MALPAS, a parish in the higher division of the hundred of BROXTON, county palatine of CHESTER, comprising the townships of Agden, Bickerton, Bickley, Bradley, Broxton, Buckley, or Bulkeley, Chidlow, Cholmondeley, Chorlton, Cuddington, Duckington, Edge, Egerton, Hampton, Larkton, Macefen, Malpas, Newton juxta Malpas, Oldcastle, Overton, Stockton, Tushingham with Grindley, Wichalgh, and Wigland, and containing 3917 inhabitants, of which number, 1127 are in the township of Malpas, 15 miles (S. S. E.) from Chester, and 165 (N. W.) from London.
The ancient name of this place was Depenbech, and was of similar import with the present appellation, which signifies a bad pass, or road. This barony, prior to the Conquest, formed part of the possession of Earl Edwin, and was subsequently given by the first Norman Earl of Chester to Robert Fitz-Hugh, one of the eight barons of his parliament; it was soon afterwards divided into two unequal parts, and still continues so. The ancient barons exercised capital jurisdiction within the limits of the barony, and in them was vested (but distinct from their rights as barons of Malpas,) the office of serjeant of the peace for the whole palatinate, excepting the hundreds of Macclesfield and Wirrall: the punishment for capital offences, designated in some records as " the custom of Cheshire," was decapitation, and it was usual to present the heads of felons at the castle of Chester. The jurisdictions have undergone considerable alteration, and the remaining portion of the ancient baronial rights has descended with the manor of Malpas. The castle, the head of the ancient barony, was built soon after the Conquest, and stood immediately adjoining the church; but the only vestige of it is a circular mound, on which the keep stood. In the early part of the sixteenth century the inhabitants suffered severely from the plague, particularly about the year 1625.
The town is very pleasantly situated on an eminence on the line of road from Shrewsbury to Chester, and commands an extensive prospect over a great part of North Wales, Staffordshire, and the Vale Royal: it consists of four streets, which diverge at right angles from a common centre, and are well paved; the houses are low and irregularly built; the inhabitants are supplied with water from a public well: the walks are pleasing and picturesque, and frequent instances of longevity attest the salubrity of the atmosphere. The chief occupation of the inhabitants is in agriculture; a copper mine has been recently discovered in the township of Bickerton, in this parish, but its extent and quality have not yet been ascertained. The market is on Wednesday. Fairs are held on April 5th, July 26th, and December 8th, for cattle, linen and woollen goods, toys, and pedlary. Courts leet and baron are held annually, at which constables are appointed, and debts under 40s. recoverable.
The living is a rectory, divided from time immemorial into two portions, in the archdeaconry and diocese of Chester; the first portion is rated in the king's books at £48. 8. 6.½, and the second at £44.19.2.; the right of presentation to the higher mediety belongs to the Marquis of Cholmondeley, and T. T. Drake, Esq., alternately, and that to the lower to T. T. Drake, Esq., only; an excellent parsonage-house and glebe land are attached to each portion. The church, which is dedicated to St. Oswald, is a spacious and venerable edifice, in the later style of English architecture; the windows are enriched with elegant tracery, and in the chancel are some ancient oak stalls, niches, and monuments: at the end of the north and south aisles are sepulchral chapels belonging to the families of Cholmondeley and Brcrcton. There are two chapels of ease in the parish, viz., Chad and Whitewell. A domestic chapel, open for the tenants and neighbours, is attached to Cholmondeley castle, about four miles distant. In the town and parish are places of worship for Baptists, Independents, and Wesleyan Methodists.
The grammar school was founded early in the seventeenth century, by subscription, to which Hugh, first Earl of Cholmondeley, contributed £200, and receiving the entire sum, amounting to £536. 11., charged an estate called the Old Hall, with the annual payment of £25. He likewise gave a school-room and residence for the master; in 1795, the school premises were rebuilt and, enlarged, at the expense of the present master. This institution is free only to the sons of the representatives of the original subscribers; the master, who is at present appointed by the Marquis of Cholmondeley, likewise receives boarders. Richard Alport, in 1709, bequeathed £500 for the support of a school, in which, twelve boys and twelve girls were educated and clothed the funds having considerably increased, a National school has been established, and the former incorporated with it; the number of children receiving instruction being ninety boys and fifty girls. Dr. Townson, archdeacon of Richmond, and rector of Malpas, bequeathed £500 Old South Sea stock, the dividends on which, amounting now to £16. 14. annually, are applied in clothing and educating children.
An almshouse for several poor persons was built by Sir Randle Brereton, in the time of Henry VIII., and endowed by Sir Thomas Brereton, in the reign of Charles I., with a rent-charge in Newton; it was rebuilt in 1721, by Hugh, Earl of Cholmondeley, for six poor widows, who are nominated by the present Marquis, and receive a small weekly allowance; a bequest, by Thomas Poyser, Esq., of the interest of £600 makes an addition of £3 per annum to the income of each of the inmates. In 1748, Miss Eliz. Taylor left £500 for the purpose of clothing poor men in the townships of Malpas and Edge, which sum being invested in the purchase of £771 Old South Sea stock, now produces about £27 per annum; there are several minor benefactions for charitable purposes.
The late learned and pious Dr. Heber, Bishop of Calcutta,, was a native of this town, his father having been rector of the higher mediety. Philip Henry, the nonconformist, resided at the Broad Oak in this parish,, where his son, Matthew Henry, the celebrated commentator on the Bible, was born. Malpas confers the title of viscount on the Marquis of Cholmondeley.
From Samuel Lewis A Topographical Dictionary of England (1831) ©Mel Lockie