The church of St John the Baptist, Bollington was built in 1834 and dedicated in 1835. It was originally a “chapel of ease” for the parish of Prestbury – then the largest parish in the Chester diocese – and Bollington did not become a parish in its own right until 1842. The “Clergy List” continued to list Bollington as a church within the Prestbury parish until 1890. The first incumbents did not therefore have the status and title of “Vicar”. In fact, although often referred to as “Vicars”, the incumbents from George Palmer to Frederick Richardson had the legal title of “Perpetual Curate” until (at least) 1868.
[Some of the historical parish details included here are taken from “Bollington Parish Church 1834-1984” and most of the photographs are from Bollington Photo Archive and used with permission]
Revd. Robert William KING M.A. (1834-38)
Born about 1809 in Ireland and a graduate of Trinity College Dublin, the first minister, who was unpaid, inevitably found establishing a new church very arduous, and he left after four years. During this time, however, the churchyard was enclosed and the organ and gas lighting were installed. His tombstone memorial in Dublin reads:
Sacred to the Memory of the Revd. ROBERT WILLIAM KING M.A. T.C.D.
Incumbent of Bollington, Cheshire 1838
Vicar of Bretherton, Lancashire 1844
Rector of Portglenone, Co. Antrim 1861 to 1872
died June 7 1889 aged 80 years
Also of his widow ALICIA daughter of the late Revd. H. H. SHIELDS D.D. and ALICE TUCKER his wife
who died April 6th 1894 aged 90 years
“Even to your old age I am He; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you” Isaiah XLVI. 4.
Revd. Charles John DANIEL M.A. (1838-39)
Also born in Ireland about 1813, he only stayed at Bollington for a few months. He secured a licence for the Solemnization of Marriages in Bollington Church. However, when he married Susan Ryle of Henbury on 19 November 1840, the ceremony took place at Prestbury Church.
After leaving Bollington he served as incumbent of South Hackney until moving to the parish of Hope, Derbyshire in 1856, retiring because of ill health in 1869. He lived in Lewes (near Brighton) until his death in 1887. According to the entry in “Bollington Parish Church 1834-1984” he had left Bollington to become Domestic Chaplain to the Marquess of Sligo (this may be accurate as the Marquess probably spent more time in London than in Sligo). Crockford’s Directory informs us that he was the editor of “Prayers for Holy Communion”, “Godly Sayings of Old Fathers” and “Prayers for District Visitors”.
Revd. George PALMER M.A. (1839-52)
He was born in Middlesex about 1812 and lived at Bollington Cross until the first vicarage was built in 1846. He married Jane Gaskell (of Ingersley Hall) at Prestbury Church 2 June 1840.
His first official function was to open St John’s School. He was responsible for paying off the debts on the school (£800) and church (£200) and for building Bollington Cross School. Revd. Palmer was the first vicar of Bollington Parish Church, as it became a parish in its own right in 1842. Pressure of work and anxiety about the financial burdens of the church undermined his health and for two years he was unable to do any work of importance. He went to Southport in an effort to regain his health but died there, aged only 38. He is buried at Bollington next to the church, and the stained glass windows above the altar were a memorial to him.
While he was away from Bollington, burglars broke into the house. The following is taken from the report of the Cheshire Assizes in the Chester Chronicle of 3 April 1852…
“William Parker, 22, Michael Purcell, 20, and William Dean, 30, were indicted for breaking into the dwelling-house of the Rev. George Palmer, at Bollington, and stealing therefrom a time-piece. Mr. Brandt appeared for the prosecution, and Mr. McIntyre defended the prisoners. It appeared from the evidence that about midnight on the 30th October, in the absence of the late Rev. Mr. Palmer, his house at Bollington was entered through the drawing room window by some parties, who broke the window-bolt, and ransacked the drawers in the room. A noise in the house was heard by the governess, Miss Burgess, who got up, and by making a noise in the room so much alarmed the robbers that they decamped before they had had time to get much booty. They took, however, a time-piece. Information of the robbery was given at the Macclesfield police-station, and on the next day three Macclesfield officers stationed themselves on the canal bank between Macclesfield and Bollington. After being there a short time the three prisoners came up. Purcell was at once secured by Sergeant Leigh, but the other two (Parker having a bundle with him) jumped into the canal. One of the officers named Hollingworth, sprung in after them, and secured Dean after a several struggle, but Parker made his escape, leaving his bundle in the canal. The canal was soon after dragged, and a bundle brought up, in which was found a time-piece. This time-piece was identified by Miss Gaskell, to whom it belonged, as having been taken from Mr. Palmer’s on the night of the burglary. The prisoners were shown to have been in company at 10 o’clock on the night in question — Mr. McIntyre very ably defended the prisoners, but the jury found them guilty, and they were sentenced to 15 years transportation.”
