Photograph by kind permission and
© of Frances Holcroft 2010
The foundation of the Parish Church is usually dated from the seventh century and it is believed that at that early date a structure of wood occupied the site of the present church. . The first distinct historical mention of the church is in the Domesday Book. It was then the church of “Walintune Hundred”, dedicated to “St. Elfin”, and had the usual endowment of one carucate.
From the Valor Beneficiorum made by order of Pope Nicholas IV, and in 1291, we learn that Warrington was originally the head of an ancient deanery, and that a rural dean and chapter regularly assembled here. Ten parished were usually allotted to a deanery, and Manchester and Warrington were chosen for the distinction. The parished allotted to Warrington were Prescot, Childwall, Walton, Sephton, Ormskirk, Winwick and Wigan.
The earliest ecclesiastic of whom we have any mention as being connected with the church is “Rob’to (Robert) Clerico de Werrentona who signed a charter in the reign of Richard I about 1185. Though styled “clerk” he was probably rector. First to be described as rector is Jordan de Hulton, “rectore ecclesiae” who signed a deed about 1250. From 1298 when William de Sonky became rector, the list is fairly complete.
The fabric of the church has several points of interest. The chancel, which extends east of the tower, was built about 1358 and is in the early English style. Underneath is the crypt, unused and lost sight of for two centuries, but now restored. The Boteler and Patten chapels have interesting memorials of the Boteler, Massey and Patten families, the former having a splendidly decorated and famous tomb with recumbent effigies hand-in-hand of Sir John Boteler and his lady.
During the period of the Civil War the church was besieged by the Parliamentary troops and suffered much in the process. The Mote Hill, on the site of which a Training College was built, offered a point of vantage to the besiegers and from it they poured a damaging fire of cannon shot, marks of which may still be traced in the chancel wall. The siege took place in 1643 and inflicted severe damage upon the square tower which then surrounded the church. The tower remained in it’s battered condition for more than fifty years and was rebuilt in 1696. At the time of the Reformation the church appears to have been rich in heraldic decoration, for in the Harleian Manuscripts are preserved two elaborate descriptions of them made in 1572 by Erdeswicke, and in 1610 by Randle Holme.
The south aisle of the present structure was built in 1833 by the Rev. And Hon. Horace Powys, and the nave, Boteler and Massey chapels, tower and spire by the Rev. William Queckett 1859-1867. The removal of the organ and erection of screen to the Boteler chapel has greatly added to the appearance and impressiveness of the interior.
Missions in connection with St Elphin’s were St. George’s in Brick Street now demolished and St Clement’s in Bank Street, also demolished.
This beautiful church is well worth a visit and many of the old grave stones have been used as outside paving stones so, as a visitor, you would find yourself walking over some ancient and interesting head stones, maybe discovering some of those elusive ancestors