|The Bear's Head||Millennium Sign|
|St. Oswald's, Brereton||Butressed tower|
|The East End||South Aisle and six clerestory windows|
|The panelled ceiling of the nave||Seven hundred year anniversary banner|
|Memorial to William and Frances Smethwick||Base of Brereton Monument in the Sanctuary|
|Shield on Brereton Monument||North Wall of the Sanctuary|
|Font dated 1660||A bell made in 1591|
|The organ on the north side of the choir||Floor tiles in the nave|
The village is characterised by its hall, church and inn. Brereton Hall, a fine Elizabethan house, was built in 1586 but is not accessible to photography by the general public. A Bear's head was the symbol of the Brereton family, hence the name of the inn, which dates from 1615. Until the recent modifications, a stuffed bear's head was displayed under a small canopy above the front door. The head is now preserved in the church in connection with the Brereton monument.
. Raymond Richards relates that there was a chapel at Brereton from the reign of Richard I (1189-99). Canon Sladden in Beside the Bright Stream relates that Sir William Brereton built a church at Brereton about 1200 to fulfill a promise he made while on the third crusade and dedicated it to St. Oswald of Northumberland.
Brereton was originally in the parish of Astbury and became a parish in its own right in the reign of Henry VIII (1509-47). The original chapel was probably made of wood as some is still visible at the junction of the nave and chancel. The church was rebuilt in the 15th century in the late Perpendicular style. Like many other churches in the area, St. Oswald's was restored in the 19th century by Gilbert Scott. Raymond Richards in his book Old Cheshire Churches, is very critical of Scott's work. In particular he disliked the removal of old oak and its replacement by pitch pine and imported wood, which he thought alien to a mediaeval church. Among the many features of interest inside the church are the 17th century altar rails and 16th century Flemish choir stalls. The font bears the date of 1660. Many decorated mediaeval fonts in Cheshire were destroyed by Puritans in the Civil War period. There is also a parish chest with three locks. On display near the south door is a bell of 1591. The church registers begin in 1538. The list of ministers goes back to Gilbert de Brereton in 1297.
On the north side of the sanctuary is a Brereton memorial, the lower part of which is shown in my photograph. High on the wall above is displayed some armour which may have belonged to the Sir William Brereton who fought at the seige of Maynooth in Ireland in 1534. An information card nearby explains that the monument was installed in 1618 by Sir William Brereton, the 1st Lord Brereton (1550-1631) when the remains of his ancestors were brought from Astbury and reburied in the chancel at St. Oswald's. Immediately above, but not shown in the photograph, are the arms of the Breretons with the motto 'Opitulante Deo' - 'God be my helper'. The inscription on the monument in Latin is translated on the card and shown below. A donative chapel was a one presented by a patron without reference to the bishop.
"In ancient times when this Church of Brereton was a donative chapel within the parish of Astbury, the ancestors of William Brereton, knight, Baron of Malpas, (who erected this monument in 1618 AD) had been buried in the churchyard of Asbury, where ancient monuments of some of them still remain to this date, marked in English with the words 'Knightes burialls'. But after the said chapel was made a parochial Church, the ancestors of the said William Brereton, knight, patron of this Chapel of Brereton were buried in the chancel, except those who died in kingdoms and counties abroad"
In the east corner of the south aisle is the monument of William Smethwick who died in 1643 and his wife of 58 years, Frances, daughter of Anthony Coleclough who was born in 1557 in the castle of Kildare in Ireland and died 1 May 1632. (The photograph was taken from below but perspective correction has been employed in Adobe Photoshop to give a fuller view of the figures.)
The photographs of the interior were taken at the beginning of the Brereton Bear Festival, in July in 2005 and at a similar festival on 17 July 2010. A large number of teddy bears of all sizes are displayed around the village with amusing captions. The church had a large display of bears in the north aisle. In the south aisle, a few can be seen on the window ledge behind the font and around the bell. The church now has its own site.
Old Cheshire Churches,
with a supplementary survey of the lesser old chapels of Cheshire,
completely revised and enlarged by Raymond Richards, published by E. J. Morten,
Didsbury, 1973, first published in 1947.
