All visitors are welcome at St. Paul's.  We would love to show you around our beautiful church, or if you just want to have a chat with someone, whatever your reason to visit us, we will be there for you. 

Groups are also welcome, we will even arrange a cup of tea for you, if you wish.  The church is always open on a Monday (except Bank Holidays) between 10.00am and 12.00noon, so if you are passing, please pop in, any other day, contact our Vicar, Graham or Churchwardens, Joan or Margaret, all their details are on our contacts page and we will be there to greet you.

We have a disabled access through our Lady Chapel and there is ample parking in our car park next to the church, in Vicarage Lane. 

 

 

 

A HISTORY OF THE CHURCH OF ST. PAUL, HELSBY 

 

All through Helsby's long and fascinating history there is evidence of worship and several chapels were in use before St. Paul's was built.

The Scandinavians gave Helsby the name 'Hjallr-by', which means village on the ledge.  (Reference to this is in J. McN. Dodgson in  'Place Names in Cheshire').

The ledge of promontory, on which the Church of St. Paul's stands, could not have been more carefully chosen, as apart from being a landmark from almost all points of the compass, the ground had been the site of an ancient chapel erected by one Catherine Arderne in about the year 1650, so therefore was already hallowed.  The Kelly's Directory of 1882 tells us this and also of the discovery of a Roman altar at the top of Vicarage Lane in 1958 (is now housed in the Grosvenor Museum), bears witness to acts of worship over the past years.

The Estates of Helsby and Frodsham now belong to the present proprietor, the Marquis of Cholmondeley, having been handed down from a long succession of gentry since the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

So that a Church, for the worship of Almighty God could be built in Helsby, a letter from the Land Agency and estate Office at Preston Brook dated 7th July 1868, stated that, then the Lord. H. Cholmondeley agreed to the Pinforld Land at Helsby being used for the church, so that the matter may be considered settled and drawing stone from the local quarry may be commenced, whenever required.  The Marquis added that the would be very happy if the building did not interfere with other plans they had for Helsby.

Instructions were given on 30th December 1868, that the Deed of Gifts was to be made by a London Solicitor of the site for the church and parsonage at Helsby, these from the Marquis of Cholmondeley, who again added a rider to the effect that he was to be free of any debt.

The quarry, owned and worked by Mr. Thomas Brandreth, was well known at the time for the superior quality of the stone and it also proved stone for the building of the churches at Ince, Upton and Saltney, as well as repair works on Chester Cathedral. The sandstone is Triassic, dating from 250 million years ago.

The stone was 'to be free of charge - the constructor to pay for the getting of the stone only' and the farmers who carted the stone from the quarry were paid 7/- for one horse and cart and 10/- for two horses and cart per day.  The Marquis further stipulated that all steps should be made of York stone.

The original design for Helsby Church was carried out by architect John Douglas of Chester.  Originally trained in Lancaster, he soon set up his practice in Chester and was responsible for the design of many buildings in Cheshire, North Wales and Northwest England, in particular in the estate of Eaton Hall.  His most popular designs are those for the black and white half-timbered buildings on the East side of St. Werburgh Street, Chester and the nearby Eastgate Clock.  Pevsner described him, without qualification, as 'the best Cheshire architect'.

On 8th January 1869, the contract for building Helsby Church was signed appointing John Thomas of Gwespyr, near Holywell as the constructor.  The contract price was to be £1,720 (including pews) and this was to be paid in seven instalments as the building progressed.

A further bill for £503 was added later for raising the floor one foot higher than the contract stated.

However, the building continued apace, all by subscription, consisting of chancel, nave and small spire, when the builder John Thomas ran into debt and eventually a Summons of Bankruptcy was served on to him by James Brandreth.  The contract with Thomas was terminated and in February 1870 all his materials and implements were made over to the Reverend William Charles Cotton MA of Frodsham, on behalf of the Church Building Committee, who signed an agreement with H. Booth and J. Richards of South Tranmere to complete the construction of the church for £850.

In May 1870, the Bishop of Chester, wrote from St. John's Dukinfield saying that he 'considered a permanent font essential, but that it would be possible to make do with a temporary lectern'.  Meanwhile public subscriptions were being received towards the cost of the church, which had reached the grand sum of £1,914 9s 11d by the time that the church had been completed.  The perimeter wall around the church and the churchyard was completed in August 1870.

Aided by the generosity of Mr. James Reynolds of Foxhill, the Reverend Cotton was able to have the church completed and ready for consecration on Thursday 28th July 1870 by the Bishop of Chester, William Jocobson, D.D., when it became the Church of St. Paul.

"..........and we do consecrate this church to the Honour of God and the sacred uses aforesaid by the name of the Church of Saint Paul, Helsby".

At the time of consecration, the official seating accommodation was 301 and this number was calculated as follows:

Adults @ 20 inches       229

Children @ 14 inches      72

The church appears to have been built very rapidly, when once the Deed of Gifts and architect's plans were settled and would no doubt have been finished even sooner had it not been for the unfortunate affairs of Mr. John Thomas.

On Sunday 31st July 1870 the first baptism service was held, at which 7 children were baptised.

At this time the church was under the jurisdication of the Vicar of Frodsham, the Reverend Cotton and the Curate in charge of Helsby was the Reverend Thomas Woodrox Dix who apparently lived in Manley.

