All Saints, Childwall, Church of England

All Saints,
Childwall Abbey Road,


The church has a graveyard.

Church History

It was founded in 1557.

A Brief History of the Church

The earliest reference to Childwall is to be found in the Domesday Book, which was compiled by order of William I in 1086. A translation reads:-

"Four Radmans held Childewall as four manors. There is half a hide. It was worth eight shillings. There was a priest, having half a carucate of land in frank almoign."

The presence of a priest indicates that there was probably a chapel here in the eleventh century, though there are few, if any, remains left now. In 1094, Childwall became attached to the Priory of Lancaster, a cell of the Abbey of St. Martin at Seez in Normandy, and it remained so until the thirteenth century when the patronage passed to the Grelleys, barons of Manchester. Sir Robert de Holand in 1309 assigned Childwall to his college of secular canons at Upholland, near Wigan. Ten years later the endowments were assigned to the new priory of St. Thomas the Martyr at Upholland: Childwall was included among the endowments. The patronage of the Church belonged to the monks of the order until the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII in 1536; it then passed to the newly created See of Chester in 1557-8.

At present the patronage is vested in the See of Liverpool, as it has been since the creation of the See in 1880.

The dedication of the Church is to All Saints, but there is no evidence for this beyond modern ascription. On the other hand a fourteenth century document contains a reference to St. Peter of Childwall, making it seem likely that the ancient dedication was to the Apostle Peter.


From the earliest days to the present time, the design and shape of the building has undergone considerable change. Unfortunately we have no knowledge of the plan or design before the fourteenth century, though there are fragments of earlier work built into the masonry of later date. Of these the most obvious are some Saxon carved stones in the West Wall of the Porch and a fragment of Norman work preserved in a niche in the North Chancel Aisle.

This was probably once the carved capitol of a small nook shaft - a common architectural feature of the twelth century.

The earliest date which can be given to any part of the present building is the fourteenth century. The Chancel has on the South Side a square headed, two light window which is probably of this date. The East Window is modern, but constructed in fourteenth century style. A part of the old North Wall of the Chapel remains between the Chancel and the North Chancel Aisle. This was originally the outer wall of the Chapel. The priest's door in the South Wall is of fourteenth century date.

The fifteenth century saw the main part of the Church completed, and by 1571 the building probably consisted of a West Tower (with Spire), Chancel, Nave, North and South Aisles, South Porch and North Door. References to North and South Chapels in existence at this date lead us to believe that there were two chantry chapels in the Church, one at the East End of the South Aisle, and the other probably in a corresponding position on the North Side, though the exact position is unknown.

Nothing of importance was added to the fabric of the Church in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, though the Chancel was re-roofed in the seventeenth century: the roof was of the same construction as the keels of the old wooden ships, but inverted, and was replaced in 1892 by the present roof erected by order of the Ecclesiastical Commission. In 1716, Plumbe's Chapel was erected - a plain building of size twenty feet square jutting out from the old North Wall of the Church. Soon after, in 1739, what is now used as the choir vestry was constructed. This was originally the chapel of Isaac Greene, and passed to the Gascoyne family and then to the Salisbury family, before being taken over for its present purpose. The next major alteration to the Church was the rebuilding of the Tower in 1810. The old one was pulled down and the new one constructed to a similar design and on the same foundations, but a few feet to the West of the position of the old one. The cost of this was £1,750 Os. Od!

The Church was enlarged considerably in 1834 by the addition of a North Aisle-an extension Westwards of Plumbe's Chapel - and in 1851-53 the whole place was renewed, the present vestry built and the North Wall of the Chancel opened to convert the old vestry into additional pew space.

The entire North Aisle was rebuilt in 1906, and this is the most modern part of the present building. The foundation stone was laid on 17th October, 1905 with full records enclosed. The inscribed stone may be seen on the outer wall of the North Aisle, just North of the West Door.

In the following years the organ was renewed - a new loft was constructed and a Willis organ was placed there in memory of various members of the family of William Ewart Gladstone, M. P.

The Salisbury Pew was altered in 1912 when new windows were put in, and the supporting beam was placed over the opening into the South Aisle. The light oak screen which now fills the opening was constructed in 1952.

The only other alterations made to the fabric in the twentieth century have been the renovating of the organ as a war memorial to those who died in the Second World War, the renovating of stained glass which suffered war damage, the repewing of Plumbe's Chapel in 1955, when the old box-type pews were reconstructed to increase seating accomodation and the renovating of the roof of Plumbe's Chapel in 1979 using traditional slate.

Stained Glass

Although there is known to have been stained glass in the Church from very early times, there is no early glass left there now. All is of nineteenth and twentieth century date.

The oldest glass there is, is to be found in the South Aisle in the memorial window to the Barclay Walker family dating from 1859; and also in the East Window, a memorial to the Lace family which was placed there in 1856. Other nineteenth century glass may be seen in the North Window of the Chancel Aisle. All the stained glass in the North Aisle is of twentieth century date. Much of the glass suffered damage during the war and was renovated in the years 1948-49.

Most of the stained glass in the Church has been placed there as a memorial to deceased members of Childwall families. Many of the people concerned are unknown to us, but some names will be familiar to many who worship in or visit the Church. The window in the East end of the South Aisle stands as a memorial to Sir Andrew Barclay Walker and his wife. The most westerly of the windows in the North Aisle was placed there in 1911 in memory of Richard Francis Gladstone of the family of W.E. Gladstone, M.P., and another member of the family, Mary Ellen Gladstone, is commemorated by one of the clerestory windows high above the Nave on the South Side.

One of the clerestories on the North Side commemorates George Winter Warr, Vicar of Childwall from 1870 to 1895; and hidden away on the stairway to the gallery is a memorial to the son of a late Vicar, Richard Montague Ainslie. The son, Montague Forwood Ainslie, died on active service at Ypres in 1916; he was a member of the King's Regiment, the badge of which is depicted in the bottom right hand corner of the window.

