Holmes Chapel - A Brief Village History

Holmes Chapel, also known as Church Hulme, was originally called Hulme, derived from Hulm or Holm, meaning rising ground. Before the reign of Edward II, it was possessed by a family (still extant) which took the local name, and held it under the Barony of Halton.

It continued a long time under the Hulmes and in old deeds they were referred to as Lords of Hulme. Through the years the land was held in portions by various people, including the Crannach and the Cotton families, the Bulkeleys and the Mainwarings, along with the Hulmes.

About the year 1670, it was sold in small portions. Thus in 1671, it is stated that in Church Hulme, or Hulmes Chappell, the Lord Kilmorey, as Sir Robert Needham had been created in 1625 "Lord of the towne" and there were a number of freeholders.

On 24th June 1760, the then Viscount Kilmorey sold his estates here to the trustees of Thomas Bayley Hall of the Hermitage, then a minor. Described as "the manor or lordship of Holmes Chapel, containing about 370 acres and sundry messuages and other buildings in the village of Holmes Chapel." A large portion was purchased by the Rev. Thomas Hodges and others by Lawrence Armitstead. J. Morton Toler, who married Miss Hodges, was also a landowner in the township and lived at Saltersford Hall.

(Largely taken from "A Short History of Holmes Chapel" by Mrs G Matthews, "Portrait of Cheshire" by David Bethell, and, "The Buildings of England - Cheshire" by Nikolaus Pevsner and Edward Hubbard)

St. Luke's Church, Holmes Chapel, Cheshire

The Church, the Civil War & the Fire of 1753

The church was originally a half-timbered one of about 1400, dedicated in 1430. As in so many other casesthe outer shell needed renewing, so the brick walls were added in 1705, when the roof was raised so that a gallery could be added on the south side which is still used on special occasions to this day.

The church has a stone perpendicular tower with crenallations, buttresses and pinnacles. On the tower is a clock with its faces set in wooden diamonds on the north and south sides. On the south side of the church are steps up to the gallery. The brickwork of the doorways has been thoughtfully done with an arch and pediment motif.

Inside is quite a different building. The brickwork is revealed to be only the casing for the frame of a mediaeval timber chapel. The nave roof, which was hidden for many years above a later ceiling, is a quite magnificent structure. Its obtuse arches are supported on octagonal wooden pillars. The wavy struts and braces give the roof a pleasingly ornate and loose appearance. Above the west door is a wooden screen dated 1623; and at the west end of the south aisle is a tablet to William Arthur Hodges "captain in the 47th regt." who, "having been twice wounded in the battle of Vittoria, fell at the storming of St Sebastion in Spain" in 1813, aged 26. A brass chandelier of 1708 hangs above the centre aisle.

Most of the graveyard has been grassed over, and the stones have been laid together to form paths round the church. The memorial to those from the village who died in the two world wars lies in the grassed area on the north side of the church. There is also on that side, a thorn bush, one of two which were brought back from Glastonbury by Canon J. T. Vale.

The Civil War

The church registers for 1643 show the following:

Thomas Rowlinson, buried the 27th of December, 1643 - Sillito, slain and buried the 29th of December, 1643 ("both slaine")

There was a skirmish in the Square on St Stephen's Day, 26th December, between the Royalists and the Parliamentary Army. The latter, marching from Nantwich towards Middlewich, Holmes Chapel and Sandbach, met with the Royal Troops who held the village Square, whence they were dislodged. A closer examination of the brickwork on the north side of the church tower reveals evidence of the effects of musket fire, quite possibly as a result of that skirmish.

The Fire

Between 10 and 11 on the morning of 10th July 1753 tragedy struck the village when a fire broke out which burnt down 18 of the 20 houses. Only two cottages behind the church, the Red Lion Inn and the church itself escaped, but the lime trees in the churchyard were scorched. Some of the people were at Northwich Fair at the time and came back to find their homes and possessions destroyed.

The surviving cottages are still to be seen today forming part of a crescent of houses behind the church.

(Largely taken from "A Short History of Holmes Chapel" by Mrs G Matthews, "Portrait of Cheshire" by David Bethell, and, "The Buildings of England - Cheshire" by Nikolaus Pevsner and Edward Hubbard)

The Railway

There is a station at Holmes Chapel on the railway line from Crewe to Manchester; it is a small modern building on the east of the village, just below the road, adjacent to the Swan public house. The line separates the village, which has been steadily enlarged since the opening of the railway (in 1842) with succeeding growth rings of housing, from an area of light industry facing Manor Farm.

The northern boundary of Holmes Chapel is the Dane, which the railway crosses by a great viaduct of twenty-three 63-foot brick spans, built 1840-1 by G.W. Buck taking the line up to 105 feet above the river. It took ten years to build the viaduct and during that time the population of Holmes Chapel rose from 406 in 1831 to 1008 in 1841. Then in 1851 it dropped to 555. There were 130 men and their families housed mainly in a shanty town in the valley. One of the two houses on Saltersford Bank was made into a pub for the workers.

(Largely taken from "A Short History of Holmes Chapel" by Mrs G Matthews, "Portrait of Cheshire" by David Bethell, and, "The Buildings of England - Cheshire" by Nikolaus Pevsner and Edward Hubbard)

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N.B. Please note that all photographs on this page are copyright Alan Rickards.