Revd. William PEARSON M.A. (1852-53)
He was born in Sheffield about 1811 and ordained in 1834. He had served as his father’s curate in the parish of Norton (near Sheffield). His father, Henry Pearson, was Vicar of Prestbury from 1843 until his death in 1858, and for most of this time (1844-1855) William was one of his father’s curates there too. He was appointed Incumbent of Bollington in 1852, the patron being his father Henry as Vicar of Prestbury! However, he did not stay long and his entry in Crockford’s Directory does not mention his period in Bollington. The Chester Chronicle published his farewell address (which leaves some unanswered questions):
We give an address from the Rev. W. Pearson, lately appointed to the Incumbency of this rising place, to the inhabitants on resigning the charge. It ought to be taken to heart by all pluralists, and indicates an example which might be extensively followed with commensurate benefit to the Church and the spiritual welfare of its members.
“To the Inhabitants of Bollington.
My Dear Friends,
To go on longer holding the Incumbency of Bollington, without being personally resident among you to discharge its duties, would be most distasteful to me, and perhaps not profitable to you. To give up, however, the Curacy of Prestbury, under the circumstances under which I am there placed, would, it seem to me, be clearly inconsistent both with the interests of the parish, and with the duty I owe to one to whom I am bound to pay a still higher respect. I have always felt this from the first, and time has only deepened the impression. Nevertheless there were reasons which induced me to take the step I did. But I feel now that, in justice to you, I ought not to retain the Incumbency any longer; especially since having now a Sunday-evening Service five miles from Bollington, and other additional duties, I cannot make even that nominal recognition of my duties among you which I did heretofore. I have therefore asked and obtained leave from the Bishop of Chester to resign the Charge of Bollington on the first of January next, and must trust that something will offer itself, in the Providence of God, whenever my ties with Prestbury shall be broken. As my successor is , I will say no more about him than that the Vicar of Prestbury, in making the appointment, thought it right to put aside all feelings of a personal nature, and to consult to the best of his judgment the welfare of the people of Bollington. And now, my friends, I wish you heartily farewell. I feel that though I have not long been connected with you, ties between us have already sprung up, which I should gladly be spared the pain of breaking. I believe that, had it so pleased God, I could have lived and laboured among you happily, and I hope not unprofitably. But it may not be. I thank you from my heart for the very cordial welcome I have received among you; and I pray that the Spirit of God may be poured out upon you, and upon him that shall be set over you; and both you and he may be led into all truth, and filled with all the fullness of God.
I remain, your sincere well-wisher,
WILLIAM PEARSON.— Prestbury Vicarage, Dec 1852.”
After leaving Prestbury he served as Perpetual Curate of North Rode from 1855 until forced to retire by ill health in 1872. He moved to Weymouth, where he died in 1892.
Revd John Astbury ASTON M.A. (1853-1856)
Although William Pearson described his successor as “a perfect stranger in this neighbourhood”, he was not completely unknown to the Pearson family. John A Aston was ordained in 1850 and his first curacy was at Norton (near Sheffield) where the vicar was Revd Henry H Pearson, brother of William Pearson and son of the patron of Bollington parish. According to “Bollington Parish Church 1834-1984” The galleries were installed in his time, but his health was failing and reluctantly, on medical advice, he took up lighter work elsewhere.
He was born in Barlaston, Staffordshire in 1827 and was another graduate of Trinity College Dublin. He had married Mary Jane Davies at Hordley, Shropshire in 1851 but she died in 1864 in Tulse Hill and he married Emily Laura Cox the following year. After leaving Bollington he was Rector of Kemberton, Shropshire 1856-60, Perpetual Curate of Tulse Hill, Surrey 1860-66, Vicar of St Stephen, South Kensington 1866-71, Vicar of St Luke, Cheltenham 1871-83 and then briefly St John, Deptford 1883 until his death in 1884.
Revd. Frederick RICHARDSON M.A. (1856-96)
The third Vicar to be nominated by Revd Henry Pearson lasted rather longer than his predecessors. He was vicar for 40 years, which included the church’s Jubilee year. He started discussions on extending the chancel and replacing the seating. The bells, and the first Hymns Ancient and Modern were purchased in his time. He died suddenly, aged 71, while organising a children’s service.