It is interesting to examine closely some of the stained glass as much of the detail is not appreciated at a glance. The artists responsible for the designing and executing of the windows seem to have taken a delight in putting in the little details, and some have exercised their sense of humour as they did so. Into the borders of the panels of the East Window are worked some delightful grinning lions, and in a similar position in the North Window of the Chancel Aisle are the heads of some pigs wearing most lugubrious expressions.

The window of Plumbe's Chapel represents men and women of God whose acts are recorded in the Old and New Testaments. The theme of the Window as a whole is taken from St. John's Gospel, chapter fifteen verse five - the words written above the head of Christ in the centre panel of the window: "I am the vine, ye are the branches." The whole design is set against a background of vine leaves and branches, springing from the centre panel.

The other windows in the North Aisle, proceeding Westwards, represent the Ascension of Christ, the Adoration of Christ by the Shepherds and the Magi, three worshipping Angels and, on the West Wall, the supper at the house of Cleopas in Emmaus. (Luke ch. 24 v 30.) The Clerestory windows and some of the large windows were made by Percy Bacon: the rest were executed mainly by William Warrington or by the firm of Heaton, Butler and Bayne (for futher details see R. Stewart Brown, Notes on Childwall, page 40 following).

Although it is to be regretted that none of the ancient glass remains, the beauty of much of the modern glass cannot be denied. It is well worthwhile to watch the windows on the North side as the light outside fades in the evening. The colours change as the darkness draws on and always the daylight comes most clearly through the central panel of the Ascension window, and seems to linger there when it is fast leaving the other windows.


An old method of commemorating the dead was to erect portraits executed in relief on metal - usually called "brasses." Some of the finest examples of these to be found in the North of England are in Childwall Church, and are now situated in one of the alcoves in the South Aisle. They commemorate Henry Norris of Speke Hall and his wife Clemence, who both died in the late sixteenth century. The modern plaque now placed between the effigies states that they were `removed from the tomb of the Norris's 1760, placed here 1853,' An old document tells another story, however. It seems that in the first place the brasses were affixed to the Norris tomb, but after the sale of Speke Hall to Richard Watt in 1797, the Norris Chapel passed into new hands - not apparently into those of Richard Watt, but into those of Mr. Nicholas Ashton of Woolton Hall. Mr. Ashton had some alterations made to the Chapel which included, it seems, the removal of the remains of those Norrises who were buried in the vault beneath the Chapel, and the brasses which stood in their memory. We may conjecture that they were placed in the old vestry and that when it was converted into extra seating accommodation and the present vestry built, in 1853, they were placed in their present position.

A number of the past clergy of Childwall have memorial tablets in various parts of the Church - Augustus Campbell 1824-1870; William Ward 1737-1740; George Winter Warr 1870- 1895 - all of which are fixed to the South Chancel Wall. On the North Side of the Chancel Arch is a memorial to John Alexander Wilson, Curate of the Parish 1826-1841, and in the porch is a stone tablet commemorating Theophilus Kelsall, Vicar from 1721-22. The latter is most intriguing, bearing a Latin inscription and a carved skull at the base. As on the memorial hatchments (qv) this may mean that the person commemorated is the last of the family.

The oldest memorial tablet is to be found in the South Aisle - a large marble medallion in memory of John Garway who died in 1683. Garway was a rich and childless man, a Royalist and member of a family well known in contemporary parliamentary circles.

Not much more recent than this is the one erected to the memory of Richard and Jane Percival at the turn of the seventeenth century. This is situated in the South Wall of the Chancel, just West of the priests' door, and bears a tribute to Richard from his friends: he seems to have been a perfect husband and a model of Christian behaviour.

In the North Chancel Aisle is a large and lavish memorial to William Pitcairn Campbell, a Major in the 23rd Royal Welch Fusileers, who died in 1855. Details of his military career are recorded on scrolls which are part of the design of the memorial.


These are the large diamond-shaped boards, decorated with heraldic designs which are now hanging on the walls of the Nave and the North Aisle. The original purpose of the hatchment (achievement of arms) was to display the arms of a deceased person upon the outer wall of his house. The hatchment was borne before the body of the deceased person at his or her funeral, and then placed above the tomb, or vault.

The colouring of the ground of the hatchment indicates whether the husband or the wife is the survivor. If the ground is white on the dexter (right) side, and black on the sinister (left) the husband survives; black dexter and white sinister indicate that the wife is the survivor. If the whole ground is black, both husband and wife are dead, and a skull painted below the shield usually indicates that the person commemorated is the last of the family. (N.B. Dexter and sinister are so called from their position in relation, not to the eye of the spectator, but to the supposed bearer of the arms.)

Hatchments bearing the motto "Raison Pour Guide" (over the Chancel Arch and on the South Wall of the Nave) commemorate members of the Gascoyne family of Childwall Hall.

On the North Wall of the Nave, in the one bearing the word "Resurgam" (I shall rise again), Joseph Need Walker of Calderstones is commemorated.

Hatchments bearing the motto "So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom" relate to the Ashton family of Woolton Hall.

In the Salisbury Chapel is a memorial hatchment to the wife of the Second Marquis of Salisbury who was also the daughter and heiress of Bamber Gascoyne of Childwall Hall.

On the North Wall of the Nave and in the North Aisle are hatchments commemorating the Hardmans of Allerton, and in the North Aisle, bearing the motto "In coelo quies" (Peace in heaven) is a memorial to Arthur Onslow of Liverpool, Collector of Customs at the Port of Liverpool 1785-1807.

The square board above the Chancel Arch is not a true hatchment - it bears the arms of King Charles II who visited the neighbourhood, staying at Speke Hall. It was the custom for the Royal Arms to be hung in a church after the monarch had been there. The cipher C. R. may be seen in the lower part of the design, and the date is also inscribed upon it - 1664.


Built in the fifteenth century, the South West Porch is still used as the main entrance to the Church. The four steps leading down to the porch indicate that the level of the ground outside the West end of the building has been raised for the purpose of burials. The position of the "lepers' window" just inside the West door, indicates the same fact: once above ground level, it is now almost entirely below it. Exactly when the level was raised is not known, but some of the gravestones outside bear dates in the eighteenth century, so that it must have been accomplished by that time.

