St. Mary's Church

by Ian O'Brien, 2014

St. Mary's church has got to be the most recognised building in the local area. It is the only Grade 1 listed building in Cheadle, and although it was built around circa 1510, It actually replaced an earlier church, believed to built in the 11th to 12th century and made out of wood, which unfortunately burned down. St. Mary's exterior hasn't changed since the day it was built over 450 years ago, and it was whilst England was under the tyrannical rule of Henry 8th that the present day church was built, it was he who gave the instructions to carve the Tudor roses on the oak ceiling.  

The first church built there set on fire.


The present-day church is made out of sandstone, with the lower part of the tower being the oldest structure of the church, unsurprisingly, this part of the building needed major restoration work in 1985. The earliest picture of St. Mary's church, shows the tower clocks in 1894 with digits (see the black and white photograph at the top of the page). The new tower clocks were installed in 1988, and each of the east, south and west faces of the clock has a different 12-character motto. The west side (White Hart) says "Trust the Lord" , the south side (porch) says "Forget not God", and on the east side (towards the village) says "Time is Flying"There isn't a  clock on the north side of the tower, overlooking the rear graveyard, as it was considered bad luck at the time! The tower is in three stages with diagonal buttresses, four-light bell openings, and castellated parapet with gargoyles.    


There are two chapels that were erected by local notable families, on the east side of the south aisle is the Brereton Chapel. The other chapel is dedicated to the Savage family. There are three effigies in the Brereton Chapel, two of them alabaster ( a type of mineral) one is John Honford of Handforth, the other wearing the helmet is thought to be Richard Bulkeley, the stone recumbent effigy is likely to be that of Sir Thomas Brereton, on a tomb chest with shields. (click on any of the 4 pictures above to enlarge).

The main body of the church, between the pillars and under the high roof is the nave, and the parts of the building on the outside of the pillars with the sloping roofs are the aisles. Following tradition, the church points east, so the two aisles are described as north and south. The Chancel is the eastern part of the church containing the communion table and the choir seats, or stalls.   


The Anglian Cross is also known as the Cheadle Cross and preaching cross. It's the earliest known existing evidence of a Christian community in Cheadle. In the 10th and 11th centuries, it was virtually unknown for a village to have a church, and villagers therefore usually gathered around a cross to hear the gospel from travelling preachers. 

Records indicate there in 1200, there was a priest called Hamo in Cheadle, so it may be assumed that a church building existed. The preaching cross would no longer have been needed so it probably fell and no-one thought it was worthwhile to re-erect it.  

The pews are oak and were installed during the Victorian restoration from 1875-1882. This was to have uniformed seating rather than the assorted arena seats or forms. 

 The Nave is divided from the aisles by five pointed arches, supported by four plain octagonal columns with similar bases to support the arches.The strange feature about these bases is that those on the south side have three lines of shallow mouldings while those on the north side have four, this might of been due to a small time gap in the construction.

Masons tool marks are visible on all the stonework in the church

The Green Man is a carving on the right-hand side of the church, where the small south arch is next to the chancel wall There are the usual acanthus leaves coming from his mouth and ears.

It is a pagan symbol of Spring, bit folk traditions die hard and examples of the Green Man can be found in churches across Europe!                       

The chancel screen is 16th century, the upper part is Victorian with some fine carving of four tiny faces on each pendant. Looking up, above the chancel screen, there are clearly cut grooves where a rood loft once fitted. In the north wall, the doorway can be seen which led out onto this gallery.

The lower part of the chancel is 16th century, with 19th-century alterations. Both side walls lean outwards, this most probably occurred during construction. The old Tudor roof was taken out and replaced in 1859 (it was coloured in 1981) and the Tudor east window was replaced in 1861       

The eight bells of St. Mary's were initially only three. Six of them were cast in 1749, and bear the inscriptions:

Let the English church prosper

May the Bishopric flourish

Let Schism perish

May heresy be driven away

Let our early faith be restored

Glory to God in the highest

2 other bells, donated in1882 bear the inscriptions:

The Spirit and the Bride say come

Glory to God in the highest           

 The work which was completed in 1882 at a cost of some £10,000 included a new organ built by Hill and Company of London. It's upper framework and pipes were retained when the present organ was rebuilt by Smethhurst of Manchester in the 1960s. Further work has been done more recently.

The Savage Chapel is at the end of the north aisle and was built in 1529 by Sir John Savage and his wife Elizabeth.

At the end of the south aisle is the Brereton Chapel. The screen around was put up by Sir Urian Brereton who also put the original glass in the east window of the chapel about 1525.