The grave stones at Overchurch, Upton, some of them date back hundreds of years on a site which possibly has been used back when we used to pray to the sun and moon among standing stones
A Sketch of the Norman Church in 1665
The first church in Upton or Overchurch is said to date back to 700 – 900AD making it of Anglo Saxon origin. The church was built opposite where Upton Manor stands now just off Moreton Spur on the Overchurch. Nothing is left of the building and the area is now a small wild wood. Some time after the church was destroyed, another church was built on the same site. We can only speculate on the date but due to artifact finds over the years I believe it to be of Norman origin (1066 – 1216 ad).
The Norman parish church shown above was sited on top of the 1st church opposite Upton Manor, and is described as a church having pointed arches of peculiar elegance, richly decorated with chevrons and Saxon mouldings. Internally it had benches for about one hundred and fifty, a clay floor, an oak pulpit, a stained glass window and a bell. It was served monthly by a clergyman from Wallasey.
The earliest references to the church are in 1347 when it was noted in literature. In 1709 the steeple of the church was damaged and the parishioners were allowed to sell two of the three bells to cover the cost of repairs to the church. It is noted that only fourteen families in the parish were able to give contribute funds for repairs which would not cover the damage. The 2nd church was demolished in 1813 following a major fire which gutted the building. The interest in the church does not stop there as the old church was surrounded by a burial ground, which despite the proximity to the local estates; is in good condition and lays covered by foliage which hides the artifacts. Most people in the area who have lived there for years do not even know it exists. The burial ground is a mass of trees, brambles, root grass and undergrowth. The old tombstones are scattered around the small site amongst the ever increasing wilds. The only stone that is now legible dates back to 1745.
The building of the new and third church was carried out on a new site on Hall Hill, opposite Upton Hall. Due to a lack of funds the new church was to be a temporary church until more funds were raised. Construction began in June 1813 but was not completed until September 1815. The church was made from stones of the previous church which were both Norman and Saxon in detail, however it is possible that these date back to the first church as it would fit the timeline.
The last service was held in this church in April 1868 after which it began its new job. For two decades the church was used as a mortuary for the locals until finally in 1887 they decided to demolish the church which had only been built as a temporary measure anyway.
700-900 First Church built & Demolished
1347 First Mention of 2nd Church
1813 2nd Church Burnt down
1815 3rd Church built on Hall Hill (temporary)
1868 St Mary’s Church Built (Upton Village)
1887 3rd Temporary Church Demolished
In the mid 20th century odd shaped stones were discovered near by which look to have strange inscriptions on them. After examination by an expert the strange stones were concluded to be ancient Saxon Runes. It is from this that i believe that they were from the first church opposite Upton Manor from It is from this that i believe that they were from the first church opposite Upton Manor from the Anglo Saxon era.
The piece of sandstone was about 21 inches long by 10 inches high and 9 inches thick.On the upper side was an interlaced ribbon pattern, the runic inscription was carefully cut in two rows, divided by a line, and was clearly incomplete, as the stone was broken off at the right hand side. Judging from the carved pattern, the inscription had lost at least four or five letters.
The stone was the first inscribed with runes to be found in Cheshire and has been attributed by archaeologists to the seventh or eighth centuries. The runic characters have been deciphered to
“FOLCÆ ARÆRDON BECUN …. GEBIDDATH FOTE ÆTHELMUND”
When translated into modern language this reads:
“THE PEOPLE ERECTED A MEMORIAL … PRAY FOR ÆTHELMUND”
The stone is an ancient “Bidding-stone” asking for a prayer of the passer by for the soul of the Saxon warrior or possibly priest who was buried beneath. There is reason to believe that “Æthelmund” was a Saxon Chieftain who was killed around the 7th century. The stone is now kept at the Grosvenor Museum in Chester.
Some of my own pictures of the rune stone when it was on display in Birhenhead Town Hall
Great photos, Neil, so atmospheric… and really interesting to read about the church after what I had written about earlier!
Glad you like my pictures and post, it is just over the road from our house and we have a great view of the trees, it’s a very peaceful place with a great bit of history, there is some passable standing stones in the lower field
Such an interesting area to live… we have cousins who live in New Brighton, and so we have visited often, although usually we just wander along the Mersey coast! Next time we go up there I’ll take my camera and go and do a little explore!
For such a small place there is a lot to see and do, it could take weeks to see it all
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Really cool man, I live about 200 m from it, I love the place
Such a peaceful place, we only live around the corner in Inman Road 🙂
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