Tradition tells that a muniment room was once to be found above the porch but beyond what tradition says there is no evidence - and a sketch of the church as it was in 1775 shows no signs of any building above the present porch. There must however be some reason for the existence of the tradition and it is a known fact that in the days when civil war was a recognised danger the local men kept their pikes, halberds and other armaments in the Church. When a crisis arose they would gather there and collect their weapons and armour and depart under the leadership of the Lord of the Manor, leaving the women and children and old people in the sanctuary of the Church until the danger was Ever. In view of the knowledge of this practice it may well be that tradition is right, that there was in fact a muniment room above the Porch, but yet it is an obstacle to the confident acceptance of the tradition, that no evidence of its existence remains.

Above the centre of the arch outside the porch is a niche, now empty, but obviously originally containing the statue of the Patron Saint of the church.

This is just another fragment of evidence that the dedication of Childwall Parish Church has not always been to "All Saints." In view of the reference in a fourteenth century document to "St. Peter, of Childwall," we may be in some measure justified in believing that the statue once standing in the niche was that of the Apostle Peter. The loss of the effigy probably took place at the time of the Civil Wars when churches all over the country suffered damage and loss, if not destruction.

Inside the porch, high up in each of the four corners are the heads of the four Evangelists, each identified by his symbol. These heads were found outside the Church at the beginning of the nineteenth century and were given by the Vicar, the Rev. Augustus Campbell, to the proprietor of the `Abbey' Inn. They were not restored until some twenty to thirty years later, when they were placed in their present position.

Some indication of the stonemason responsible for the building of the porch and probably the rest of the church which was built in the fifteenth century, is to be found in the mark carved into the stonework above the door. Though we cannot tell from this exactly who was the craftsman, it is interesting to note that a similar mark is to be found on some of the masonry in Lichfield Cathedral.

The rough cross carved on one of the stones in the west wall of the porch is of Saxon design, having barbs half way up the stem. The barbs were thought to keep the evil spirits from invading the cross. This particular cross is carved upon a stone which was originally the lid of a child's coffin, presumably removed from the burial ground when the masons were short of a stone to fit into the wall of the porch.

The war memorial on the east wall of the porch is erected to the memory of the men who gave their lives in the First World War. The wood was taken from H.M.S. Britannia, a cadet training ship from 1869-1905. The heavy door which connects the porch with the body of the Church is made of oak. In the early centuries of its existence, the sections were fitted together leaving large gaps between them. Perhaps Christians were more hardy then, or believed more in the mortification of the body - the draught must have been appalling! For the greater comfort of the modern church-goer, the cracks have all been filled in, leaving only the spaces above and below the door for the draught to penetrate.

The door is now secured by a latch, turned by a large key, and by a small bolt, but the large hole on the right hand side of the stone arch into which the door fits shows us that the small bolt has probably taken the place of a much larger one. We may imagine this large one being drawn across in the times of crisis when the Church was used as a place of defence.

The most recent addition to the furnishings in the porch are the very fine oak framed Notice Boards which are fixed to the West Wall. They were made and presented to the Church by Mr. G. Fred. Ford, who served as Vicar's Warden from 1969-1977.

And so from the porch we pass into the interior of the Church.

The Norris Chapel

This Chapel, on the South Side of the Church is one of the oldest parts of the building. We have no record of the date of the building of the chapel, but it is referred to in a document of 1484, as follows:- "Thomas Norris of Speke, to the pleasure of God, encresse of His service, and for the helth of my sawle, and all myne antecessors, and for the helth of the sawle of John of Lathum, prieste, sumtyme parson of Aldeforth, and all cristen sawles founded a chantry in this chapel." This chapel was known as the chantry of St. Thomas the Martyr.

The general purpose of chantry chapels was that a daily celebration of Mass might take place therein for the benefit of the soul of some person, or persons. Often the person who built the chapel established an endowment to pay the salary of a priest whose duty it was to see that the Mass was said daily. There are references to two such chapels in Childwall Church - the Norris Chapel, and an earlier one, of which the exact position is unknown; indeed nothing at all is known of it, except that it existed, and there is only one reference to indicate that. On 10th May, 1396, John Sherman was presented by the King to a living in Bisley, Hampshire. Until that time he had been `chaplain of the chantry of St. Mary in the parish church of Childwall.'

In 1563 the Norris Chapel is known to have contained painted windows in memory of members of the Norris family. We may conjecture that the Chapel was then fully furnished.

In 1797, the Norrises of Speke had ceased to exist, and the Hall was sold to Richard Watt.

The Ashtons, of Woolton Hall, gained the use of the pews in the Chapel, and are stated to have had the bones of the Norrises removed from the vault beneath the chapel and to have used it as their own family vault. It was probably during the same period of conversion from Norris to Ashton ownership that the memorial painted glass was removed and the Norris brasses removed from their original position, and placed in the old vestry.

All that now remains of the Norris family Chapel are the brasses, the large medallion which commemorated John Garway, who married into the Norris family and the oak carved bench end. Between Circa 1853 and 1976 the bench end was displayed in the Nave beside the lectern. It is now displayed, suitably encased on the South Wall. The carving is exquisite and in excellent condition. The arms depicted are, of course, those of the Norris family. Because of a peculiarity in the heraldic design, the work has been ascribed to the Edward Norris who died in 1606 and is known to have used such a variation in his crest. The rope moulding in the design is an unusual feature, of which other examples may be found in Huyton Church and in Rufford Hall. The brasses were placed in their present position in 1853 and re-secured to the modern oak back panel in 1978.

An old sketch of 1825 shows a screen, probably of Jacobean date, extending along the North and West sides of the chapel. To this day there are holes in the pillars nearest the South wall of the church, into which the supports of the screen would fit. What happened to the screen, no one knows. It was probably removed in 1853 when the entire church was re-pewed to give additional seating accommodation. Enquiries were made in the early years of this century among relatives of the Rev. Augustus Campbell, who was the Vicar of the Parish when the alterations were made, but no one was able to say what happened to the screen.

