History of St Bartholomew’s
There has been a church on the present site since the 13th century when it was probably
built by Sir Richard Fitton, who held the Manor of Bollin. The first evidence of
its existence is in the year 1264, but the church that we see today is substantially
the product of the rebuilding undertaken by Henry Trafford, Rector between 1517 and
1537. It may well be that all that remains of the original church is the crypt beneath
the chancel, although it is possible that the base of the tower, built in the 15th
century, survived the subsequent rebuilding. The tower is the oldest part of a Church
that extended only to somewhere near the steps to the Chancel.
So what about the crypt, with its 14th century sedilla in the rear wall and the spiral staircase down from by the high altar? The site chosen for the original church was a mound with steep sides sticking out towards the river If you walk down Cliff road from the Lych gate, there is a retaining wall built of large stones. As you walk past the East end of the Church the boundary wall suddenly changes to a Victorian wall built of much smaller stones, a stretch of which we recently rebuilt. At this point the wall is about two metres high above the pavement.. This large stone wall is part of the original boundary wall of the churchyard.
The Victorian wall was constructed when the graveyard was extended in 1862 and the river diverted To extend the new chancel, its east end would have been very near the edge of the hillock or even over the edge. In order to get down to a safe foundation, the walls had to be taken down well below the level of the church floor; so what an opportunity to form a crypt!
A further clue is the 14th century sedilla or stone seats of a type normally in the side walls of a church but built into the rear wall of the crypt, which would have been built from the stones removed from the old church. A further hint could well be that the crypt does not have a stone roof but a plastered ceiling.
The stone paving to that part of the Chancel over the crypt is on wooden beams. It is also suggested the crypt provided access to the tomb under the memorial to Henry Trafford which is on the boundary between the Chancel and what was the Trafford Chapel, now the Jesus Chapel.
If there was no chancel before 1522 and no side chapels, then the side screens and the chancel screen, as well as the front screens to the side chapels, cannot have come from an earlier church. But to have significant parts of the 1522 screens still in their original positions, is unusual.
It is the Victorian wrappings of those parts that presents the problems! The next area we need to look at is the junction between nave and chancel. The roof of the chancel was frequently lower than that of the nave roof.
This resulting in the need for an external wall to bridge the gap between the different roof levels. One way was to build a chancel arch forming a stone bridge between the two sides of the nave, then to build the wall on this stone bridge. But this solution was not selected.
There is still one church in Cheshire with a tympanum in place, St Michael’s, Baddiley, where the tympanum is still in place over the screen. The Church is smaller than St Bartholomew’s with the chancel having a lower roof than the nave. Here the tympanum rises with a timber frame over the nave screen and forms the external wall in the gap between the chancel and nave roof levels. The wooden framework is in-
The other feature is that the screen has no bottom panels and no indications that there ever were panels. Another feature is that the box pews run tight up to the screen but are independent of it. Just like the box pews shown in the photograph of St Barts in 1862. Had there been a chancel arch in St. Barts., then there would have been no need to construct one, as was done in the 1863 works.
This screen is shown in the second of our series of photographs (available in Church) of the junction between nave and chancel with the new stone infill wall filling the gap between chancel roof and nave roof.
So was the pre 1862 photograph of the screen with its tympanum a photograph of the screen installed in 1522? There is no record in the church registers of rebuilding the screen with its tympanum. But our Tractarian forebears were determined to look for a past of which we have no evidence in Wilmslow -
Jesus Chapel altar
Henry Trafford’s sarcophogas is on the right