Grid Ref: SJ 918 655
17 Sept 2003, 12 January 2008

St. Mary's
The south elevation of St. Mary the Virgin at Bosley


Nave   Stained glass
The nave and chancel   One of the windows
School   Inn sign
The Village School of 1858   Inn Sign


The Village

Bosley lies on the A523 south of Macclesfield on the route to Leek. It takes its name from the wild boar that used to be prevalent in the area; in the Domesday Survey of 1085 it was described as Boslegh.  At that time the land was held Hugo or Hugh de Mara, under the Earl of Chester and his name is still preserved in the bridge over the Dane known as Hug Bridge.  The land became part of the barony of Montalt but in 1387 passed to Isabel, the mother of Edward III.   It remained part of crown land until the time of Henry VI when it was given to Thomas Stanley.  Later it passed to the elder branch of this extensive family.  James Stanley, Earl of Derby, sold it to Sir James Fitton of Gawsworth and it was retained until the time of Sir Edward Fitton.

A Famous Duel

Sir Edward Fitton was killed outside Bristol during the Civil War. He had two wives but no heirs. His body was allowed through Parliamentary lines for burial at Gawsworth. There then ensued a remarkable series of events in connection with the inheritance of his estate. Sir Edward had 8 sisters, although it is not clear if all were alive at the time of his death. Sir Edward had tried to leave the estate to a cousin, William the son of Alexander Fitton. This was challenged by one of his brothers-in-law, Charles Gerard, who was married to Penelope Fitton. By 1660 Alexander had been living at Gawsworth for a few years. The dispute was heavily influenced by the politics of the time. Sir Alexander was a Catholic and Charles Gerard was able to win his case with the powerful anti-Catholic feeling of the times. He subsequently became 1st Earl of Macclesfield and was one of the Cheshire gentry who entertained the Duke of Monmouth in 1682. Sir Alexander subsequently gained favour under the Catholic King James II. From the Gerard family there were two heiresses who married the Earls of Hamilton and Mohun. These two Earls fought a duel over the inheritance of Gawsworth in Hyde Park and both were killed. Mohun had a daughter by his second wife and her trustees sold Gawsworth Hall to the Stanhopes who were the Earls of Harrington. Hence the Harrington Arms in Gawsworth and Bosley. This Jacobite/Whig saga was the basis of Thackery's 'Henry Esmond'.   In January 1920 the Gawsworth and Bosley estates were sold off in lots by the Harringtons.  The sale took place in the Drill Hall at Macclesfield.

Many estates were sold at this time.  There had been a gradual accumulation of problems for the landed gentry over the latter half of the 19th century.  Farming was less profitable for those growing grain, beef and lamb because imports from the USA, Argentina and Australia.  Estate duty had been introduced and there was a huge impact on the labour force from the Great War.  In 1919 more land changed hands in England than at any time since the Dissolution of the Monasteries.  The Times had the headline "England for Sale".

The Church and Schools

The church was originally dedicated to St. Thomas a Becket of Canterbury but later this was changed to St. Lawrence and then to St. Mary the Virgin. It was formerly a chapel of ease for Prestbury, and was granted the right to have a font and burial ground by Pope Boniface in a Papal Bull of 5 April 1402 as recorded at Lichfield. This was because Bosley was 6 miles from Prestbury and the journey was difficult in bad weather. The church was originally timber framed dating from the 14th and 15th centuries with a 16th century stone tower. The nave was rebuilt in brick in 1777 and the chancel was added in 1834. The original entrance was through a south porch but it is now at the west end under the tower. The height of the tower was increased by 6 feet in 1878-9 when new bells were hung. The original parapet and pinnacles were not replaced. There are six bells; the oldest was made in 1663 and there are two from 1756. The parish registers go back to 1728 and the list of vicars to approximately 1596.

Following the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, there were a series of Acts of Parliament designed to punish the Nonconformists and to protect the Church of England.  Royalists such as Sir Peter Leicester at Tabley and Sir Geoffrey Shakerley at Hulme Hall  were enthusiastic in pursuing those they suspected of Nonconformism.  Sir Peter's letters of the period, now at the County Record Office, show how he wrote to the civil authorities in Chester listing known Nonconformists in various parishes in the Buckley Hundred.  Sir Geoffrey Shakerley went further, and dragged from the pulpit at Bosley the minister, Mr. John Gartside, because he refused to read from the "Book of Sports" and had him imprisoned at Chester. (In 1617 King James I visited Lancashire, and in consequence of a petition presented to him at Hoghton Towers, complaining of the restrictions imposed upon Sunday amusements, he issued in 1618 the Book of Sports.  Permission was given for dancing, archery, leaping, vaulting and other recreations such as May games, May-poles, morris dancing and Whitsun Ales)

The Revd. John Thornley was curate from 1728 to 1765.  He lived for a time in church tower.  In 1736 he was responsible, together with Captain William Whittaker and Edward Dawson, for building a school house in Bosley.  Later it was used as a parsonage and then converted to two cottages.  It appears to have been demolished by 1833 when the Rev. Sutcliffe was appointed.  In 1839  the site was used for the construction of what is now Old School Cottages.  It bears a plaque with the inscription "This house and these schools were erected by voluntary contributions with the aid of a grant from the National Schools Society, AD 1839".   This was superseded by the present school, shown in the photograph, in 1858.  It was funded by £200 and a grant of half an acre of land from Lord Harrington, funds from the Committee of Council and public subscription.

Industrial Heritage

Charles Roe is well known in the district not only as an entrepreneur in the silk and copper industries but also as the benefactor of Christchurch in Macclesfield.   In 1756 he built the first silk throwing factory in Macclesfield at Park Green, now marked by a plaque.  In 1766, he took a 99 year lease on the mill works at Bosley for his copper refining work, using ore from Anglesey and he employed the water engineer, James Brindley to develop the water power needed for the site.  From the 1860s the site was used a corn mill. In the 1930s it became a saw mill for the production of wood powder used initially in the manufacture of the early plastic known as bakelite   This firm, called Wood Treatment Limited, became well known for its tug of war team which has won many championships.

The Macclesfield Canal has a flight of 12 locks at Bosley where it descends 110 feet on its route towards Congleton. It was one of the last canals to be built and was designed by Thomas Telford.  Another feat of engineering is the viaduct for the railway over the River Dane near Bosley, which involved 2,000 labourers in its construction in the middle of the 19th century.  To the east of the village is the reservoir created to feed the canal.  It is used by anglers and is visited by ornithologists.



Public House
Queen's Arms from the churchyard in winter sun


I have been contacted by Cynthia Edwards, who was born in Bosley, baptised at the church, sang in the choir and was married there in the 1950s.  Cynthia and her late husband became managers of the Harrington Arms in 1966 and left in 1983.  Cynthia tells me that the Harrington Arms pub sign was designed by Vincent Webb of Leek.


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.
Bosley: A brief history of an ancient Cheshire Parish from the time of William the Conqueror to King George VI, by the Rev. J. W. A. Greenacre, 1939, with a foreword by Canon David Moir in 2002, a pamphlet available in the church.
The Manor of Gawsworth, by Raymond Richards, Ancient Monuments Society, 1957.


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