In the other recess is a most interesting wood carving. It takes the form of the eagle and child motif which is incorporated in the arms of the Stanleys, Earls of Derby. The old legend attached to the motif is that the Lathoms (Earls of Derby before the Stanley family) were, in the time of Edward 111 (1312-1377) without male issue. The oldest legend says that one day Sir Thomas Lathom heard a child crying nearby as he walked in his estate grounds. He investigated and found a young male child in the nest of an eagle; the child was received into the family with great joy and regarded as a gift from heaven and later named as the heir to all the lands and titles. This, says an old book, dated 1741, is "fable", and highly improbable." It then goes on to give another, much more likely version of the story. Sir Thomas Lathom, having no male issue to receive the inheritance on his death, had an intrigue with a "gentle-woman of his acquaintance" and produced a son - all unknown to the world in general and to his wife in particular. His difficulty then was how to introduce the child to the family and confer the titles upon him without involving himself in any scandal. A plot with a trusted servant led to the child being deposited in a desolate part of the estate one morning (watched by the servant, so as to preserve it from harm). Soon afterwards (quite by chance!) Sir Thomas came upon the child, and encouraged the family to believe, that the child was a miracle child, a gift from heaven. The eagle and child motif was introduced into the Lathom crest to give verisimilitude to the story.

Such, then, seems to be the more likely version of the story - especially when the power of an eagle, its predatory habits, and the weakness of a young babe are considered.

The question remains - what is the purpose of this particular carving? How did it get there? How old is it? Where did it come from?

The connexion between the house of Derby and Childwall was very strong in the Middle Ages and it has been conjectured that perhaps the carving was presented to the church by the Stanleys when they gained the lordship of the manor of Childwall in 1473. The date of the carving supports this as it seems to belong to the early fifteenth century. As it now is, there is evidence of its having been badly damaged at some time, and the most likely time for this to have happened seems to be during the Civil Wars (1642-49) when much vandalism was perpetrated in churches all over the country.

All this, however, is conjectural; the exact date and purpose of the carving remain unknown. By 1914 it was in use as a font cover, but to which font it belonged and whether it was originally meant for that purpose must remain a mystery unless or until further evidence comes to hand.

Salisbury Chapel

This Chapel has had a long and varied history. It was built in the first place as the chapel of the lawyer Isaac Greene who bought the Manor of Childwall after it had passed from the Stanley family in 1718. The Chapel itself dates from 1744. A doorway in the East wall of the already existing porch was sanctioned, and Greene and his successors were to be responsible for the upkeep of the building. When Greene died in 1749, the chapel was used by his wife and eventually passed into the Bamber Gascoyne family through the marriage of Green's daughter Mary to Bamber Gascoyne of Childwall Hall. It remained in the Gascoyne family and Salisbury family (Bamber Gascoyn's daughter married the Second Marquis of Salisbury) until comparatively recent times when it was taken over as the Choir vestry.

The Salisbury Chapel, as it is now called, opened directly into the South Aisle of the Church until 1952 when the oak screen was erected to divide the vestry from the body of the Church.

Baptistry and Western Aisle

Coming back again to the main door we find immediately inside it the old Churchwarden's Pew. This now accommodates the Verger during Services and also contains the switchboards controlling the Church lighting.

The carved wooden board at the back of the Pew records that the sum of ten guineas was given by The Dowager Lady Gerard "part thereof for erecting this Seat for the use of the Churchwardens, and ye overplus towards five new Bells hung in the Steeple of this Church." The board also bears the names of William Wood and William Lake, the first Churchwardens to use the pew.

Behind the Churchwardens' Pew is what is thought by many to be a Lepers' Window. If so this is a reminder of the days when leprosy was a common scourge in England, and when sufferers were cut off from Church worship, as from all communication with other people. Whilst the Eucharist was being celebrated the lepers would gather outside and watch through this window the Service in which they could not participate. This was, of course, before the level of the ground outside was raised to its present height.

In many old churches, the Lepers' Window is to be found in the South Wall of the Chancel, and many wonder how anything could be seen from the one in Childwall Church, set as it is so far from the altar. In fact, a great deal could, and still can, be seen by those who try. It is also important to remember that at one time the altar was removed from the Sanctuary and placed in an East-West position in the Choir for the celebrations of Holy Communion. The priest would stand at the North side of the table and would be well within the view of the outcasts as he led the Service.

A reproduction of the entry concerning "CILDEVELLE" in the Domesday Book compiled by William I is to be found on the wall beside the Churchwardens' Pew.

The recess in which the Font stands is in fact cut out of the solid wall of the West Tower, which is some nine feet thick on this its Eastern side. The present sandstone font is of modern origin. It is the fourth to be used in this Church.

The first is mentioned in deeds of the year 1609 but what happened to this one is not known. In 1622 another was bought and was used until 1853 when a new carved stone font was brought into use. The 1622 font disappeared and was forgotten until found in the garden of the Abbey Inn, where it was being used as a flower stand. We may perhaps conjecture that it went there under the direction of the same Rev. Augustus Campbell who gave the Evangelists' heads to the proprietor round about the same time. When the older font was restored to the Baptistry in 1892, the one which had been in use since 1853 was stored away in the hearse house, nearby.

Sadly the 1622 font was broken in recent years and the opportunity arose for a modern sandstone font and pedestal to be erected. It was presented to the congregation in 1977 and is entirely in keeping with the fabric.

The old boards hanging from the walls of the Baptistry bear records of bequests and endowments left in the hands of the Church for the relief of the poor and needy of the Parish. Most of the money seems to have come from the interest from various plots of ground, and as these plots have now all been bought and built upon, the bequests are obsolete. The boards have been kept as interesting records of the way in which former generations fulfilled their duty to their less fortunate brethren.

