St Matthew, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ, Apostle and Evangelist, also called Levi, was sitting at his tax-collector's desk in Capernaum, when he was called by Christ. He followed him immediately and also gave a feast for Jesus and the other disciples. After the resurrection of Christ, while Matthew was still in Judea, before going to the district he was to evangelize, he wrote the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Hebrew for the sake of the Jews who had become believers. He then went to Ethiopia and preached the Gospel, confirming his teaching with many miracles. He incurred the displeasure of the new king of Ethiopia, and on 21st September he was killed at the altar while celebrating Mass,thus becoming a martyr. His body was taken to Salerno and later, under Pope Gregory VII, it was transferred to the church dedicated to St Matthew.
St Matthew's Church
The influential Starkey family owned Stretton from the reign of Henry II 1154 - 1189 AD - the time of Thomas Becket, to the beginning of the 18th century. A chapel was probably built for family worship during the 13th or 14th century. The chapel is 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". In Leycester's "History of Cheshire" we are told that there was an ancient Chapel of Stretton in 1666 "ruinous and in decay". It was thought that this was situated near the present Tanyard Farm in Well Lane, Lower Stretton, where there is an ancient footpath and stile known as "chapel stile". This site would also have been between Over Hall and Nether Hall, owned by branches of the Starkey family. We are also told that there were many coats of arms in the high altar window, including the Starkey Coat of Arms -(a black stork on a silver field). It is not known why in 1666 it was in disrepair. A new church dedicated to St Matthew was built between 1826 and 1827 in the reign of George IV as a Chapel of Ease to Great Budworth, from funds administered by the Church Commissioners. The Architect was Philip Hardwick, and it provided seating for 250 people. It was described as an "un-inspiring Gothic structure with a tower". It was consecrated by Bishop Blomfield in 1827, together with burial ground. The first vicar of Stretton was the Reverend Richard Janion.
Archdeacon Richard Greenall and Stretton Church
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. He was also Patron. He was the son of Edward Greenall of Wilderspool and the elder of twin brothers -the other twin being Sir Gilbert Greenall M.P. Richard graduated from Brasenose College Oxford with a B.A. in 1828 and a M.A. in 1831. In 1838 Stretton National School was built, largely through his energy and enthusiasm. He also subscribed to the building of several other churches in the area. In 1855 he married Eliza Lyon at St. Matthew's. In 1859 He commissioned Mr. George Gilbert Scott, the famous architect, to build a chancel at St. Matthew's at a cost of 1,700 pounds. Sadly he died suddenly in 1867. After his death, with George Gilbert Scott again as the architect, the church was rebuilt as a memorial to him. It was rebuilt in red sandstone and has a wooden roof tiled with Westmorland slate. It was also found necessary to rebuild the tower. Eliza, the Archdeacon's widow, shared the cost of doing this with her brother, Mr. Thomas Henry Lyon, at a cost of £5,000.
The Church is a grade II listed building
The lectern is the desk from where the Bible is read. The word “Lectern” derives from the Latin “legere” to read. Usually there are two readings in a service, one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament. St. Matthew’s lectern is in the form of a brass eagle and is 80 inches high. The flying eagle is the symbol of John the Baptist, and represents the taking of God’s message to every part of the world.
The weathercock - above the book shelves at the back of the church is a carved wooden plaque "To commemorate the diamond wedding of James and Isabella Pollitt August 24th 1950". The new weathercock and fixtures were given by their children. The weathercock is made of aluminium, with brass letters. It was renovated in 2001 by David Booth and David Hart.
There are six bells, ranging from the treble weighing three and a half cwt. (190 kg), to the tenor at over nine cwt. (460kg). The bells were purchased by public subscription and installed in 1850 in the former tower and later re-installed in the tower designed by Gilbert Scott. The first five are inscribed "C & G Mears - Founders London 1850". On the tenor is inscribed "This bell was purchased by the parish of Great Budworth in 1827 - Dobson Founders, Downham, Norfolk". The bells were re-hung and quarter turned in 1920. This was repeated in 1987, but on this occasion ball bearings mountings were installed. In the year 2001 the wooden bell frame was replaced by a steel frame and the bells taken away by Hayward Mills of Loughborough to be cleaned and retuned. They were rehung and there was a special re-dedication Service on Sunday 9th September.In 2003 two new bells were cast, making eight in all and were hung in 2004. The Treble is inscribed with the words "The first shall be last and the last first" - Matthew 20:16. The inscription on the 'two' reads "Rev'd Robert Rowlands Vicar 1971-2000", celebrating his ministry in Stretton. They were dedicated by the present Vicar and Rural Dean the Rev'd Elaine Chegwin Hall on December 12th 2004 The Clock Faces are on the west and south sides of the tower. They were renovated in 1963 under the auspices of the vicar, the Rev. Thomas Pennell. Mr. Miln, a parishioner, was asked to suggest some twelve letter mottos instead of the usual twelve numbers. He produced a list of over 80, from which "Time is not all" and "Forget not God" were chosen. It is said that there are only two other churches in the country with lettered faces - the nearest being at Cheadle near Manchester.