An instrument dated 10th June 1875, transferred the right of the Reverend William Charles Cotton to nominate and present a Minister for Helsby to James Reynolds of Foxhill.  The patron of the living is now the Bishop of Chester.

Records show that the first Vicar of Helsby was John David Havard and he was inducted in July 1876.  On the 28th December 1876, the first marriage was solemnised in the church and it was between John Wright and Emma Britland, both of who signed their assent in the Marriage Register by making a cross.  The first person to be buried was sadly a little boy of nine years.

The south aisle, Lady Chapel (formerly known as the Morning Chapel) and porch of the church were added in 1908 and were built by J.G. Davies & Co. of Frodsham at a cost of £1,209 4s and the whole of this amount was raised by public subscription. 

The Lady Chapel was consecrated on 23rd January 1909 by the Bishop of Chester.  Above the altar in the Lady Chapel one is faced with the lighted window.  This beautifully coloured window tells us the more familiar and much loved Chapter 24 from St. Luke's Gospel, verse 30, 'And their eyes were opened and they saw Him.  And when He had sat down with them at table, He took bread and said the blessing;  He broke the bread and offered it to them'.  How many times have we read these words, heard them in our church and thought about the wonder of them.  The three windows on the south side of the chapel depct 'Faith, Charity and Hope' in that order and were given by Cecilia Withington to her brother, 'In Loving Memory of Arthur Withington,  born 19th August 1866, died 29th November 1923.  The wall paintings which look so much like tapestry were commissioned by Miss Evans in memory of her brother the Reverend Evans.  The one on the left illustrates 'The Holy Mother' and the one on the right 'The Living Water', both beautiful.  The blue carpet was subscribed for by the mothers' Union and a now disbanded group called 'Allsorts'.  As you leave the chapel and enter the main body of the church, one's attention is attracted to the shining brass tablets lining the walls, dedicated to bygone Vicars and eminent members.  It is impossible to mention all of them, but the good Doctor John Briant M.R.C.S., L.R.C.P., seems notable, not only for the letters after his name, but the fact that he was the first resident doctor in Helsby prescribing for the people for many years.  The inscription reads 'Placed by his descendants in England and abroad, 1854 - 1832'.

The Lady Chapel has been for many years a quiet place where many have prayed and even today we are still enjoying the serenity and peacefulness of its surroundings for meditation and Morning Prayer.

The present wrougt iron screen was installed in 1909 and it came from Hawarden Church and cost £85.  In April of that year John Barrow of Frodsham was paid £2 15s for 'blacking and gilding the screen'.

In 1918 the new churchyard was opened and in 1920 the War Memorial was unveiled.

The Children's Corner in the church was instituted by The Mothers' Union in memory of Miss Bate, who had been a very popular head teacher of the old Church of England School and who had devoted her life to the children of the village.  It was blest by the Reverend John Ball, Vicar 1985.

As we walk away from these essential features of the church, we can pause to admire the font, with the curiously shaped old marble one standing underneath, which looks part of the new.  'Mary Whitely' is inscribed on the marble font and around the cover of the newer one, we read 'In memory of Hugh Gough Miller, Martha Reid Thornley and Johnson Thornley, 1947.

Since the initial building of the church many items in the church have been donated by grateful parishioners and these include:

The East Window of the church was presented by the Vicar of Frodsham, the Reverend William Cotton, who worked so hard to have the building of the church completed.

The Pulpit was in memory of James Reynolds of Foxhill.

The Lectern was given by Mrs. James Reynolds in memory of her husband.

The Organ was reconstructed and enlarged and the outer door to the vestry was added in 1907, the cost was borne by William Griffiths of Windcliffe.

The oak panelling in the Lady Chapel was given by public subscription in remembrance of Reverend E.W. Evans the Vicar of Helsby from 1903 - 1924.

The original installation of Electric Light was given by Arthur Rundit in June 1920 and installed in 1921.  This was updated in 1953 in memory of Cecilia Withington and also to commemorate the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.  The current lighting system was installed in 1991 in memory of Bert Woodcock (former Verger at St. Paul's).

The main Lych-gate was built in 1911 and was given by James Taylor of Heathercliffe.  The other two Lych-gates were given by Arthur and Cecilia Withington of Brackenhurst in November 1923.

In 1980 the organ was moved from its former position next to the vestry down into the body of the church, in the days of Canon R.W. Howard with Churchwardens Sir John Page and Mr. A.W. Wilde.  At the same time the organ bellows and pipework were moved to the rear of the church and sited in a newly constructed organ loft.  The cost of this work was raised by public subscription.

The current sound system was installed in 1991 in memory of Albert Wilde, Churchwarden for many years.

The runners for the pews and carpeting for the Choir Stalls were kindly donated by the Ladies of St. Paul's in 2003.

The disabled access facilites were installed in 2006.

One of the more intriguing parts of the church is the 'St. Raphael windows'.  These two tiny windows are to be found in the porch of the church and depict two episodes from the story of Tobias and the Angel, from the book of Tobit in the Apocrypha.  The Apocrypha is part of the Greek Bible from the beginning of St. Paul's mission to the Gentiles, hence the importance to our church today.

 

 

"Lord, I have loved the habitation of Thy house and the place where thine honour dwelleth"