I’d parked the car in Wigsey Lane to take the pictures of the thatcher guy, it’s just off the busy road through the village that gets so clogged with traffic at busy times. Returning to the car I saw a sign pointing to Warburton Old Church. Warburton has two churches, both dedicated to St Werburgh. She was a local Anglo Saxon princess, the daughter of pagan King Penda, who became a nun. Most saints came to a sticky end but St Werburgh just led a blameless life and died as a devout Christian. She’s the patron saint of Chester and the cathedral was dedicated to her. Warburton is thought to be a corruption of the original name of this settlement, Werburghstune, named after the Saint.
There is a Victorian church dedicated to Saint Werburgh on Bent Lane. It’s an attractive building that the locals use for worship usually. It’s a typical grand Victorian church and is Grade II listed. I’m not sure why they decided to move the church to Bent Lane. Usually the Victorians ‘improved’ existing churches, enlarging them and incorporating older buildings into a new building, like they did with Manchester Cathedral.
Maybe the old church site was too awkward or the Victorians actually recognised this special, unique building. It’s now Grade I listed, putting it on a par, architecturally, with St Paul’s Cathedral in London. I’d never seen this church before. It was a revelation, so beautiful and it was good to see it on a spring day at the height of the daffodil season with the peaceful churchyard full of those flowers and the last of the purple crocuses.
There was a Saxon church on the site. That has long gone sadly but this church dates back to the 13th century. At least the back part is with its crooked, half timbered and stone walls. In 1711 the red brick tower and simple façade was added. It’s a ‘dogs dinner’ of a building with its clashing styles, materials and ages but it hangs together so well. I’m intrigued by the little arch in the wall in the third picture following.
This is the gate to the churchyard.
The churchyard was full of ancient yew trees. I’m not an expert but I think these could be over a 1000 years old and could have been there when the Saxon church stood here. Yew trees were useful in the olden days as their wood is strong and bendy and perfect for making long bows, an important weapon in those days. The problem with yew is every part of the tree is poisonous to anything that eats it. You wouldn’t want your animals munching on any of it so it was kept away from the village where farm animals might roam. The only place the farm animals couldn’t get to was the churchyard because it was, usually, the only building in the village with a wall around. So the useful yews would be planted there.
I got talking to a lady in the churchyard. She had come to visit her mother who had been buried there a few weeks ago at the grand age of 95. She had also come to visit her daughter who had been buried here in 2003 at the far too early age of 21. She told me she had been a poorly child and the doctors said she wouldn’t reach 5, so all the extra years were a bonus. We chatted for a while and decided this was a lovely place to end your days.