The War Memorial - at the east end of the churchyard is a tall stone cross, approximately 15 feet high, mounted on an octagonal base. It was originally consecrated on All Saints Day 1st November 1923 by the then Bishop of Chester Henry Luke Paget. The Vicar at the time was the Reverend Charles Francis Cross and the Churchwardens Robson John Chorley and Philip Darbyshire. The inscription above the plinth reads "This cross was raised to the Glory of God in the year of Our Lord 1923 as a memorial of men connected with the Church and Parish who gave their lives in the Great War or through the hardness then endured". According to the church records, the money for the Memorial was raised by parishioners' donations. At that time, no names were inscribed on it. In January 2001 the three bronze plaques with the names of those people who died in, or as a result of both World Wars were added. Stretton Parish Council, in conjunction with St Matthew's Parochial Church Council, made a major contribution to this as their Millennium Project, together with public donations. The plaques were dedicated on Sunday 18th March 2001 by the Reverend G Buchan, the assistant priest.
Archdeacon Richard Greenall is buried in Stretton churchyard, together with his wife Eliza, below the east window in the footpath leading from the church to the War Memorial. There is also a brass dedicated to him at All Saints Church, Daresbury, inscribed "Rev. Richard Greenall M.A. Archdeacon of Chester and incumbent of Stretton 1806-1867" dedicated by brother Gilbert.In 2013 his original upright marble gravestone was re-located 5 metres to the South, alongside the footpath to the small churchyard gate, and was replaced below the East Window by a flat, Yorkstone slab, giving his and Eliza’s details. Canon Charles Francis Cross is buried alongside the pathway leading from the east window of the church to the War Memorial. The grave is in the form of a Celtic cross on a plinth.
The Lychgate is the main entrance to the churchyard. On the front roof beam is carved "I am the Resurrection and the Life". The name comes from an old English word meaning "corpse" and is where the parish priest used to receive the coffins and read part of the burial service. St Matthew's lychgate is built of Cheshire stone with a heavy oak roof and slates. Some lychgates have benches at the sides as seats. It was donated in 1889 by Mrs. Edith Grace Lyon, a member of the well known local family in memory of her brother William Stewart Branker. The dedication plaque is under the roof.
The Parish Map - this project was started in 1987 as a result of an essay written by a ten year old pupil at Stretton school, who "wished to put back the oak trees that the bull-dozers knocked down to make way for the new roundabout on London Road". Forty people attended a public meeting, chaired by the Reverend R Rowlands, and it was finally decided to make an out-door pictorial map recording historical, natural and social features of the area before it was completely changed by new development. A map engraved in stainless steel was finally put in place in 1991 at the footpath junction on the Roman Road behind Stretton church. The stone plinth on which the map is fixed was erected by the Warrington Commission for New Towns. A grant from the Cheshire Heritage and Recreation Department, together with other private donations, helped to meet the cost. Dr. Ralph Tomlinson was the driving force behind the project, Mrs. Glenys Rowlands made the drawings and Eric Hand was responsible for the engraving. In June 2006 ther stone plinth was re-orientated so that the map could be read correctly (with North at the top). the plinth work and re-installation of thr map was done by Mallett Stonemasonry.
Ministers of Stretton
1828-1831 Rev. Richard JANION (Perpetual Curate)
1831-1867 Rev. Richard GREENALL (Perpetual Curate)
Rural Dean of Frodsham
Canon of Chester Cathedral and
Archdeacon of Chester 1868-1896 Rev. Henry Russell DODD (Vicar)
He became a Canon in 1880
1897-1937 Rev. Charles Francis Cross (Vicar)
Rural Dean of Frodsham
Canon of Chester Cathedral
1937-1958 Rev. Alfred John WHITE (Vicar)
1959-1970 Rev. Thomas Edward Nickson PENNELL (Vicar)
1971-2000 Rev. Robert ROWLANDS (Vicar)
2000- Rev. Geoffrey BUCHAN(Assistant Priest)
2001-2013 Rev. Elaine CHEGWIN HALL (Vicar)” Rural Dean of Great Budworth September 2003-2010
Honorary Canon of Chester Cathedral January 2012
2014- Rev. Alan Jewell (Vicar)
The present Patrons of St Matthew, Stretton, are descendants of the Lyon Family of Appleton who had many connections with and played an important part in the formation of the church. They are :-
Mrs. Phillida du Bois Grantham and
Dr. S.P.L. du Bois Davidson.
D F & M R Hart.
Pamphlet compiled July 2001