St Wilfrid, Grappenhall, Cheshire

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Feature Sets (3)


St Wilfrid's has a long nave and chancel, continuous inside and out with no chancel arch but the division marked by a step. N and S aisles occupy the five bays of the nave and two bays of the chancel; a short aisleless section of chancel at the E end is raised for the main altar. At the W end is a tower, and a transeptal vestry has been added to the N chancel aisle. The earliest part of the fabric is the remnant of a corbel table high in the N wall of the S aisle. This indicates an early 12thc. aisleless church. In 1334 the Boydell Chapel was added alongside this nave on the S side, and features of this remain in the S windows and some of the glass. In 1525-39 there was a major rebuilding involving the construction of both arcades and aisles, and the W tower. The clerestorey was added in 1833, and remodelled in the major restoration of 1874 by Paley and Austin. The N vestry also dates from this restoration. The font and the corbels in the S aisle are described below.


In 1086 Grappenhall was among the lands of Earl Hugh of Chester. It was held from him by Osbern fitzTesso, and from Osbern by Edward. No church was mentioned at that time.


Interior Features

Interior Decoration



The corbels are in their original positions above the arcade in the N wall of the S aisle. What survives are five heads carved on a quadrant moulded string course.

1. (W end) Grotesque human mask in high relief, with bulbous eyes, straight nose with two nostrils indicated, heavy brow, hair depicted as zigzag grooves, and a broad mouth.

2. As 1, but no hair, horizontally wrinkled brow, drilled pupils, and open mouth with tongue visible.

3. Much simpler mask in low relief. Round head with dished eye-sockets and eyes shown as bulges with drilled or grooved pupils. The hair is indicated by a few scratches, and the mouth is downturned. Some attempt has been made to show the projecting cheekbones.

4. Similar to 1, but the hair shown as an unarticulated cap.

5. Similar to 4, but the hair shown as a series of parallel grooves.




Under the W tower. The bowl is roughly rectangular, broader from N to S than from E to W. The angles are rounded, and the lower rim chamfered. The surface is carved with a continuous arcade of 16 segmental-headed bays, which occupy both the faces and the rounded corners. There seem to be notionally four bays on each face. The arcade is in low relief. Columns are flat fillets; the arches are of roll profile; bases are mounds and capitals inverted cones. The carving is irregular in terms of the spacing of the shafts and even their verticality. The bowl is of red sandstone, lead lined. Where the rim has been damaged by the removal of locks, inserts carved to copy the design have been put in. The bowl was discovered buried under the nave during the restoration of 1874, and it stands on a base of Anglo-Saxon character, made for it in that year.

external w. of bowl (E-W) 0.60 m
external w. of bowl (N-S) 0.79 m
h. of bowl 0.48 m
internal w. of bowl (E-W) 0.38 m
internal w. of bowl (N-S) 0.57 m



  • G. Berry, A History of Grappenhall Church (church guide). 1989 (revised 2000).

  • N. Pevsner and E. Hubbard, The Buildings of England. Cheshire. Harmondsworth 1971 (repr. 1978), 225-26.

  • R. Richards, Old Cheshire Churches. London 1947, 167-70.

Exterior from NE
Interior to E


Site Location
National Grid Reference
SJ 640 863 
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Cheshire
now: Warrington
medieval: Lichfield (to 1075); Chester (to c.1086); Coventry and Lichfield (to 1541)
now: Chester
medieval: not confirmed
now: St Wilfrid
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Ron Baxter