The history of St. Andrew’s

Records show that a church has existed in Tarvin since the 13th century. The earliest part of the present building is 14th century and St Andrew’s Church is the only Grade 1 listed building in Tarvin.

The church tower was replaced in the late 15th century and the chiming clock in the tower was made by Joyce of Whitchurch, well known as manufacturers of public clocks. When first installed in 1887 to mark Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee it had only three faces. The other face was added ten years later to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee. The tower has a ringing chamber containing six 18th century bells tuned and re-hung in 1891, and again restored in 1966.

The original parish served by St Andrew’s was a large one containing eleven hamlets but by the end of the 19th century four chapels of ease had been built to serve these outlying villages. Today St Peter’s at Duddon is still part of the Tarvin Parish.

On entering the church through the West door to the right is the South Aisle. This is the earliest part of the church dating from the 14th century and has an arch-brace roof said to be one of the finest in Cheshire.

The South Aisle has a number of interesting features including the octagonal font, positively dated as 15th century. It shows on the inside of the bowl the date 1330. This is either a mistake or was inscribed to show how long children had been baptised in this church.

On the south wall there are two painted boards that record charitable bequests to the poor in Tarvin parish in the 17th century. The list of bequests include the foundation, about 1600, of Tarvin Grammar school now the Parish Rooms.

Halfway along this aisle at the junction of the roof and the south wall is a figure known as The Tarvin Imp carved from the end of a beam and said to be there to look through the squint to the High Altar and ward off any evil spirits that might appear there!

The wooden screen that divides the Bruen Chapel from the South Aisle is also 14th century and the wood has been carved in imitation of stonework with its openings imitating window tracery of the decorated style.

The Bruen Chapel at the end of the South Aisle takes its name from a local family, prominent among the Cheshire gentry. The most famous was John Bruen, living in Stapleford, who was a staunch Puritan and is credited with the destruction of the mediaeval glass in the church.

John also destroyed several stone crosses in the area including the Tarvin cross in 1613. He believed that the images encouraged superstition and idolatrous worship. Remnants of the Tarvin cross can be seen in the church history exhibition.

The communion table in the chapel is 17th century and at the rear is an oak reredos or carved panel.

The Nave or central aisle is 15th century. The fact that the columns, on either side of the Nave are not opposite each other confirms that this was an extension to the original church. The box pews were removed in the 1875 restoration and the present pews installed.

The roof of the Nave has a beam that carries an inscription that it was built in 1650 and names the church wardens and carpenters of the time.

The Chancel is also 15th century although some restoration took place in the window area behind the altar in 1858 and in 1891.

The ornate brass chandelier is said to be of late 18th century and probably made in Birmingham.

The choir pews were installed in the 1875 restoration and include some fine carved figures behind the altar is an interesting reredos or carved panel said to date from about 1500.

It has been identified as probably Flemish and was believed to have come from a Holy Temple in Spain and presented to the church by a former vicar.

The Victorian organ situated in the Chancel was moved to its present position in 1901 and rebuilt by Nicholson and Ward of Walsall. It was hand-pumped until 1973 when it was rebuilt again, electrified and enlarged by the Chester firm of Charles Whiteley and company.

The final aisle to be built was the North Aisle in the 16th century and the ceiling was replaced in 1959 by a local Tarvin firm.

At the far end of the North Aisle is an exhibition displaying ten storyboards and six glass cabinets covering the history of St Andrew’s Church and also Tarvin village.

The windows in the church are Victorian or early 20th century. Some of the windows are by C.E. Kempe, a Victorian stained glass designer and others designed by Herbert Bryans who trained under Kempe and was the son of a former vicar at St Andrew’s.

However the West window, over the entrance door, was commissioned in 2006 by a parishioner in memory of her husband. It was designed by her daughter and then developed by Pendle Stained Glass and is a magnificent example of a modern stained glass window that tells a story in so many different ways.

The church of St Andrew’s has seen many changes over the centuries not forgetting the occupation of troops and horses during the Civil War as the tower offered an excellent viewpoint.

It stands to this day as a very prominent feature in the village of Tarvin.

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