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EARLY HISTORY OF PRESTBURY PARISH CHURCH AND MANOR, CHESHIRE.
BY FRANK RENAUD, M.D., F.S.A.
T may be convenient to preface what follows touching the manor and parish church of Prestbury with a statement that, when the estate and advowson of the living came into possession of its present owners in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, all documents and writings relating to it, which had previously been stored up amongst the archives of Saint Werburg's Monastery, at Chester, were surrendered, and have since been carefully preserved. A large majority of these have hitherto escaped investigation, whilst only abbreviated extracts from a few have found their way into print. From out of these writings of a long byegone past it is possible to construct a consecutive and chronologically arranged narrative of events to which they refer, and by so doing. cast additional light on this chapter of Cheshire county history.
That Prestbury was a Church centre in Anglo-Saxon days, subject to the jurisdiction of the ancient see of
Lichfield, goes without saying, the designation “Proestburg" being a sufficient title apart from architectural fragments yet remaining as additional evidence. Any further attempt to penetrate into this remote past would prove futile, in the absence of written testimony. Of its separate and independent existence at the date of the Norman invasion of England there can be as little question, otherwise the early Norman earls of Chester would not have been in a position to cede it to the then recently acquired monastery of St. Werburg, the circumstance of no mention of its existence having been made in the Doomsday Survey in no wise militating against this conclusion.
From this period its written history begins, and for the purposes of this communication is comprehended in thirty deeds and documents, preserved at the hall of Adlington, dating from the reign of Henry II. to that of Queen Elizabeth. The earliest charter in the collection embraces the gift, and is that of Hugh Cyvelioc, fifth earl of Chester, who succeeded his father Randle in 1153, and is as follows: "Hugh, earl of Chester, to his constable, steward, justice, barons, sheriffs, bailiffs, and all his lieges, as well clerical as lay, both French and English, as well present as future, greeting. You shall know that I have given, together with my body, to God and St. Werburg the church of Prestburg, its advowson, and all appurtenances, as freely and peacefully as any of my ancestors ever conferred any eleemosynary to the church of St. Werburg, reserving nothing for myself save prayers, God being my witness and all saints." The attesting witnesses were John, prior of Trentham, Canon Samson, Ralph Mainwaring, Ralph, son of Warim, Gilbert, son of Pincerna, and Robert, his brother. Then follows a note to say this charter was made in the
presence of Matilda, the earl's mother; Bertrad, his wife; and Randle, his heir.
When Randle Blundeville succeeded his father in the earldom, towards the latter end of the twelfth century, he confirmed all the gifts and grants of his predecessors, and that of Prestbury by a special charter, as follows: To all sons of Holy Mother Church, Randle, Earl of Chester, sends greetings. Let all men know that I have ratified the gift of Prestbury Church, with all its appurtenances, in free, pure, and perpetual eleemosynary which my father made to God and St. Werburg of Chester, and to the monks serving God therein, as this my charter witnesses, and in further confirmation whereof I have sealed it with my muniment seal (seal a wolf trottant). In witness whereof are the names following: Philip Orreby, Henry Aldithley, Walter and Robert Davitte, Thomas Plesset, and Thomas Pincerna.
For a further confirmation of their right of advowson the abbot and monks applied to Galfrid, bishop of Lichfield, their spiritual head, from whom they obtained a separate document, sealed with the episcopal seal, affirming that everything in the earl's charter had been done canonically—William, abbot of Leicester; James, prior of Coventry; Ralph, prior of Hykley; Philip (Orreby), justice of Chester, and Henry Aldithley being witnesses to the same.
The names of two signatories to this instrument-viz., those of Galfrid or Geoffrey, bishop of Lichfield, and of Philip Orreby-suffice for affixing the date 1208 to it, seeing that Geoffrey died in this year, and it was the first year in which Philip succeeded to the justiceship of Chester.
Intermediate between the death of Galfrid and his recorded successor, William de Cornhill in 1215, another