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Neville Malkin's "Grand Tour" of the Potteries

buildings South of the Potteries

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contents: index of buildings south of the Potteries

No 1 - Holy Trinity Church, Eccleshall

Eccleshall - a town in North Staffordshire, it is located seven miles north west of Stafford, six miles west of Stone and twelve miles south of Stoke-on-Trent.

According to the Domesday Book, Eccleshall in 1086 was no more than a small village of about one hundred inhabitants.

A few fragments of stone at the base of the tower of the present Parish Church of Holy Trinity suggest that a stone church was in existence about this time and the base of the 10th century cross still stands outside the church.

The oldest part of the church , the pillars and arches of the nave were begun in 1180 while the remainder of the church was completed during the 13th century, with a fine clerestory being added in the 15th century. 

The tombs of five Bishops of Lichfield lie in the church, that of William Overton beside the altar being particularly notable.


 Holy Trinity Church, Eccleshall
 Holy Trinity Church, Eccleshall
pen drawing by Neville Malkin - December 1975


"By the side of the once-busy London-Chester coach road and serving the second largest parish in the county is the church of Holy Trinity, Eccleshall, a building considered one of the finest examples of 13th century architecture in Staffordshire.

It appears that a church was founded on or near this site at a very early date and it is possible that Eccleshall was among the estates given to St. Chad, first Bishop of Lichfield, by King Wulfhere of Mercia in the 7th century. The name Eccleshall evokes religious associations. In Domesday it appears as Ecleshelle, "ecles" a Romano-British word for church, and "halh" a Mercian word for land by the river. There is no existing evidence of these early churches, which were probably timber, but a few stones from the Norman church remain.

The present church is mainly authentic Early English with a great deal of original work by the architect G. E. Street who restored it in 1866-9. The west tower with its Y-tracery windows and the long chancel with its side lancets are all Early English. Street added the north and south vestries and also rebuilt the perpendicular south porch as well as being responsible for many later additions. To the left and right of a vestry window are two fragments of a Saxon cross with a carving that many believe to be of St. Chad.

Many of the monuments commemorate the Bishops of Lichfield who lived in state at the nearby castle, which was an Episcopal palace until the 1870s. Among those interred are Bishop Sampson 1554, Bishop Bentham 1578, Bishop Overton 1609, and Bishop Bowstead 1843.

None of the bishops can have been more arrogant than James Cornwallis, the last bishop of the 18th century, who, instead of taking the short walk from the castle grounds to the adjoining churchyard, would insist on being driven by four horses through the village to the church gates, from where he would solemnly march to the church doors, bewigged and hat in hand; after the service no-one was allowed to leave the church before him. In fact he left Eccleshall for Richmond in Surrey after taking exception to a turnpike being built near his gate."

Neville Malkin 3rd December 1975


 Holy Trinity Church, Eccleshall
 Holy Trinity Church, Eccleshall

photo: Richard Styles  January 2007
and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence


Eccleshall from Whites 1851 gazetteer...

is one of the largest and most fertile parochial districts in Staffordshire. It extends from 5 to 11 miles N. W. of Stafford, and comprises within its limits the seat of the Bishop of Lichfield, with many other handsome villas; the market town of Eccleshall, a considerable number of hamlets and scattered houses; and upwards of 20,000 acres of land, watered by the river Sow and its tributary streams, and swelling into bold undulations, highly cultivated and well clothed with wood.

It is divided into 21 townships or liberties, which support their poor conjointly, except Chapel and Hill Chorlton, which maintain their poor separately from the rest of the parish, which is divided into four quarters, for each of which an overseer is appointed annually, to collect the poor rates, &c.; but a managing overseer and a head constable are also appointed for the whole.

The Bishop is lord of the manor, and holds a court leet, to receive the amercements, &c. of the cottagers who have enclosed land from the wastes, and an acknowledgment of one penny from every householder, whether a freeholder or not. The officers appointed by the jury of the court leet are two constables, four headboroughs, and a clerk of the market for Eccleshall; and one headborough for each of the twenty out-townships.

R. H. Hand, Esq., of Stafford, is the manor steward; and Mr. Jas. Wood is the manor bailiff. The Earl of Lichfield and many other owners have estates in this extensive parish, which contains 20,930 acres, but only 4730 inhabitants,..... They ,are all in Stone Union and County Court District, except Chapel and Hill Chorlton, which are in Newcastle-under-Lyme Union and County Court District.

ECCLESHALL is a small but ancient and well built market town, pleasantly situated in a picturesque valley, on the south, side of a small stream, which flows eastward to the Sow; 7 miles N.W. by W. of Stafford, 6 miles S.W. of Stone, and 3 miles W.S.W. of Norton Bridge Railway Station.

It gives name to a deanery, and a petty sessional and polling district in the Northern Division of Staffordshire and Pirehill Hundred; and has been much improved during the present century, by the erection of new buildings on the sites of old ones. Its market is held every Friday, and is well supplied with corn and provisions. It has also four annual cattle fairs, held on the Thursday before Mid-lent Sunday, on Holy Thursday, on August 16th, and on the first Friday in November. The feast or wake is on Trinity Sunday.

Many of the inhabitants are shoemakers, employed by the manufacturers at Stone. Eccleshall township comprises 1850 acres and 1439 inhabitants.

A correspondent of Pitt carries back the antiquity of Eccleshall to the year A.D. 60, when Vespasian, the general of a Roman army then in Britain, is said to have built a town or fort here, which, from a Roman standard flying on its battlements, was called "Eagle's Hall".

The same authority says, the temple of Jove, built here by the Romans, was afterwards consecrated as a Christian church, which was rebuilt in 661, but was destroyed nine years afterwards by Wulfere, King of Mercia, who, in 670, "whilst at his castle at Uttoxeter, was informed that his two sons, Ulfred and Rufin, under pretence of hunting, were gone to Eccleshall, to Bishop Chad, to be baptised and instructed in the Christian religion. The King, being instigated by his concubine Werebode, hastened to Eccleshall, and finding his sons in the church, in divine contemplation, he slew them both with his own hand, and then destroyed the edifice. Queen Erminilda, the mother of the two royal martyrs, took their bodies and buried them in a certain place not far from Eccleshall, and built a monastery over them; and, from the great quantity of stones collected for this building, the place was called Stones, now Stone, a market town in this county. King Wulfere afterwards repented, rebuilt Eccleshall church, and all others which he had destroyed, and was very favourable to the Christians, but died without a heir. His brother Etheldred succeeded him in his kingdom; then Eccleshall began to flourish, and became so famous and populous, that it had five parish churches and two chapels in it.

This prosperity continued nearly three centuries and a half; but a sudden reverse took place in the year 1010, when the Danes laid Eccleshall town and castle, and all its churches, in ashes by fire. It lay in ruins till 1090, when Elias de Jantonice, prebendary of Eccleshall, rebuilt the old church, and dedicated it to the Holy Trinity." The church is said to have been again renovated by Bishop Clinton. It is a large and handsome fabric, with a lofty tower, in which are six hells and a clock. The chancel and the north side, being much decayed, were rebuilt in 1829, the former at the expense of the impropriators, except the large and beautiful stained glass window, which was purchased by subscription...."

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