Macclesfield is set on a hill with a gentle descent to the west towards the Cheshire plain but a very steep descent to the north and the east to the valley of the Bollin. St. Michael's Church was founded by Queen Eleanor (Eleanor of Castile, wife of Edward 1) on 25 January 1279 when Macclesfield was a royal borough with a castle and hunting forest roughly 12 miles by 8 in extent. The town had a guild but not a church or chapel of its own. The arms of Castille are to be found over the main church entrance. Edward I granted Eleanor the manor of Macclesfield in 1283. Her forester or bailiff was Thomas of Macclesfield and his house was known as Macclesfield Castle, hence Castle Street in the town. The building was not a grand fortification in the style of Edward's Welsh castles but a more modest residence. It lay to the east of Mill Street roughly opposite the entrance to Castle Street. On Eleanor's death death in 1290, Edward I took over her lands. Edward was the Earl of Chester from 1239. From the Norman Conquest there had been seven Earls of Chester who governed the county with a high degree of autonomy. The last was John de Scotia, 9th Earl of Huntingdon who succeeded because he was the nephew of the previous Earl, Ralph de Blondeville. John de Scotia died childless in 1237. After his death, the honour of Chester was bought from the heiresses by Henry III, who gave it to his son Edward.
The church was originally a chapel of ease for the mother church of St. Peter's in Prestbury and was under the Abbey of St. Werburgh in Chester. The church was dedicated to All Saints but changed to St. Michael, probably in the 18th century. The mediaeval church was rebuilt in Classical style between 1739 and 1740 with the exception of the Savage and Legh chapels. In 1819 the east end of the church was rebuilt. The church was extensively rebuilt in the Perpendicular style by Sir Arthur Blomfield, between 1898 and 1901 with the exception of the Savage and Legh Chapels and part of the chancel. The oldest parts of the church are the Savage Chapel (1502-7) to the south of the chancel and the Legh Chapel (1432), lying south of the nave. The porch on the south side of the church is of three storeys and priests formerly lived above the entrance.. The tower, rebuilt in the Victorian restoration, incorporates some carved fragments from the mediaeval church. See separate page for details of the Savage Chapel.
|St. Michael's in evening light||Savage Chapel porch|
|The Gate||The Church from Back Wallgate, 22 June 2005|
|Fallen angels in the churchyard||St. Michael's viewed from the railway station|
|The Nave at St. Michael's before the alterations||The Chancel|
|John Savage 5th who died in 1492||Sir John Savage the 6th, died 1527|
From photographs that I took on my two visits I realise that the cards describing the two effigies against the south wall of the nave had been exchanged. The one on the right bore the card indicating Sir John Savage who died in 1492 when I visited in January 2003 but the chart available in the church identifies him as number 9, John Savage who died 1527. I have confirmed this identification by consulting the article in Raymond Richards 'Old Cheshire Churches'. His illustration, facing page 208, shows the two effigies above in one photograph entitled "Monument to Sir John Savage, 1492 and Sir John Savage 1527". In the text he states:
The two knightly effigies in the north wall of the Savage Chapel are fine examples of the pageantry of English monumental art. They are set together, end to end, with canopies that face the body of the church. One represents the Sir John Savage (the 5th) K.G., the the elder brother of Archbishop Savage. He commanded the left wing of the invading army at Bosworth Field in 1485 and was slain at the Siege of Boulogne in 1492. The collar of SS (Spiritus Sanctus) round the neck is a notable feature. he was succeeded by by his eldest son, John, whose effigy clad in plate armour with a shirt of mail, occupies the other canopied tomb. He died in 1527 and was Sheriff of Worcestershire for 24 years.
All the effigies in the church are shown in colour photographs in the guide book on the church published in 2010.
Also in the Savage Chapel is an epitaph to a schoolmaster, William Legh, written in Latin, Green and Hebrew on a brass plaque..
During 2003 and early 2004 St. Michael's has been altered, at a cost of about £1.5 million, to create new rooms at the west end of the nave. A partition, made mainly of glass, has been placed at the level of the penultimate set of columns and a three storey structure with meeting rooms, a kitchen, lift and toilets has been created. The church was reopened in June 2004. The interior has been reorganised with a dais at the east end of the nave. There is now seating in the choir facing west towards the dais and the seating in the aisles has also been rearranged to face the dais. The difficult problem of creating a new structure which is functional while fitting with a traditional building has been solved with imagination. The ground floor of the new section is used to serve coffee several mornings a week.
The church has its own website.
The Buildings of England, Cheshire, by Nikolaus Pevsner
and Edward Hubbard, Yale University Press, 2003, ISBN 0 300 09588 0
108 Steps around Macclesfield, a walkers guide, by Andrew Wild, Sigma Press, 1994
Old Cheshire Churches, with a supplementary survey of the lesser old chapels of Cheshire, completely revised and enlarged by Raymond Richards, first published in 1947 and reprinted by E. J. Morten, Didsbury, 1973.
St. Michael's & All Angels, Macclesfield, text and research by Matthew Hyde, photography by Philip Banks, design by Taffy Davies, a new colour brochure on the church was published in June 2010.
Page 1: Town Centre
Macclesfield Page 2: Town Centre
Macclesfield Page 3: Halls
Macclesfield Page 4: The Canal
Macclesfield Page 5: Christ Church
Macclesfield Page 6: St. Michael's, the Exterior & the Nave
Macclesfield Page 7: St. Michael's the Savage Chapel
Macclesfield Page 8: Nonconformist Chapels
Macclesfield Page 9: Some Macclesfield Mills