Born about 1825 at Horkstow, Lincolnshire, he got his degree from Cambridge and was ordained priest in 1852. He had been curate of Pitton and Farley, near Salisbury before coming to Cheshire and it appears that he was curate of Prestbury from about 1854. He performed a couple of baptisms at St John’s in 1854 and when he married Mary Davenport at Welford-on-Avon 10 April 1855, the report of the marriage in the Lincolnshire Chronicle described him as curate of Prestbury! His entry in Crockford’s Directory does not enlighten us on his curatical career.
His obituary in the Manchester Courier read:
THE VICAR OF BOLLINGTON. DEATH IN CHURCH.
We regret to announce the death of the Rev. Frederick Richardson, M.A. (Cambridge), the respected vicar of Bollington, near Macclesfield, a justice of the peace for the county of Cheshire, and who has held the living for 40 years. He expired in church yesterday afternoon. He administered the early service at eight o’clock, assisted with the curate in the morning, and addressed the scholars in the Sunday school in the morning and afternoon. He died amidst a congregation overwhelmed with grief. He leaves a widow and eight children.
The report of his death in the Worcester Chronicle read:
DEATH OF A CLERGYMAN IN CHURCH.
The Rev. Frederick Richardson, who for the last 40 years has been Vicar of Bollington, near Macclesfield, died suddenly in his church on Sunday afternoon. He was 71 years of age, but though he had for some time past suffered from weakness of heart, he was able to take a full share of clerical work. He was a great educationalist, and at the time of his death was also chairman of the Bollington Urban District Council. He married Mary, the daughter of the late Rev. Charles Davenport, Rector of Welford, Gloucestershire, who survives him, and leaves a family. His eldest son is the Rev. F. D. Richardson, curate of Little Witley. The funeral took place on Thursday at Bollington, the service being read by the Rev. F. W. Davenport, Vicar of Christ Church, Malvern, brother-in-law of the deceased.
Revd. Charles Brooke GWYNNE M.A. (1897-1909)
He was born in 1861 in Llansamlet (now a district of Swansea) where his father was a schoolmaster. He obtained his MA from Cambridge and was ordained in 1885. He was curate of Timperley and then of Christ Church, Claughton before being appointed vicar of Holy Trinity, Birkenhead. From there he came to Bollington and one of his first decisions was to refuse to live in the old Parsonage next to St John’s. The old house was demolished and as much as possible of the building material was recycled in the construction of the “new” Vicarage on Shrigley Road. The old Parsonage site and garden were then consecrated to create what was by then desperately needed additional burial space. He was responsible for major alterations in St John’s church: he ended the pew-rent system, replaced pews with chairs, removed the old pulpit, raised the chancel, moved the gas lights and also the font. He introduced the first surpliced choir and Church Council. He instituted a village mission in 1905. St Oswald’s church was built during his 13 years in the parish. Revd. Gwynne proposed even grander plans but it seems that no more funds were available and these were not carried out.
He moved on to the living of Neston and was Rural Dean of Wirral from 1917. He was Rector of West Kirby from 1922. He was the author of Criticisms on the Consecration Prayer in the New Prayer Book, 1931 (of which he was obviously not a fan). In 1932 he became Vicar of Wendens Ambo (Chelmsford). He had retired to Saffron Walden by 1939 and returned to our diocese in 1940 to Heswall, where died in 1944. He was for 21 years the Commissary to the Bishop of Egypt and the Sudan, who happened to be his younger brother (a Commissary is person appointed to exercise the administrative functions of a bishop, when the actual bishop is either away from the diocese or is ill). Another brother was editor of The Standard and later The Morning Post.
Revd. Alfred Hamilton KING M.A. (1909-16)
Born in Liverpool about 1867, he was ordained in 1890 and served as Curate of Hoylake 1890-98, moving to Prenton as Curate, then Vicar there from 1902-07. He then had a diocesan post until coming to Bollington in 1909. He formed the Men’s Bible Class, and made some alterations to the chancel. He had three weeks sick leave in 1911 but was expected to be back in time to Open a “Sale of Work” on 24 March. However, the curate had to read out a telegram instead – from Marseilles! “Arrived safely; well; good passage but rough. Best wishes for success of the sale and love to all friends”.
He moved to be curate of Holy Trinity Brompton in 1916. He was Vicar of St Michael Stoke Newington 1921-22, then curate of St Jude Kensington from 1922 before becoming vicar of Sunbury in 1925. He retired in 1932 to London and died there in 1939. He was buried at Woodchurch on the Wirral.