From the Baptistry we turn Eastward and come into the Nave of the Church.

The Nave

The Nave belongs to that part of the Church which was built in the fifteenth century. The floor of the aisle will be seen to slope eastwards, a rarity in church architecture. The Church is built on the side of a hill, and the ancient architect seems to have intended that the floor should fall with the ground. Until 1851 the line was continued as far as the sanctuary, there being three or four steps down to the Chancel, making the altar stand at a level some four or five feet lower than the base of the West Tower. In 1851, however, the Chancel was raised three feet bringing it level with the nave. Knowing that this is the case answers several questions posed by the present form of the sanctuary.

The altar now stands immediately below the East window, with no reredos between the two as in most churches. The remains of a fourteenth century piscina are to be seen at floor level on the South wall of the sanctuary, whilst in other churches the piscina is three or four feet from the ground - a convenient height for the use of the priest. The level sill of the East window is also an unusual feature explicable by the raising of the Chancel floor. Whereas in the normal way flowers, etc., would be placed on a rede table behind and slightly raised from the level of the altar, there was no room for such in Childwall Church, so that the sill was levelled to take its place.

Referring to the raising of the Chancel floor, it has been said that in doing this "a very great alteration for the worse was made in the interior of the Church ... It would be a most laudable work if some rich person would restore the chancel levels and make Childwall once more one of the rare examples (Halsall is another) of churches whose east end is considerably lower than its west. It would also be most useful as an object lesson in these days, when the altar is generally raised to a height quite unusual in our English Medieval churches. The medieval idea of the sacrament was that it was a `holy mystery, not a show."'

At the junction of nave and sanctuary stand the lectern, the pulpit and the priest's prayer desk. The pulpit dates from 1853, the last date at which extensive alterations were made in the arrangement of the furnishings. Before this time, the old pulpit stood against the pillar on the North Side of the Aisle, a few yards west of the Chancel Arch. The old three-decker pulpit was sold and is said to be in a church or chapel near Abergele. The new one, in carved oak, with prayer desk to match, was purchased from one George Shaw for the price of £73 10s. Od. An alteration has recently been made to the lighting of the pulpit. Two curved brackets once sprang from the sides of the pulpit, but these unsightly appendages were removed and now the preacher is lit by a single spotlight shining from the rafters of the Nave.

The lectern is a memorial to Eliza Ann Brocklebank who died in 1885: it takes the form of an eagle with outspread wings, bearing Holy Bible on its back. We may ask: "Why an eagle?" The answer seems to be that the eagle is regarded as the strongest and most courageous of birds, and therefore the most fitting to carry the word of God. It may be in some measure symbolic of the qualities needed by those who would spread abroad the Gospel, and again it may be a relic from pagan days when the eagle was regarded as the messenger of Jove. Lastly, the eagle is the symbol of the Fourth Evangelist, St. John. Lecterns made during the Middle Ages often took the form of the eagle of St. John resting on the symbols of the other three evangelists - a bull, a lion and a lamb.

N.B. Burglars broke into the church during Holy Week 1986 and the lectern was stolen. Its loss is keenly felt.

Beside the lectern stands the old carved-bench end which originally had its place in the Norris Chapel. It was almost certainly removed from there in 1853, during the period when the entire layout of the interior of the Church was re-planned, and when the lectern, pulpit and desk found their present positions. The carving is exquisite and in excellent condition: the arms depicted are those of the Norris family, and because of a peculiarity in the heraldic design, the work has been ascribed to the Edward Norris who died in 1606 and who is known to have used such a variation in his unusual feature, of which other examples may be crest. The rope moulding in the design is an unusual feature, of which other examples may be found in Huyton Church and in Rufford Hall.

Choir and Chancel

This part of the building is the oldest part, dating from the fourteenth century. The windows of the North and South are genuine fourteenth century windows, but the East window belongs to the nineteenth century, though designed in the same style as the other two.

The wall immediately behind the choir pews was originally the outer wall of the church, but extensions were added in 1744 and in 1853, so that the ancient wall now looks out of place and causes many to wonder why it is there.

The priest's door in the South wall was part of the early chapel and was in use until 1980 when the ravages of time and the need for security against thieves and vandals forced the Parochial Church Council to act. The old door was `retired' and now hangs on display on the North wall. The new door is of English oak and is as much a tribute to 20th Century craftsmanship as its predecessor is to the 14th century.

In 1971 the altar was replaced. The new oak Communion Table was designed by the late Mr. George Pace, ARIBA and stands in memory of the Reverend Ronald Hunter, M.A. who served as Vicar from 1925 - 1948. It was presented by his family.

The sanctuary was extended northwards in 1983 and stands as a memorial to the late Dr. O'Mara, a parishioner.

The Choir stalls are a fine example of hand carved English oak. For a number of years they lay in storage in the basement of Liverpool Cathedral, having been removed from the Lady Chapel to make way for more appropriate stalls. The Dean and Chapter placed them on permanent loan to All Saints in 1974. They replace the 19th century stalls which had suffered the ravages of woodworm and were subsequently scrapped.

The marble cross which originated in France was given by Canon Wm. Henry Wade (Vicar 1948-69).

North Aisle

Turning Northwards from the Chancel, we pass through a break in the wall which was once the outer wall of the fourteenth century chapel, and enter the North Chancel Aisle. The ground upon which this part of the Church is built was outside the walls of the original chapel; but in 1744 the North Wall was broken through and a vestry built outside. (See figure 1.) A few years later, another extension was added to the West of the vestry (see figure 1-A. B. C. D.). Even at this time, after both extensions had been added, it will be seen from the plan of the Church in 1767 that the fourteenth century wall and window were still an integral part of the construction of the Church. It was not until the alterations of 1851-3 that it became entirely an excresence, well within the limits of the building. At that time the old vestry and the nearby extension were joined together and converted into extra seating accommodation, whilst a new vestry was built to the North. This is the arrangement which still exists to-day. (See figures 2 and 3.)

