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Neville Malkin's "Grand Tour" of the Potteries

buildings in Fenton
 


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No 99 -  Christchurch & Church Terrace, Fenton

the original 'Fenton New Church,' built in 1838-9,
the original 'Fenton New Church,' built in 1838-9, 

showing the tower with a west entrance, and a south aisle of five bays, built in the style of Gothic revival.

[Reproduced by permission of the 
Trustees of the William Salt Library, Stafford]

 

 

Christchurch, Fenton

Christchurch, Fenton
pen drawing by Neville Malkin - September 1975

 

Christchurch, Fenton
Christchurch, Fenton
photo: November 2011


 

 

"The history of Christ Church, Fenton, is somewhat shrouded in mystery, with normally reliable sources offering various dates for the building. But, from all the evidence, I have compiled a series of events which I think is reasonably accurate.

It would appear that its origins go back to 1835 when a wealthy Fenton man, Ralph Bourne, left in his will a sum of money for a church to be erected in Fenton. 

For the purpose of building, 2,500 was placed in the hands of the trustees, Viscount Sandon and the Rev. R. Bourne Baker, with a further 1,000 provided for its endowment. He also left his nephew, John Baker, two acres of land upon an implied trust for the site and cemetery. The amount outstanding on the church, which cost 3,000, was settled by Mrs. Baker, sister of the late Mr. Bourne.

The church was built mainly from brick with Gothic doors and windows and had a tower crowned with battlements and stone pinnacles. It must have been a fairly large church as its interior measured 66ft. by 44ft.; it had galleries supported by iron pillars, and room for more than 700 private and 300 free sittings. It was consecrated in January, 1839.

In 1857, Christ Church was extensively rebuilt; this involved the demolition of the former chancel and its replacement by a new and much larger one, with side aisles and vestry. The galleries were removed, stained glass was placed in the east window, and painted glass in the other windows. Further improvements during 1861-2 included the installation of a reredos.

In 1890-1. final and more extensive rebuilding occurred, and the tower was either restored or rebuilt in 1899.

Between Christ Church and the old school in Fenton stands this pleasant row of Victorian houses, which I considered worth recording, especially as great chunks of the surrounding area have recently fallen victim to the demolition crews. 

 

However. I would like to digress a little and relate an incident that occurred over 800 years ago, not so very far away.

It appears that a Norman, Ormus, Lord of Darlaston, was plaintiff in a writ of right, demanding from Aelfric, a Saxon, possession of territory in Fenton. Aelfric pleaded his right of possession, inherited from his father, Alward, Lord of Fenton. But agreement could not be reached, and the two parties decided to settle the dispute by means of combat on a field close to Great Fenton, probably on land now known as Smiths Pool.

And so, on a May morning in the 1140s, an area of 60ft. square was enclosed with lists. On one side a court was erected for the King's Justiciary, the Earl, Sheriff and Sergeants, who assembled in their colourful robes. A great crowd gathered, and shortly after sunrise came the proclamation for the parties involved and their champions to enter the arena.

Each champion was dressed in body armour, with bare legs and arms, and equipped with quarter-staves about 4ft. long, hard leather shields, and attended by a knight. Aelfric's champion threw down his gauntlet, a challenge the other courteously accepted. They grasped each other by the hands and swore allegiance to their respective lords. The encounter began and the opponents attacked each other with determined resolution. Each attempted to ward off blows with shield or staff, but the vigorous encounter was beginning to tell, and, with their breath and strength failing, the knights and crowd cried, "Cease, give over."

After a short pause the two warriors continued in serious combat. The conflict began to slow and the men, covered in blood, bruises and sweat, were continually separated by their attendant knights. Against a background of encouraging shouts the two exhausted and weary gladiators began to gnaw at each other with their teeth and, with dusk approaching, the contest appeared to be going in Aelfric's favour.

Another pause, and then, suddenly, the champion of Ormus leaped to his feet, and, with amazing effort and strength, dealt a fatal blow to the head of his almost powerless opponent. One blow was enough; it fractured the skull of Aelfric's champion who, in terrible agony, managed to utter "Craven, craven, craven." The court adjourned, the spectators departed, and an early dispute in the history of the Potteries was settled." 

24th September 1975

 

 

 

 

Church Terrace, Christchurch Street, Fenton
Church Terrace, Christchurch Street, Fenton
pen drawing by Neville Malkin - September 1975

 

 

 

 

 

 

Church Terrace, Christchurch Street, Fenton
Church Terrace, Christchurch Street, Fenton

photo: November 2011

 

 

 

 



next: St. John's Church, Longton
previous: Fenton Town Hall
contents: index of buildings in Fenton


 

 

 

 

 

 

Related Pages


Listed building details for Christchurch

Christchurch Fenton - photos, maps and gravestones