Revd. Walter BRAIN B.A. (1916-28)
He was born about 1873 in Bath, Somerset, ordained in 1895 and served as Curate at All Saints, Shrewsbury 1895-1901, then at St Mary Reading 1901-02. All Saints is two minutes walk from (the former) HM Prison Shrewsbury and At Mary’s is about the same distance from HM Prison Reading. Maybe this influenced him as he spent the next fourteen years as a Prison Chaplain at Wandsworth 1902-04, Nottingham 1904-06, Hull 1906-13, then Walton Prison, Liverpool before coming to Bollington as Vicar in 1916. The Liverpool Daily Post observed in its notice of his appointment that: Apropos of his chaplaincy work it will be remembered in connection with the notorious sack-murder when the Bishop of Liverpool influenced George Ball to confess his criminality, that the bishop himself wrote a letter to the Press saying that the change of heart wrought in the criminal was entirely owing, under God’s blessing, to the faithful and devoted ministrations of Mr Brain.
He was the first vicar to have an elected Parochial Church Council. He allowed ladies into Vestry Meetings for the first time and appointed the first lady warden (Mrs H.Greg). During his time the Memorial Chapel was dedicated, and there were discussions about uniting the parish with Pott Shrigley. He moved from Bollington to Winlaton, Co Durham where died in 1940. The Newcastle Evening Chronicle reported:
WINLATON RECTOR DIES AT 67
Heavy Duties During Holiday
The Rector of Winlaton, the Rev Walter Brain, collapsed and died suddenly at Winlaton Rectory. Deceased, who was aged 67, officiated at six weddings at his church on Saturday, and on Sunday officiated at three church services. He had been in poor health for some time, and was to have gone into a nursing home yesterday, but died while the ambulance was on its way to seek him.
He had been 10½ years at Winlaton and was for more than 13 years at Bollington near Macclesfield before coming to Winlaton He was a former prison chaplain. He leaves a widow, three sons and a married daughter. The three sons are all in H.M. Forces The interment will be at Winlaton churchyard to-morrow at noon.
Revd. Reginald Norton BETTS M.C., M.A. (1929-37)
He was born in Oxford in 1895 and studied at Oxford. During WW1 he served as 2nd Lieutenant in the King’s (Liverpool) Regiment and was awarded the Military Cross in 1919 for conspicuous gallantry. He was ordained in 1920 and served as Curate of St Paul’s, Coppenhall, Crewe and (from 1923) as Chaplain for Nantwich Poor Law Institution (Workhouse). He moved to be Curate of St Helen’s, Witton, Northwich before coming to Bollington.
He was vicar for the church’s centenary when electric lighting was installed. During his time in Bollington a field was bought to extend the churchyard. Revd Betts is probably now best remembered locally as the writer of the book “Bollington Through the Centuries”. He moved to the living of St Hilary’s, Wallasey, in 1937, and then to be Vicar of Sandbach in 1942 until he retired on health grounds in 1964. There is a relief carving of him in Sandbach Church and a stained glass window dedicated to his memory. He died in Oxford in 1966.
Revd. John KINGDON M.A. (1937-47)
He was born in 1886 and obtained his degree from Cambridge. He was ordained in 1912 and served as curate of Christ Church Rotherhithe 1912-14. He then went to India as a missionary with Church Mission Society to St John’s School, Agra 1914-1920. He was then Chaplain of Cotton School, Simla from 1920-1923. Returning to England, he served as Succentor (deputy Precentor) of Coventry Cathedral 1925-36 before coming to Bollington, where he was vicar throughout the Second World War. The chancel was lowered and improvements made to the Sanctuary while he was here.
After leaving Bollington he was rector of St Bridget’s, Chester from 1947-1958. He died in Sussex in 1961.
Revd. William David THOMAS (1948-53)
He studied at Chichester Theological College and was ordained in 1938. He served as curate of St Peter’s Stockport 1938-40, then was Curate in Charge of Henbury. From 1946-48 he was at Hornsea, East Riding of Yorkshire (in charge of Atwick with Nunkeeling, Bewholme and Mappleton) before coming to Bollington. During his time various schemes for alterations were proposed, but none carried out.
He died suddenly on 14th October 1953 and his ashes were placed within the wall of the Memorial Chapel in St John’s church. When the church building was sold, his ashes were re-interred in the Columbarium.
Revd. Keith Mason MALTBY M.A.,B.D. (1954-57)
He was born in Bradford, Yorkshire 1919. He studied at Cambridge (MA) and Manchester (BD) and was ordained in 1949. He was curate at St James’s, Birch-in-Rusholme 1949-51 and then a Minor Canon at Manchester Cathedral 1949-51.
The aumbry in the Memorial Chapel was made while he was vicar, and the Children’s Chapel was dedicated.
He moved from Bollington to Alderley Edge was Principal Lecture in Divinity at Alsager College 1969-74. He then became Resident Librarian and Treasurer of Chester Cathedral and Vice-Dean (from 1978). He retired to Shropshire in 1986, where he died in 1994.
