Building commenced in 1280 and was completed in 1390. (Interruption due to the Black Death of 1349 – 1369). It is probable that there was an earlier Chapel on the site connected with Combermere Abbey.
Constructed from red sandstone on a cruciform plan with an octagonal tower standing just over 100 ft high astride the Crossing and containing a ring of eight bells.
The South Porch was added in the late 15th or early 16th centuries and in the 1570s the nave roof was raised and clerestory windows inserted. The transept ceilings were also renewed.
In the early 17th C the nave floor was raised about 18 inches because of flooding.
In the 19th C the church had fallen into a state of disrepair and was considered unsafe.
A national collection raised funds for restoration and between 1855 and 1861 extensive restoration was undertaken under the guidance of Sir George Gilbert Scott.
This including the replacement of the old box pews with the present pews, removal of the galleries and of the organ (installed in the centre of the crossing in 1809).
The Chancel and Sanctuary is particularly fine dating from the 14th C.
The stone lierne vaulted ceiling contains 70 stone bosses depicting the life of Mary and the Birth, Death and Resurrection of Jesus and also a representation of the Green Man, one of several in the church.The reredos is a 20thC addition and depicts wooden carved figures of the Crucifixion, the Virgin Mary,St John, and the four patron saints of the United Kingdom; Saints George, Andrew, Patrick and David.On the south wall is a piscina and three sedilia.
The choir stalls, dating from 1390, feature elaborately carved misericords beneath
triple arched canopies.
A small doorway on the north wall of the Sanctuary leads to a ‘half cellar’ housing the central heating boiler, above which (at mezzanine level) is the Priests Vestry
The South Transept
The South Transept houses the organ, installed in 1893, an effigy of Sir David Craddock who died in 1390 and a large alabaster monument to Sir Thomas Smith and his wife Dame Anne dated 1614 which was moved to this site from Wybunbury Church when the latter was demolished in 1982.
The Crossing features a 15th C stone pulpit with perpendicular tracery. It is described as one of the finest medieval stone pulpits in country. The choir stalls were installed in 1878. The mosaic and marble floor of the Crossing and the Chancel was laid to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.
The North Transept.
The northern portion is separated by an arch from the body of the transept.This area was formerly known as the Lady Chapel. It contains a piscina and an aumbry and a host oven where communion wafers were once baked. The demarcation is now reinforced by a wooden screen slightly above head height. The area houses the sacristy and the choir vestry. Currently the wardens and housekeepers also operate from this cramped area the latter sharing a small hand basin with the sacristan.
Many beautiful stained glass windows enrich the church ranging from fragments of original 14th C glass to the Borne window installed in 1984. The West window was installed in 1875 replacing a “Scott” window of perpendicular medieval design disliked by the congregation.
The wooden Jacobean Pulpit is all that remains of the origin double- decker pulpit (1601) which once stood by the eastern column of the North Aisle forming part of the Pew Gallery running all round the Nave and removed by Gilbert Scott.
The West Door A re-ordering of the West End was completed in 2016 to establish a more welcoming visual connection with the Town Centre. An internal porch with glass doors was constructed allowing the rather foreboding oak doors to be left open during the day. This had the additional advantage of creating space for toilets and storage, a long time objective of the Church.
The West Door
A re-ordering of the West End was completed in 2016 to establish a more welcoming visual connection with the Town Centre. An internal porch with glass doors was constructed allowing the rather foreboding oak doors to be left open during the day. This had the additional advantage of creating space for toilets and storage, a long time objective of the Church.
The South Porch
(a 16th C addition) is thought to have once served as a priest’s lodging. The majority of the ground floor area (20 sq meters) is taken up by the entrance hall. This has double glass doors from the exterior and matching double glass doors into the Nave. These are both electrically operated. The groined stone ceiling is 19th C. A narrow doorway (width 60 cm) leads into a small room (6 sq meters) with evidence of a fireplace. This room currently serves as the shop. A very narrow spiral staircase leads to an upper floor which formerly contained a library containing many ancient books. Due to the impossibility of maintaining ambient conditions suitable for the preservation of these valuable artefacts, in 2008 they were transferred to the John Rylands’ University Library in Manchester where the books are contained together. Current use of the ‘library’ due to the difficulty of access, is for storage of items which are infrequently used
The High Altar Table bears an inscription commemorating its donation to the church in 1638: it was probably old at the time.
Subsidiary altars are situated in both the South Transept (St Nicholas Chapel) and in the North Transept(St Georges Chapel) The North transept accommodates an oak “Dole Chest” dated 1676, formerly used for the distribution of bread, an “oak settle” dated 1731. There are also two stone grave slabs related to the crusades (11th ,12th and 13thCs) known as the crusaders’ stones, some hollowed out tree trunks which were used as water pipes following the great fire of 1583 and various other artefacts.
The brass lectern is dated 1853.
The eight sided Caen stone font was introduced by Gilbert Scott in 1855
The Jubilee Curtain
The Jubilee Curtain was commissioned in 1976 to commemorate Queen Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee and created by our Tapestry Group. The curtain now hangs either side of the new glass doors. The Tapestry Group has also produced a unique collection of elaborately decorated kneelers throughout the Church.
See here for an article on flying the flag from St Mary’s tower.
The Church Clock
See here for an article on St Mary’s clock ‘Telling the solemn message of the flight of time’.
The Nantwich Parish Church Preservation Appeal Trust exists to raise funds for the restoration and repair of the fabric of the building.