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B&W of a couple entering the church, greeted by the priest

Pre-20th Century

Following the death of Queen Elizabeth 1 in 1603, Sir Thomas Bold who was at that time a friend of the then Archbishop of Canterbury) gave ‘in gratitude’ the site for a new chapel in Burtonwood.  The Chapel was constructed from timber and daub (we know this because remains of the old building which were found when the circular apse at the East End of the church was added during the reign of Queen Victoria). 


On 27th September 1605 Burton Wood Chapel was dedicated by The Bishop of Chester as a house of prayer.  The Consecration Deed written in Latin still exists.  At that time, Burton Wood was part of the Warrington Parish (in the Diocese of Lancashire) and the first vicar Thomas Hindle was responsible for reading the Divine Office; but as this was a simple Chapel, albeit with a school attached, sacramental services such as Holy Communion, were held at ‘Warrington Church’ (St Elphin’s) which was the parish church.  


Local people were mostly buried in St. Elphin’s churchyard and most of the christenings were held there too as the registers from St Elphin’s going back to 1592 show.


The records show that on 20th July 1690 the house of a Peter Gaskell was licensed as a meeting place for ‘Dissenting Protestants’ not happy with how things were being done in the Church of England which suggests that although small, Burtonwood already had a diversity of educated believers.


By 1716 the timber and daub building had stood for over a hundred years and provided both a sanctuary ‘house of prayer’ for local people and also a school; however surprisingly little is known about what lay behind the decision to build St Michael & All Angels Church in a new stone building on the same site as the old Burton Wood Chapel. 


The registers record that in 1716, 18 baptisms took place.  The name of the church may have changed around this time too, from Burton Wood Chapel to St Michael & All Angels Church, possibly chosen because the original dedication had taken place at Michaelmas (St Michael’s Day) in 1605.  Nothing exists that tells us when Burton Wood became a parish in its own right or became the parish of Burtonwood & Collins Green.  


The first Register for Marriages at St Michael’s is dated 1683 – 1750 it is not clear whether the weddings before 1683 took place elsewhere or were simply not recorded.   


The first person to be buried in St Michael’s churchyard was interred on 29 Oct 1697 the record is entered exactly as : Mossess Shaw -Occupation: Collier, Cause of Death: Kild in the coal pitt.  There is then a gap of almost ninety years before any further burials were recorded. What happened during the gap isn’t clear but it is likely that either there was no one at Burtonwood responsible for the upkeep of the registers or, to avoid paying taxes the burials took place elsewhere.


A brief glimpse into the records shows that life was not easy, people worked hard and died young – but the cycle of marriages, baptisms and burials has continued ever since. 


The current (original) stone building has been standing for over 300 years on the same site at the heart of the village and we get an idea of this building’s history when we remember that it was here before the Battle of Culloden, John & Charles Wesley’s ministries, Handel’s Water Music, Bonnie Prince Charlie claiming the British throne,  Capt. Cook’s expedition aboard ‘Endeavour’, the storming of the Bastille, the abolition of the slave trade, the battles of Trafalgar and Waterloo and the Luddite rebellion.  


20th Century Onwards

The war memorial plaque, B&W

The War Memorial

First section of a written note
Second section of the written note
Extended south face of the church, B&W

Newly extended south face, 1939

Two builders in a trench next to the church wall, newspaper cutout

Under pining in the 80s

Tower and vestries, B&W

Tower and Vestries built in 1939

The twentieth century brought its own share of heartache and worry, the First World War was fought, the young men went away and many did not come back and in 1921 Captain Fredrick Jardine Barnish was commissioned by the Civil Parish to design and build a war memorial. This was incorporated into a new lych gate and dedicated on 7th May 1921.  At the time, no one envisaged that the names would be added to less than forty years later.  They didn’t call it the First World War at the time, because they did not know there would be a second.    


By 1932 the top of the old Tower was not safe and had to be taken down.  Then after much consideration of the future of the church building and a few anxious years, finally in 1936 restoration started and the South Wall (Chapel Lane side) was taken down and an extension with a new aisle was added.  A new tower was also built in which housed the ancient bell and parish clock.  The font used for Baptism /Christenings was moved into the main body of the church and the choir and priest’s vestries were added in the west end (tower end). 


The interior was refurnished in oak; including a new altar, pulpit, lectern and pews.  The organ, the gift of St Michael’s Church, Blundellsands, Liverpool, was also installed.  New stained-glass windows were put in on the north and south sides; in these are shown the crests of the notable families connected with Burtonwood in the past.  The church building was re-opened on the 30th September 1939 just three of weeks after the outbreak of the Second World War.


A transcript of the Bishop’s sermon on that day gives insight into how different, light and bright the Church looked.... it must have been a huge change and he encourages the congregation with the words ‘you will grow to love this place again...’ and they did!


A note to Mr Forshaw from one of the guests in 1939 makes reference to the involvement of the Forshaw family (who owned Burtonwood Brewery) who were very generous benefactors of money and land to St Michael's over many years. 

The Bishop in his sermon was very forward thinking when he said 


     You will come to love this building for its own sake and for the sake of Him who makes it His dwelling place.  Hold fast to your worship Sunday by Sunday. 

     Be steadfast in work, always abound in the work of the church, for the church must ever be at work. We have a duty in these broken days to be ever at work with those families in new homes, to draw them into the family life of the church.

      Be steadfast and unmovable. Whatever may come or go hold fast to your church.  Lift up your hearts and be of good cheer. 

     Well may we rejoice and be glad, and when dark clouds of war gather over our heads here, at least, is a ray of sunshine.  We are glad encouragement has been given to Burtonwood people to be steadfast and to hold fast by God and His Church whatever trials may be ahead, and to determine at all costs to hand on to those who will come after them in this place, a living Christian faith.  Be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.  


And so, from the entries in the registers and handwritten records that exist, a picture has developed of a small church in a small place which had been given in gratitude to people for whom the Parish Church of

St Elphin’s in Warrington was described as ‘inconveniently’ placed by the early years of the 17th century.  


In the 18th century it was rebuilt as a stone building to serve a slightly larger population amongst whom were Dissenting Protestants who didn't wanted to worship the Anglican way! 


Then in the 19th century in the reign of Queen Victoria along came the renowned Reverend Mitchell with a vision for a new church to be built and other Victorians who described the building as painfully plain with a dull and monotonous boundary wall, windows that didn’t let the light in and nave walls that were in need of a clean


Against that background, the fact that the building survived to the 20th century is almost miraculous-but it did!  And for that we thank not only God but also the people of St Michael’s who seem to have spent fifty years (from the mid 1930’s to the mid 1980’s) rebuilding and re-imagining the church and churchyard to what we have today. 


All through the records there are references to the importance of the homes and the families that live in Burtonwood.  For example, in his sermon after the re-hallowing of St Michael’s at Michaelmas in 1939 the Bishop said ‘always abound in the work of the church, for the church must ever be at work.  We have a duty in these broken days to be ever at work with families, to draw them into the family life of the church’.  


In the 21st century we have the same vision and continue in our duty to the people of the parish in these broken days.  We also have much to be grateful for.  This is still a ‘house of prayer’ a place of sanctuary and learning at the very heart of the parish and it is worthy of our gifts and efforts.  Now, we can stand on the shoulders of the giants who have gone before us and look forward to an even better future, recognising that we have as our heritage a building that is simple, elegant and beautiful, surrounded by a tranquil, green, leafy churchyard that is a lovely place to take our rest; and as the Bishop in 1939 told us we must be, we are  determined at all costs to hand on to those who will come after us, a beautiful building that they will come to love and a living Christian faith. 

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