Revd. William Herbert CHIVERS B.A. (1958-60)
He was born in Newport, Monmouthshire in 1920 and got his degree from the University of Wales. He was ordained in 1944 and was a curate at St Saviour’s, Cardiff 1944-48, then at Pontlottyn, Caerphilly 1950-51 and Peterston-super-Ely (Vale of Glamorgan) 1951-52. He was then curate of Bushey 1951-52 before coming to Bollington; he returned to Bushey after only two years to serve as rector there until 1981. He spent two years in Australia and then returned to the UK to be rector of Llandogo and Tintern (Monmouthshire) until he retired in 1986. He moved to Greece and served as Assistant Chaplain at Athens. He died in London in 2005.
Revd John St Hilary MULLETT M.A. (1961-69)
He was born in Sheffield in 1925. He studied at Cambridge and was ordained in 1950. He travelled to Southern Rhodesia with his wife and two children in 1958 and served as rector of Que Que before coming to Bollington. The new St John’s school was planned and built while he was vicar. The Time and Talents Scheme was started; and the chancel was changed after a fire in the church. Discussions on unity with the Methodists took place. He moved to become vicar of St Saviour’s, Oxton, Birkenhead until 1977. He then served as rector of Ashwell (St Albans Diocese) until he retired in 1990. He moved to Cambridge and was made a Fellow of St Catherine’s College.
Revd. Peter John HUNT A.K.C. (1969-76)
He was born in 1935 and ordained in 1959. He served as curate of All Saints Chesterfield 1959-61. He moved to Matlock and from 1961 he was curate of Matlock and Tansley, Matlock Hospital Chaplain and a lecturer at Matlock Teacher Training College. He was then vicar of Tottington (Bury) from 1963-69, including a spell as Territorial Army Chaplain 1965-1967.
While at Bollington he introduced the Series 2 Communion Service and the Joint Harvest Supper, and planned a Stewardship Mission.
He left Bollington to become rector of Wilmslow.
Revd Halsey Sparrowe COLCHESTER C.M.G., O.B.E., M.A. (1976-81)
He was born in 1918 at Chertsey, Surrey. He studied at Magdalan College for his degrees and later at Cuddesdon Theological College. He was ordained in 1973 after a career as a diplomat, as a SAS officer, and as “head of Personnel” at MI6. He served as curate at Minchinhampton before coming to Bollington. He introduced the serving of tea after morning service. In his time the site of the old St John’s School was sold and his wife Rozanne became a lay reader. He moved to the parish of Great Tew in Oxfordshire. He retired in 1987, but returned to Great Tew for a while to cover a vacancy. He died in 1995 at Hook Norton, Oxfordshire.
Revd. John Bryce WARBURTON (1981-91)
He was born in 1933 and was ordained in 1966. He was curate at Padiham 1966-69 and at St Peter’s Burnley 1969-70. He was then vicar of Tideswell, Derbyshire from 1970-81. The Alternative Service Book and Psalm Praise were introduced in his time at Bollington and he was vicar for St John’s 150th Anniversary in 1984. He left to become vicar of Capesthorne until he retired in 1998. He died in 2013.
Revd. Michael Arnold WHETTER B.A. (1991-2000)
He was born in 1930 and ordained in 1955. He was curate of Dursley, Gloucestershire 1955-58 and Coppenhall 1958-61, then rector of Holy Trinity Chester 1961-71. He then moved to be vicar of St Alban’s, Stockport and Chaplain to Cherry Tree Hospital and Offerton Hospital before coming to Bollington. He retired when he left Bollington. He died in 2012.
Revd. Simon Robert MARSH (2001-2006)
He was born in 1959 and ordained priest in 1983. He was curate of Mottram in Longdendale 1982-85, then Domestic Chaplain to the Right Reverend Roy Williamson* (Bishop of Bradford) 1985-87. Returning to Chester diocese, he became Vicar of Ashton Hayes 1987-90, Vicar of St Paul’s Macclesfield 1990-96 and Vicar of Ringway (Hale Barns) from 1996 until coming to Bollington.
It was during his time that the difficult decision had to be made to close St John’s church as the building was no longer insurable for public use without renovation work for which funds were not available. St Oswald’s therefore became the Parish Church of Bollington in 2003.
After leaving Bollington, he went on to become Vicar of Bramhall in 2006.
*Co-incidentally Bishop Roy later became Bishop of Southwark and it was he who ordained Canon Veronica to the priesthood in St Paul’s Cathedral 17 April 1994!