To the West of the present vestry is what is still known as Plumbe's Chapel. In 1717 John and Richard Plumbe of Wavertree obtained a faculty to erect a building there for their own use. Shortly afterwards, Richard died, and the chapel seems to have been rarely, if ever used after that. When plans to increase seating accommodation were made in 1739, it was suggested that Plumbe's Chapel might be used for this purpose as it was no longer used by its owners. This raised a protest from John Plumbe, and legal advisors, though condemning as foolish the practice of granting to a family the right to use for ever any part of the Church, upheld John Plumbe's claim, so that the alterations were unable to be effected. In 1747, the problem of accommodating all the worshippers became so pressing that a gallery was constructed along the North and West sides of the Church. (For further details of Galleries in Childwall Church, see the section on the existing Gallery.)

In 1833, the North Aisle was extended westwards from Plumbe's Chapel, so that the Church took on its present shape at that time: yet the North Aisle of the Church to-day does not date from 1833 as in 1905 the entire North side of the Church was taken down and reconstructed. Plumbe's Chapel had already lost its identity in the building operations of 1833, but a stone marking its existence still remains built into the left-hand side of the North Chancel Arch. The stone is distinct from all the surrounding ones, and bears the initials of John and Richard Plumbe, and the date 1717. The only other evidence of the existence of the Chapel is the fact that that part of the Church is still known as Plumbe's Chapel even to this day.

The latest alterations made to the interior were made here in 1955 when the old box-type pews were converted into the more modern type. The problem of finding accommodation for all worshippers, which was felt as early as 1739 is one which exists more than two hundred years later.

The Gallery

The present West Gallery is all that remains of the much more extensive gallery accommodation which the Church once contained.

Until 1747 there does not seem to have been any at all, but from then until 1817 numerous faculties authorising gallery pews were given to private individuals, most of whom took advantage of the permission they had gained. So then, by 1817 there were galleries along the West and North Sides (with the exception of Plumbe's Chapel on the North) and also over the Vicar's Vestry and on the South side of the Chancel. Both of these were approached by means of stairways built outside the church walls, and in the case of the Chancel Gallery, the steps can be seen on some of the old prints belonging to that period.

After 1817 two factors combined to reduce the need for extra accommodation in galleries - firstly the building of other churches in the neighbourhood, and secondly the extension of the North Aisle of Childwall Church in 1833. From this time onwards, the galleries began to disappear; the South Chancel one in 1853, the one of the North side (which had been reconstructed against the new North Wall in 1833) in 1905, and in the same year the pews over the old vestry.

Now only the West Gallery remains. At one time the Walker family occupied the Southern part, and the choir the Northern part, but eventually the Walkers ceased to use their part, and when a new organ was presented to the Church in 1907-8 in memory of members of the Gladstone family, including W.F. Gladstone, M.P., the Gallery was renovated and the Southern part used for the organ pipes. The choir continued to use the Northern part until comparatively recently when they moved to their present place, in the Chancel. This arrangement seems to be less desirable than the earlier one from a musical point of view as the separation of the choir from the organist means that the two cannot work together as a team with the maximum efficiency. However, the choir are now in the traditional place and it is likely that there they will stay in the future.

The organ, after being renovated in 1948 by Messrs. Rushworth of Liverpool, stands as a war memorial to those men in the parish who gave their lives in the Second World War.

Parish Records

The Parish of Childwall is fortunate in possessing a valuable set of records of Births, Marriages and Burials covering almost the entire period from 1557 to the end of the eighteenth century. They are detailed thus in the Church Terrier* for 1778:-
  1. 1557-1612 (sound and entire).
  2. 1653-1703 (much torn and imperfect).
  3. 1703-1753 (very clean and correct).
  4. 1753(in use).
  5. 1754-1772 (marriages only).
  6. 1772(in use: marriages only).
Since then some of the missing records have been found, accounting for the years 1625-1638: they were in very bad condition, but were repaired as far as possible and placed with the other records in 1912, having been missing for at least 130 years.

*Church Terrier: A statement of the Assets belonging to the Church at any specific time; the Terriers include Land, Property, Income from Tithes, Vestments, Communion Plate, Registers and any ornaments of value belonging to the Church.

Further records have come to light since R. Stewart Brown wrote and the oldest are now at Prescot and date from 1523.

Along with these registers are the Churchwardens' Accounts for the years 1571-1772 with one or two pages only missing.

In 1912 R. Stewart Brown, a local historian, was able to say: "The Vicar, Wardens and People are to be congratulated on having the finest and earliest set of Parish Accounts in the Hundred of West Derby, and probably in Lancashire."

The entire set have been deciphered and typed within recent years, and we are indeed grateful for the painstaking effort which had made these records so accessible to us.

Communion Vessels

The plate which is used regularly at Holy Communion each Sunday comprises two chalices presented to the Church in the early years of the present century; and a silver flagon and salver which date from 1722. The two modern chalices are beautifully designed and engraved, and replace two much older ones which were of unpractical design. These are still in existence and one of them, together with the flagon and salver mentioned above, and also a silver paten of the same date form a complete set which was in continuous use from 1722 until 1910 when the new chalices were presented. The other one is an exact copy of the 1772 chalice, which was made in 1830.

Tower and Bells

The earliest reference to the existence of a tower or steeple is found in the Churchwardens' Accounts for the year 1571, where there is a record that £15 was spent "chiffley upon leade about the stepell." We cannot therefore say in what year it was first built, only that it was probably sometime during the fourteenth century.

There are numerous entries in the accounts concerning the tower with regard to repointing, painting and leading, a new weather-vane, a new clock and other minor repairs. The entire top of the steeple was rebuilt in 1761 as it was in a dangerous state, and some forty years later, in 1810/11, the whole tower was pulled down and the existing one built in its place. The new building occupied the same site as the old, with the exception that the new West wall was a few feet west of the position of the old one. New foundations were sunk to a depth of six feet and when the new walls rose above ground level, they were made five feet thick, of new stone on the outside, faced inside with stones from the old tower. The height of the tower is approximately fifty feet, with the steeple rising a similar distance above that. The top of the tower is leaded and drained, and has a carved stone balustrade all round it. In design it is an almost exact replica of the old tower.

