Betley in 1817


Description from A Topographical History of Staffordshire by William Pitt (1817)


Betley is a parish of Pirehill North, situated upon the borders of Cheshire, about seven miles west by north of Newcastle, on the road to Chester. It contains the ancient town of Betley, in the vicinity of which the handsome mansion of Lady Fletcher, called Betley Court, and the seat of George Tollet, Esq., called Betley Hall, with their pleasure-grounds and plantations, contribute to the embellishment of the place. Betley has an annual fair for cattle held on the 20th of July. 

Near the village is a fine pool, called Betley Mere, which belongs to the Earl of Wilton. It is now chiefly remarkable for its excellent gardens, which contribute largely in the supply of vegetables to the neighbouring towns and villages. 

The Church is situated on an eminence at the eastern extremity of the town, and has been partly rebuilt. It has a nave, side aisles, a chancel at the east end, and a square tower at the west end of the nave. The most ancient part of the edifice is the nave and aisles ; which, as well as the chancel, have plain common tile roofs. The windows of the former are also very plain. The side-walls of the nave are part wood, and part plaster : the timber is framed after the ancient manner, and the spaces between filled with plaster, &c. The aisles were, no doubt, coeval with the nave'; but from prior decay, the walls thereof have been rebuilt with common brick. In the interior, the nave is separated from the aisles by four plain pointed arches on each side. The pillars which support them are merely single trunks of trees ; and the architraves of the arches, (if we may use the expression,) are plain curved pieces of wood. From the three middle pillars or trunks, are turned three similar plain wooden curves across the nave ; thus making the nave to exhibit a succession of three pointed arches. The dimensions are as follows : The length of the nave and aisles may be about 15 or 16 yards. The aisles are narrow, being not quite three yards in breadth. The breadth of the nave is about six yards. There is a small west gallery ; and at the east end of the north aisle and nave is a large seat, enclosed by a wooden screen, about eight or nine feet in height from the floor. 
The nave is separated from the chancel by a wooden partition, on the south side of which is the desk and pulpit, which are adorned with crimson velvet, as is also the altar. The upper part of the partition is neatly ornamented on the side fronting the nave, with three painted tables of the Lord's Prayer and the Belief. Above the Lord's Prayer is painted a dove in glory ; and above the Ten Commandments are the King's Arms ; on each side of which is painted a group of three angels. The doves and angels are on a blue ground. The chancel is built of stone, in a good style, and seems to have been erected by one of the Egertons. 

Upon entering the chancel from the nave, there hangs an hathment, in memory of Mr. Tollet against the north wall. Arms: cheeky, argent and azure, on a chevron engrailed Or, thrde anchors azure; on a chief gules, a lion passant argent (Tollet). It has an escutcheon of pretence argent, bearing on a chevron azure, three garbs Or (Cradocke). Crest : a tower surmounted by a pyramid azure, round which appears, coiled and descending, a serpent proper, langued, gules. Motto : " Prudentia in Adversis." 

At the east end of the chancel are mural monuments. That on the north wall is the most ancient : it contains two small Ionian columns, the bases and capitals of which have been gilt. These columns support an entablature, the middle part of which is heightened by a circular arch or round pediment. At the top, above each column, is a shield, each bearing the same arms, viz. Gules, a fess ermine between three arrow heads argent, and between the two in chief is a crescent of the same for difference. The entablature, small columns, and the member or part upon which the columns are supported, form a kind of niche, by projecting about nine inches from the wall, within which are a small male and female image in a devotional attitude, with a desk between them, on each side of which is a book open. Behind the female is a third figure, a female, and smaller than the other two. Above these figures, on the back ground, are three coats of arms. 

On the south wall, is a modern marble monument, having the arms of Toilet on a shield at the top; below which, on a white tablet, is inscribed ; 

" In the Year 1768, George Tollet, Esq. Erected this to the Memory of His Mother Mrs. ELIZABETH TOLLET, and His Grandfather GEORGE TOLLET, Esq. 

Commissioner of the Navy in The Reigns of King William and Queen Anne. They both died in a very advanced age, And are buried in a vault beneath 

The opposite Monument. "

Also in the same vault lieth interr'd The body of the above-named George Tollet The younger, Esq. who died upon the 22nd day of October 1779, in the 46th year of his age. He was learned and charitable." 

A tomb-stone in the church-yard contains the following inscription : 

" This memorial of regard for an old and faithful servant was made by a gentleman, who, together with the relations and neighbours of Edward Bate, 
lamented his death on the 1st day of May, 1776, aged 63. Though he was deaf and dumb from his birth, he acquired remarkable knowledge in gardening and rural improvements." 

There are several tables of benefactions to the poor of this parish hung up in different parts of the Church, for distributing bread and clothing, and for instructing the poor children of Betley. William Palmer, a native of Betley, left the sum of £73. in the hands of trustees, to be disposed of, at their discretion, for the best use of the poor. It is now applied to apprenticing poor children of the inhabitants of Betley. 

The tower is built of stone, has a parapet wall at the top, and on each of the four angles has been placed a plain urn. The vane is perforated with 1713, which was the time, we presume, when it was built. 

The living is a curacy in the patronage of George Tollet, Esq. and the Rev. Isaac Pennington is curate. Queen Anne's bounty as obtained for it, in 1717; when the Right Hon. William Lord Powlett and others gave 20 acres of common ground, to the value of £200. towards the augmentation. 

Though Betley Church in appearance is inferior to many in the neighbourhood, yet it deserves more especial notice as affording a specimen of the manner in which the ancients made their first attempts, in their progress towards forming the pointed arch and groins, now so much admired for contributing to the grandeur and ornament, of what is called the Gothic style.* 

The parish of Betley contains 143 houses, 151 families ; 359 males, 402 females : total, 761 persons.