Beside the Bright Stream, The Background and History of St. Oswald's Church, Lower Peover, by the Rev. Canon J. C. Sladden, MA BD (Oxon), 1st edition 1968, 4th edition taking into account an architectural report by Mr. K. Moth, 1994, price £1.
Information displayed in the church
Ormerod describes the Parish of Brereton as having only one township - Brereton-cum-Smethwick - bounded by the parishes of Sandbach, Middlewich and Astbury. At the time of the Norman Conquest, Brereton came under Gilbert de Venables, Baron of Kinderton. It was granted to a family which assumed the local name but from the arms subsequently adopted it is likely that they were related to the Venables family. The Brereton family tree goes back to Ralph de Brereton who is known from being a witness to a charter by Gilbert Venables in the time of William II or Henry I. The manor and advowson continued in the male line of the Brereton family until Francis, 5th Lord Brereton died unmarried in 1722.
The connection with the Egertons of Malpas is shown in the first tree below leading to the Breretons of Malpas and Shocklach. The first five Breretons shown below were called William and following inheritance through a brother called Andrew the next three were called William also.
The family tree is continued below from the Sir William Brereton shown above in generation 8. Sir William in generation 1. below was born in 1550 and his father died in 1559. As a boy he lived with the Savage family and saw Rock Savage being built. Subsequently he married Alice Savage and built Brereton Hall in the style of Rock Savage. This tree shows the end of the Brereton male line at Brereton and the succession through the Holte and Bracebridge families. The 2nd Lord Brereton was a leading Royalist in the Civil War and after the surrender at Nantwich was taken prisoner, with his wife and son at Biddulph Hall in Staffordshire. His distant cousin, Sir William Brereton of Handforth, was a General in the Parliamentary Army. The 3rd Lord Brereton was one of the founders of the Royal Society.
In the Town Hall at Chester there is a tableau above one of the doors as shown below, entitled Sir W. Brereton before the Mayor's Court.
Sir Lister Holte left a complicated will, dated 12 October 1769. The Manors of Brereton and Aston were to go to his brother, Sir Charles Holte, for the remainder of his life, remainder to issue male, remainder to Heneage Legge, Esq. with similar remainder, remainder to Lewis Bagot, clerk (successively Bishop of Norwich and St. Asaph) who died without issue, remainder to Wriothesley Digby Esq., remainder to right heirs of Sir Lister Holte.
In 1817 there was an Act of Parliament to dismember the estate to satisfy the claims of the assignees and mortgagees of Mr. Bracebridge and to indemnify Mr Legge and Mr. Digby for the resignation of their interests. The Manor and land was offered in parcels. The hall and large part of the land were bought in 1830 by John Howard Esq., of Hyde, succeeded by his son A. C. Howard in 1850. Another portion was sold to Sir Charles Shakerley.
Mary Elizabeth Holte was the representative of the Holte and Brereton families and also of the eldest line of the Egertons of Egerton. Her husband, Abraham Bracebridge had leases of Brereton Hall and demesne and also parcels of the estate to which his wife was the ultimate heir, from Heneage Legge, who had succeeded on the death of Sir Charles Holte.
Stuart Raymond in Cheshire: A Genealogical Bibliography, quotes the following sources for Brereton genealogy:
1. On Handford Old Hall, in Cheshire, formerly the residence of the ancient family of Brereton, with an account of Cheadle Church, in that county, and of the monuments to the Breretons in it, by Richard Brooke, Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, 2, 1850, 41-54.
2. The Story of Brereton Hall, Cheshire by A. L. Moir, 2nd ed. published in Chester by Phillipson and Golder, 1949, includes brief pedigree from 12-18th century.
3. A Memoir of the Brereton Family, with occasional notices of certain other of the old Cheshire families, by Sir Fortunatus Dwarris, published by J. B. Nicholas and Son, 1848.
4. Observations upon the history of one of the old Cheshire families, by Fortunatus Dwarris, Archaeologica, 33, 1850, 55-83.
5. The Families of Brereton by John Hewitt, Cheshire Sheaf, 3rd series, 27, 1934, 12-150, and also 31, 1937, 61-92.
Back to list of families
Introduction to Cheshire Gentry