St Boniface's Church, Bunbury

St Boniface's Church, Bunbury, stands prominently in the village of Bunbury, Cheshire, England. It has been designated by English Heritage as a Grade I listed building. The church dates mainly from the 14th century. Its features include the Ridley chapel, the alabaster chest tomb of Sir Hugh Calveley and the tomb of Sir George Beeston. Richards considers it is architecturally one of the most important examples of its period in Cheshire.Alec Clifton-Taylor includes it in his list of 'best' English parish churches. It is an active Anglican parish church in the diocese of Chester, the archdeaconry of Chester and the deanery of Malpas. Its benefice is combined with that of St Jude, Tilstone Fearnall.

History

From the 8th century a church has been on the site, initially a wooden Anglo-Saxon church. By 1135 a stone Norman church was present. The church was rebuilt in the decorated style in 1320. In 1385–86 Sir Hugh Calveley endowed it as a collegiate church, which resulted in more rebuilding: much of the existing structure dates from this time. A chantry chapel was added in 1527 by Sir Rauph Egerton of Ridley and nave galleries were added in the 18th century. From 1863–66, restoration work was done by Pennington and Bridgen, when wall paintings, galleries, and box pews were removed, the floor was tiled, and a new roof was constructed. In 1940 a land mine seriously damaged the church. The roof was replaced in 1950 by Marshall Sisson.

Architecture
Exterior

The church, built in red sandstone with a lead and slate roof, is mainly Perpendicular in style. At the west end a tower leads to a broad six-bay nave and narrow eight-bay north and south aisles which enclose the tower. The three-bay chancel is narrower than the nave and leads to a sanctuary with a vestry to the north. To the south of the chancel is the Ridley chapel. A south porch extends from the fifth bay from the west. The tower has a west doorway above which is a three-light window. The ringers' windows are single lancets, and the belfry windows are of four lights. The top of the tower is surmounted by battlements and pinnacles. The parapet of the north aisle consists of stone openwork with crocketed pinnacles; the parapet of the south aisle is crenellated.

Interior

Fragments of wall paintings remain inside the church. The octagonal stone font is dated 1662 and the oak communion rail dates from 1717. The choir stalls are of carved oak, as is the pulpit, which rests on a stone base. The brass chandelier in Baroque style is dated 1756. The chancel screen is by F. H. Crossley and is dated 1921. The screen to the south chapel is dated 1527. Its dado is painted with early Renaissance motifs, which are the earliest in Cheshire. In several windows there are fragments of original stained glass. Windows by Kempe dated 1905 are in the south chancel wall, and in the north chancel wall are windows dated 1952 by R. C. Evetts. The glass in the east and west windows and in the east window of the north aisle is by Christopher Webb of St Albans. In the north wall of the sanctuary is the tomb of Sir George Beeston who was the commander of Dreadnought when it fought against the Spanish Armada. At this time he was aged 88, and he died at the age of 102. In the south wall of the sanctuary are a triple sedilia and a double-draining piscina. In the south aisle are 15th century painted wooden panels which were formerly part of parclose screens; they were restored at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1988. In the north aisle is a standing effigy of Jane Johnson, who died in 1741. Around 1760, it was removed to the churchyard and buried on the instruction of the incumbent. It was rediscovered in the 19th century and was restored to the interior of the church. Also in the church are three memorial boards which are believed to have been painted by members of the Randle Holme family of Chester. At the back of the church in the northeast corner are a number of stone coffin lids, and defaced effigies dating from the 13th to the 15th centuries. The organ was built in 1895 by P. Conacher of Huddersfield. It was extensively rebuilt in 1968 by Henry Willis & Sons.

The tower has a ring of eight bells. The oldest two of these date from around 1500 and around 1610. Two later bells were cast by Rudhall of Gloucester in 1715 and 1758. The remaining bells were cast in the Whitechapel Bell Foundry by Thomas Mears II in 1817, and by Mears and Stainbank, two in 1895 and one in 1898. The parish registers begin in 1559 and the churchwardens' accounts in 1655. Carved stones dating from the Norman period have been discovered beneath the floor of the church and these are stored in the south porch.

External features

The north gates to the church yard are listed Grade II, as are the west gates which were reconstructed as memorial gates around 1919. In the church yard are two other structures listed Grade II, a red sandstone sundial dated 1710, and a gravestone consisting of two sandstone slabs probably dating from the early 16th century.

Building Activity

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