The present St. Matthew’s church wasn’t built until 1827, before that came:
Church of St. Saviour
From the reign of Henry II, the village was owned by the Starkey family, who lived in Lower Stretton. An ancient chapel of ease was situated near Tanyard Farm in Well Lane, where there is a field named Chapel Field, accessed through “Chapel Stile”. The church was built in the 13th or 14th century for Starkey family worship. This would have been convenient as it was situated between Stretton Hall and Lower Hall where different branches of the Starkey family lived.
The chapel was referred to in the will of Richard Starkey in 1527 as the Oratory of St Saviour, to which he bequeathed money for a “new steeple for a greater bell to be rung for the services.” It was thought to have had a wooden steeple and stained glass and was said, by Sir Peter Leycester, to have been ‘very ruinous’ in 1666, although it is not known why.
Today there are no remains, however many sandstone blocks along the side of the lane and in local gardens indicate the fabric of the church. See below for some thoughts of a former resident of Well Lane as to where he thought the chapel might have been situated.
St. Matthews Church
In 1827 a new church was built, dedicated to St Matthew. St. Matthews was originally a chapel of ease to save people travelling each Sunday to Great Budworth. It was funded by the Church Building Commissioners and described as “an uninspiring Gothic structure with a tower”. The first stone was laid by Thomas Lyon of Appleton Hall on 23 November 1826. Thirty years later in 1859, a chancel was added under the direction of the famous architect, Sir George Gilbert Scott.
The first vicar of Stretton was the Reverend Richard Janion, but he was superseded by Richard Greenall after just four years. Richard Greenall held office at St. Matthew’s from 1831-1867 first as a perpetual curate then the vicar, Rural Dean of Frodsham, and finally Archdeacon of Chester.
There are six bells, which were purchased by public subscription and installed in December 1850. There was a report about the first peal in the Manchester Courier.
Upon the sudden death of Archdeacon Greenall in 1867 the church was rebuilt, again under Scott, as a memorial to Greenall.
There is an excellent guide to the history of the church on St. Matthew’s church website by David and Margaret Hart.
Vicars of St. Matthews
Rev. Richard Janion 1828-1831 – see newspaper report of his tragic death from a falling branch of a tree walking home from a church meeting along Wilderspool Causeway.
Rev. Richard Greenall 1831-1867– His marriage with Eliza, the daughter of Thomas Lyon, of Appleton Hall, brought him the living of St. Matthew’s, the patronage being in the gift of his father-in-law. The Rev’d Geoff Buchan has researched the wide ranging influence of Richard Greenall.
Rev. Henry Russell Dodd 1868-1896 – see report from The Cheshire Observer Saturday September 26 1896 reporting from his trial where he was found guilty of ‘immoral conduct’ towards three local women and subsequently dismissed.
Rev. Hon Charles Francis Cross 1897-1937. Just two months after the dismissal of Rev Dodd, a new vicar was appointed, having tendered his resignation at Shotwick. Canon Cross is remembered as a kindly and extremely generous incumbent with stories of giving away is living room carpet.
Rev. Alfred White 1937-1958
Rev. Thomas Pennell 1959-1970
Rev. Robert Rowlands 1970-2000
Rev Elaine Chegwin Hall 2001 – 2013
Rev Alan Jewell Sept 2014 –
Peter Hall has researched the Curates of Stretton who performed many of the church services and played a vital role in the life of the village. Peter has also undertaken a huge amount of work into the Churchwardens between 1848- present at St. Matthews, some of whom lived in the village of Stretton.
In 1931 a new vicarage was built next to the church where it still stands and the original, built a hundred years before in 1831, became a private residence. In 1939, Henry David Lloyd was residing there. The old vicarage now forms part of The Park Royal Hotel.
The Church Hall
This was built around 1770 and the small building in front of the primary school is now used for meetings and a pre-school. It was originally known as the Appleton Hall Stables having been given by Colonel Lyon.