Inside is a heavy old door leading to the spiral stairway which is built into the North West corner of the tower, and winds its way up to the clockroom, the bell room and the tower roof.

To the left of the door is a small wooden stairway leading to the room in which the bell- ringers gather to ring the bells. As well as the six ropes which control the bells, there are in this room a small, scale model of a bell, and an old board, fixed to the East wall with the following rhyme written on it:-

 "If for to ring, a man comes here;  Ringing sacred; its Laws revere;  These ringing Laws must be well us'd  That ringers may not be abus'd; If ringer wears his spur or hat One quart of ale he pays for that; If while he rings, his bell o'er throw;  Sixpence he pays before he go;  But if he's heard to swear or curse;  Demand one shilling of his Purse;  If to these Laws he does conform  The ringers part he may perform." 
The clock room is found about halfway up the narrow spiral stairway, and contains the workings of the clock which dates from 1811, when the new tower was built. The movement is connected to three faces on the North, South and West walls, and the whole clock, according to the Churchwardens' Accounts for that year, costs £102 8s. 6d., and was purchased from Thomas Green of Liverpool.

Above the clock room is the bell chamber in which are hung the six bells. There have been bells in the tower for almost four hundred years, and in centuries past their sound was so well known and loved in the neighbourhood that an old rhyme mentions it as one of the distinctive features of Childwall:-

 "Prescot and Huyton and merry Childow,  Three Parish Churches all in a row,  Prescot for Poverty, Huyton for Pride, And Childwall for ringing and singing beside." 
In 1517 we hear of three new bells being hung in the tower having been made by Richard Seliock of Nottingham. This is the first reference we have to the presence of bells, and after this time they appear quite frequently in the Accounts. In 1552 there were only two bells, one having been sold in the meantime, but by 1589 the number was once again restored to three. In the seventeenth century records there are numerous references to the repair of the bells, and in 1666 we hear that the ringers rang with such vigour at the celebrations attending the Restoration of Charles 11 that the treble bell burst and had to be recast. We also hear of the bells being rung with less disastrous results at the death of Queen Mary, 1694; the arrival of George I in England, 1714 and at his Coronation.

The number of bells was brought to five in 1722 when a new one was added and the other four recast by Abraham Rudhall of Gloucester. The sixth bell was bought from Shrewsbury in 1751. This peal of six bells remained in use until 1912 when they were once again recast, this time by John Warner and Sons of Spitalfields. At this time too, the old oak frame supporting the bells in the tower was replaced by a steel one.

Each of the bells bears an inscription and, in the case of the four oldest bells, the initials of Abraham Rudhall, the Gloucester founder who re-cast the bells in 1722. The inscriptions are as follows:-

 Treble:Wm. Brown, late (Warden). Jn. Whitfield. Jos. Grace. Ch. Wardens, 1751. A.R. 2nd:Peace and good neighbourhood. A.R. 3rd:Prosperity to this Parish. A.R. 4th:Prosperity to the Church of England. A.R. 5th:God Bless King George and Queen Mary. H.E. Abbot, J.G. Rishton, Wardens. Tenor:I to the Church the living call, And to the Grave do summon all. 1722. 
The bells have a total weight of 45 cwts., 3 qrs., 26 lbs., divided as follows:-
Diameter  Cwts.  qrs.  lbs.
Treble:  28"439
4th:33 1/2"710
5th:36 1/2"8310

The most recent repairs to the bells were completed in 1956 when they underwent a thorough overhaul and were then rehung.

On the outside walls, just below the parapet are eight gargoyles two on each face of the tower. The original purpose of these carved monsters was to conceal a drainage spout, and in rainy weather the water would pour out of the beasts' mouths, well clear of the wall, thus avoiding damp which might have attacked the fabric. Since the modern drain-pipe was invented, gargoyles have remained as ornaments (!) or as part of the characteristic design of the period of the building.

The particular specimens on the tower in Childwall take the form of tigers, representing ferocity and boars, representing gluttony. Why such ugly monsters were chosen is a matter for conjecture, but perhaps we should not be far wrong in thinking that the choice had its roots in superstition: it is at least likely that the belief was that the sight of such ugliness might keep away evil spirits from the church, even as the use of the acorn design was believed to prevent them from entering the building.

Between the gargoyles on the Western face of the tower are the names of Thomas Baitson and Richard Lewis, who were Churchwardens when the new tower was built in 1810.

Graveyard and Outbuildings

The first mention of a graveyard at Childwall is found in a document of 1386, but no detailed records were kept until 1557. The oldest gravestones bear the dates 1620 and 1686. Burials have continued to take place here until the present day and tombstones now number many hundreds.

Among the people interred in the graveyard are some who will be known to many people. Bishop Ryle, the first Bishop of Liverpool is one such person, and also his wife who lies beside him. The world of literature is represented by the late nineteenth century poet, Sir William Watson, of whose work the Coronation Ode to King Edward VII, written in 1902, is probably the best known example.

It was the custom in the more distant past to inter deceased persons within the walls of the church, under the floor of the aisles. This habit was continued in Childwall until a comparatively recent date, the last burial inside the church taking place in 1825. Bones were often removed from their original resting place, and placed in the Ossuary or Bonehouse. Until 1810, this was, in the case of Childwall Church, situated beside the Tower. Both Tower and Ossuary were demolished at that time and only-the tower was rebuilt. The small square building in the North-West corner of the graveyard was built in 1811 as a new Hearse house to replace the old one which stood beside the old Vicarage on the site of the present Church Hall. It was the custom for each parish to possess its own hearse in the days before the establishment of firms of undertakers. Since the custom of possessing a parish hearse has fallen into disuse the building has been used as a storeroom.

Of the three white lych gates set in the West wall of the graveyard the most Southerly one is the oldest. The date 1728 is carved upon the central column and the gate has been in continuous use from that date onwards.

