|St. Oswald's in June 2008|
|St. Oswald's on a summer evening||Old School, 2015|
|The Nave, 2001||Parish Chest of bog oak, 2001|
Canon Sladden, in his booklet, Beside the Bright Stream, looks at the earliest history of the area. The bright stream is the Peover Eye. Canon Sladden compares the name Peover with the Welsh pefr meaning dart as in darting or sparkling. A document of 1200 refers to Little Peover as Parva Pefria. Ee, later changed to Eye means a small stream and has counterparts in Switzerland and Austria. Anglo Saxons spread into Celtic Cheshire from the late seventh century. Some probably came from Northumbria which had become Christian in the reigns of Edwin (c 616-633) and Oswald (c. 634-642). Oswald was active in converting his people with Bishop Aidan, whom he brought from Iona. Oswald was killed on 5th August 642 at the battle of Maserfield, believed to be near Oswestry, when fighting against King Penda of Mercia. Oswald's brother, Oswy, took his remains to Lindisfarne.
Others may have come from the central kingdom of Mercia where King Paeda was converted about 655. The Synod of Whitby in 664 brought together the Celtic and Roman monastic traditions. St. Chad was bishop of Lichfield from 669 to 672. About two centuries later, there were the Norse invasions that affected Cheshire from both east and west. Norse invasions of Wirral give us names such as Helsby, Kirby, Irby, and Thewall but the newcomers did not penetrate the rest of the county. From the east, Norse advances can be characterised by place names too and Canon Sladden points to the use of Hulme as in Manchester, Cheadle Hulme, Kettleshulme near Bollington, Hulme Walfield near Congleton, Church Hulme now Holmes Chapel and Hulme near Allostock. The Scandinavian names of Knutsford, Toft and Rostherne probably relate to the later period of Danish influence in the 11th century during the time of Cnut. Hulme became the centre of the manor containing Lower Peover and in the mediaeval period was called Houlme-juxta-Nether-Peover. At the time of the Domesday survey of 1086, Peover refers to Over Peover not Lower Peover. Lower Peover was in the south of the parish of Great Budworth in the Diocese of Lichfield and Coventry. The Richard Grosvenor acquired the manor of Hulme Allostock in 1235.
The Church of St. Oswald dates from 1269, during the reign of Henry III. The nearby church at Brereton had been dedicated to St. Oswald about 1200. The church at Lower Peover was built by Richard Grosvenor of Hulme Hall as a chapel of ease; the mother church was at Great Budworth. Canon Sladden notes that Grosvenor was not a crusader there was at that time a considerable relief at the end of the Simon de Montford rebellion of 1265 and this may have occasioned the founding of the church. In addition the rising population and the distance from Great Budworth were factors. The church and parish of Great Budworth became the property of Norton Priory near Runcorn. It is likely that the first church at Peover was a timber structure similar to that which survives at Marton, which was built in 1343. The chapel began to perform marriages from 1570 when the registers were first kept.
The male line of the Grosvenor family at Hulme failed with the death of Sir Robert in 1464. One of the female heiresses married into the Shakerley family who then acquired Hulme Hall. Sir Robert Grosvenor was probably responsible for an enlargement of the church with the inclusion of the north aisle about 1450. He left money for a chantry chapel which was built outside the church but on a spot now covered by part of the chancel. In 1582 the tower was built of Alderley stone to replace the earlier wooden one. It is known that in 1625 the tower had four bells.
The chapel at the east end of the south aisle was built at the expense of Geoffrey Shakerley of Hulme Hall in 1610 and contains Shakerley tombs and monuments. There is a monument to Sir Geoffrey Shakerley who fought for the Royalists in the Civil War and was distinguished at Rowton Heath. The story is told that when needing to cross the Dee in a hurry, rather than go to the nearest bridge, which was some distance away, he crossed in a tub while his horse swam alongside.
The parish chest of bog oak was given to the chapel by Norton Priory at about the time of its foundation to hold books, vestments and the communion vessels given by the founder. The choir stalls were made in 1687 for the Cholmondeley family. At the Dissolution of the Monasteries the advowson passed to the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church Oxford but in 1658 it was acquired by the Leicesters of Tabley. Many members of this family were buried at Great Budworth in the North Chapel. The Leicesters had a family pew at Lower Peover. The first Sir Peter Leicester, donated a three-decker pulpit to mark the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660. The 3rd and last Lord De Tabley, John Byrne Leicester Warren (1835-1895) a poet and botanist, is buried at St. Oswald's.
The east end of the north aisle was formed into the Holford Chapel by Dame Mary Cholmondeley in 1624. My Holford page gives details of this family and shows a brass monument in the church. Mary Cholmondeley was buried at Malpas and my web-page on this location shows a picture of her effigy. The font in the North Aisle was given by Norton Priory in 1322. Many early fonts in Cheshire were destroyed either at the Reformation or during the Civil War so this is an interesting survival.
In 1852/3 there was major restoration under the architect Anthony Salvin. The south side, shown in an engraving of about 1800, had an unsatisfactory appearance from the brickwork used for the Shakerley Chapel of 1610. The south side was altered to match the north and the current roof, with three gables was created to replace the single roof of the earlier building. A west gallery was removed and the Holford chancel became the vestry and organ-chamber. The Leicesters' three-decker pulpit was separated to create the current pulpit and lectern while the clerk's seat was moved to the vestry. Further work was necessary in the 20th century. The Dean and Chapter of Christ Church, Oxford, paid for repairs to the chancel in 1919 and work was conducted on the nave in 1922.
The clock dates from 1897.
West of the church is the public house and restaurant"Bell's of Peover" named not for the church bells but for a family called Bell. It was formerly called the Warren de Tabley Arms. Next to it is the school room shown in the picture. In 1709 Richard Comberbach acquired from Sir Francis Leycester of Tabley a plot of land for the school. Richard Comberbach and his wife taught there and made an endowment for it in 1722. From that time until 1874 the minister of St. Oswald's was the schoolmaster. The Rev. John Houlme served from 1829 to 1874 and at one time during his service there were 160 pupils. Following the Education Act of 1870 new plans were agreed for Lower Peover. A new school was built for the village with a School House, south of the former school. The building continued to be used by the school but became a private house in 1971. Below is a picture of the plaque over the door.
St. Oswald's Lower Peover, a pamphlet available in the
church for the Flower Festival, 1 to 3 August, 2003.
Beside the Bright Stream, The Background and History of St. Oswald's Church, Lower Peover, by the Rev. Canon J. C. Sladden, MA BD (Oxon), 1st edition 1968, 4th edition taking into account an architectural report by Mr. K. Moth, 1994, price £1.