilt.
Earwaker shows that the township of Birtles gave its name to one or more families with a Randal de Rodyerth described as lord of Birtles in 1324. The first detailed genealogical evidence comes from the Herald's Visitation of 1566 in which the then Birtles family claim descent from John Birtles of Birtles who married Ann or Agnes, daughter of Robert Leycester of Toft. Earwaker then gives a family tree showing one earlier generation and continues to the extinction of the main line in the early 17th century
As a result of the marriage noted in generation 7, the Swettenhams succeeded to Birtles and used the house as their main residence as shown by many entries in the Prestbury registers. In 1783 Thomas Swettenham Willis sold Birtles to Mr. Joseph Fowden. He in turn sold it, in 1791, to Robert Hibbert, who was High Sheriff of Cheshire in 1798. It then passed to his son Thomas Hibbert, who became High Sheriff in 1839. Robert Hibbert married Laetitia the daughter of John Frederick Nembhard, Esq. of Jamaica. She died on 1 April 1854 leaving three sons and two daughters.
Earwaker reported that the old hall had been mainly demolished and the part still standing converted to cottages. About 1795, Robert Hibbert built a new residence, Birtles Hall, on pasture land in the adjacent parish of Over Alderley and created around it a park.
The Buildings of England: Cheshire, by Nikolaus Pevsner and Edward Hubbard, first edition 1971, Yale University Press edition in 2003.
East Cheshire Past and Present by J.P. Earwaker, London, 1877.