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A Brief History of the Church

Welcome to our Parish Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Ellesmere.

The large historic church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Ellesmere, is beautifully situated on the hill overlooking the Mere. God has been worshipped on this site for well over a thousand years.

A Welsh prince, an English king's daughter, crusaders, people who lived in a castle nearby and made advantageous marriages - all played their part in building our lovely church with its fine tower, its Queen of Heaven, its beautiful sedilia, its great oak chest.

There was once a Saxon Cross here, from which the Word of God was preached to the descendants of Effi, the Saxon chieftain after whom Ellesmere was named. If you go to the south side of the church and then look towards the Mere you will see why, with all its beauty, this spot was chosen.

We were here before the Normans: we were here at the time of St Chad (d.672). The oldest parts of the church as you see it today were built in the Middle Ages by the Knights of S John, 13th -15th c.

The first church was probably wooden, with wattle and daub, and by the time of King Edward the Confessor this had become a collegiate church with two priests. A small Norman church built of stone replaced the wooden one, with chancel and nave. In the 13th century the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem became the patrons here, and throughout that century and the 14th they rebuilt the whole church to a much grander design: 13th century sanctuary, chancel and nave, with transepts and side chapels, a north aisle, and a large central tower (Early English). The upper stage of the tower was built in the mid-l5th century - and now holds a ring of eight bells. In the late 15th century the south chapel, S. Anne’s, was extended and embellished to become a Chantry Chapel, with large Perpendicular windows and a carved roof which is one of the finest in Shropshire, with its many quatrefoil panels and roof bosses. Here Sir Francis Kynaston of Oteley across the Mere was buried with his wife in the late 16th century. He was Cup-bearer to Queen Elizabeth I. At the west end is the Ellesmere Charter which the Queen gave to his son.

The north chapel, S. John’s, received its windows and massive plain Tudor roof in the late 15th/early 16th century.

The chancel is paved with Minton tiles, the sanctuary with Belgian marble, the gift of Lord Brownlow.

The mediaeval nave was replaced in the mid-l9th century when it was rebuilt on a larger scale by George Gilbert Scott, with the two aisles. It then seated 800, but with the removal of some pews at the back for the baptistry and choir vestry, and space near the west door, it now holds about 600. The lead roofs of former times have been replaced and repaired. The organ has been restored and rebuilt and relocated to the north transept.

The church is a Grade I listed building and has many features of historical and architectural interest.