The Parish Hall

The Parish Hall now stands opposite to the Church on the site of the old Vicarage which was removed after the completion of the present one in 1928. The Hall was completed in 1931, and has been used to an increasing extent ever since. It has never been in fuller use than it is at present, especially during the Winter months when the many devotional and social groups within the Parish meet there week by week.

The Childwall Cross

This has often been associated with the Monks, who are believed to have lived in "Childwall Abbey" or "Childwall Priory." In fact there has never been an Abbey or a Priory here, far less any monks. The origin of the "Abbey" legend lies in the fact that the first owners of Childwall Old Hall (now replaced by the County College) were of a romantic turn of mind and named their abode "Childwall Abbey." "The Priory" was a farmhouse which stood where the busy thoroughfare of Childwall Fiveways is now. The stories of massacres at the time of the dissolution of the Monasteries; of monks; of secret passges between Abbey and Priory must belong only to the world of fable and imagination. The only real connexion which Childwall has with monastic life is that the patronage of the living was for many years in the hands of the Benedictine monks of Upholland.

The Cross in Childwall Lane is, in fact, of early eighteenth century date, and was probably either the Village Cross, or Pilgrim's Cross. Only the steps of the original now remain, the actual cross itself being of twentieth century origin. This was cemented to the old base and placed in its present position in the years following 1913. Tradition has it that the cross, set slightly back from the roadside, as it is, was one of the resting places of the bodies of parishioners which had been brought from Hale. Hunt's Cross was probably another such resting place.

Rectors and Vicars of Childwall

RECTORS.circa 1616William Knowles.
circa 1177Robert -----1617Henry Taylor.
circa 1190Robert Fukes.1624James Hyett, B.D.
circa1205H. (and R.).1625James Critchley.
circa 1232-46John Cotty.1632William Lewis, M.A.
1260Herbert Grelleycirca 1645David Ellison.
1292-3John de Droxford.1657)John Litherland.
1309Adam de Preston.1661)
1310-11Henry de Leicester.1663William Thompson.
VICARS.1664Joshua Ambrose,M.A.
1307Henry de Wavertree.1686-7Thomas West, M.A.
1338Richard de Barnby.1690Ralph Markland, M.A.
1349Nicholas de Thorne.1721Theophilus Kelsall, B.A.
---John Dibbleda.1734-5Roger Barnston, M.A.
1353-4Roger de Poghden.1737William Ward, B.A.
1386Richard de Moston.1740Roger Whiston.
circa 1421Thomas Caton.1741-2Abel Ward, M.A.
1426William Walton.1745-6Thomas Tonman, M.A.
1430William Mercer.1778Matthew Worthington.
circa 1430-4Christopher Lee.1797William Bowe.
circa 1464Geoffrey Whalley.1818James Thomas Law, M.A.
1473?Richard Dey, LL.B.1821Henry Law, M.A.
1496John Merton.1824)Augustus Campbell, M.A.
1514Robert Greves.1829)
1546John Ainsdale.1870George Winter Warr, M. A.
circa 1562William Crosse.1896Peter S. Royston, D. D.
1569-70David Calton.1903Richard M. Ainslie, M. A.
1588Lawrence Blackborne.1925Ronald M. Hunter, M.A.
1589Thomas Williamson, M.A.1948Wm. Henry Wade, A.L.C.D.
1589Edmund Hapwood.1970Kenneth R. Thornton, B.A., A.L.C.D.
1982Colin Rookwood, M. A.

This Our Heritage, by E.F. Mellor 1958, updated by David F. Street 1986

This site provides historical information about churches, other places of worship and cemeteries. It has no connection with the churches themselves. For current information you should contact them directly.


Church Records



Copy of Original Register of baptisms 1557-1638 held by Lancashire Archives - PR 206-210


Transcript of baptisms 1557-1680 by the Lancashire Parish Register Society - Volume 106


Copy of Bishop's Transcript of baptisms 1602-1638 held by Lancashire Archives - DRL 2/6-15


Index of baptisms 1614-1638 held by Lancashire Archives - PR 206-210


Copy of Original Register of baptisms 1653-1760 held by Lancashire Archives - PR 206-210


Copy of Bishop's Transcript of baptisms 1664-1869 held by Lancashire Archives - DRL 2/6-15


Transcript of baptisms 1681-1753 by the Lancashire Parish Register Society - Volume 122


Copy of Bishop's Transcript of baptisms 1898 held by Lancashire Archives - DRL 2/6-15



Copy of Original Register of marriages 1557-1618 held by Lancashire Archives - PR 206-210


Transcript of marriages 1557-1680 by the Lancashire Parish Register Society - Volume 106


Copy of Bishop's Transcript of marriages 1602-1638 held by Lancashire Archives - DRL 2/6-15


Index of marriages 1614-1638 held by Lancashire Archives - PR 206-210


Copy of Original Register of marriages 1653-1760 held by Lancashire Archives - PR 206-210


Copy of Bishop's Transcript of marriages 1664-1869 held by Lancashire Archives - DRL 2/6-15


Transcript of marriages 1681-1753 by the Lancashire Parish Register Society - Volume 122


Copy of Bishop's Transcript of marriages 1898 held by Lancashire Archives - DRL 2/6-15



Copy of Original Register of burials 1557-1618 held by Lancashire Archives - PR 206-210


Transcript of burials 1557-1680 by the Lancashire Parish Register Society - Volume 106


Copy of Bishop's Transcript of burials 1602-1638 held by Lancashire Archives - DRL 2/6-15


Index of burials 1614-1638 held by Lancashire Archives - PR 206-210


Copy of Original Register of burials 1653-1760 held by Lancashire Archives - PR 206-210


Copy of Bishop's Transcript of burials 1664-1869 held by Lancashire Archives - DRL 2/6-15


Transcript of burials 1681-1753 by the Lancashire Parish Register Society - Volume 122


Copy of Bishop's Transcript of burials 1898 held by Lancashire Archives - DRL 2/6-15


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