The Parish of Neston - Rectors & Vicars - The Font - Windows - Viking Stones - Bells
The Parish of Neston is situated on the banks of the river Dee in Cheshire and is designated an Historic Market Town with a population of 15,000 people. The Royal Charter was granted to Neston in 1728 in support of its status as a market town it and still holds a Friday market and a monthly Farmer’s Market. The Parish includes the surrounding villages of Little Neston, Parkgate and parts of Ness and Burton wards.
A Viking stone found in the foundations of St Mary & St Helen
The history can be traced back to pre Doomsday Book times with evidence of a Viking settlement, and it was, at one time, the biggest port in the North West serving the Atlantic route before the port of Liverpool was founded. Ships sailed from Neston to Portugal, Spain, France and Ireland, and indeed were part of the lucrative cotton / slave trade elsewhere. As a result direct land links existed between Neston and London and Neston and North Wales. It became a huge coaching town with all that such a place provides. For a short period coal mining became an industry around the area producing high quality coal from narrow seams mainly situated under the Dee estuary. Many of the old traditions are up kept in the town one of which is the only surviving ‘Ladies Walking Day’ in the country which is strongly linked with the Neston Female Friendly Society. This extends back to times before the Napoleonic Wars.
The Neston Female Society Bannerthat leads the historic parade every 1st Thursday in June
Once linked with Ellesmere Port, Neston is now independent and has its own Town Council which is very active in the town and a new supermarket build has made it much more independent of the surrounding area. As a result of these changes the town centre has been upgraded.
Our Churches: -
St. Mary & St. Helen - Parish Church
The Parish Church of St. Mary and St. Helen is situated in the centre of the town. The joint dedication to Mary, mother of Jesus and Helen, mother of Constantine the first Christian Roman Emperor is unique in the Anglican Church and the first record of a stone church building goes back to the 1100s. However, evidence revealed by Viking stone grave markers confirms the existence of Christianity in Neston as far back as 930 AD. The tower was extended in 1540 but the main building was rebuilt in 1874 and reopened in 1875.
The history of the town is reflected very strongly in the church. Many treasures are evident for viewing. These include: -
The font in which Lady Hamilton, mistress of Lord Nelson was christened.
The original Charter from the Female Friendly Society
Many spectacular stained glass windows including those designed and made by Morris, Byrne-Jones, Hardman, Kempe and many others.
Viking stones with unique carving depicting Vikings fighting on horseback.
The Falklands Chapel rescued from HMS Plymouth prior to its demise.
The church is open for viewing daily and a small shop provides products for sale found nowhere else in the town. The church was the first recipient of the much coveted North West Multi Faith Tourism Award.
Within the last twelve years the interior of the church has been altered without taking away from its original beauty and provides a venue for concerts, school activities, exhibitions, ecumenical events, town meetings and a convenient drop-in centre. This was achieved by the ‘Vision Programme’ under the guidance of the Vicar. A history of the Vision is enclosed.
There are 14 services per week held in the church and it is renowned for being a place for reflection as it is open daily between 8.00am and 3.00pm for private prayer.
St. Michael’s Church was rebuilt in 1991, the new style building replacing a wooden structure originally licensed in 1913, which became too small for the purpose. This modern style building is ideally suited to modern worship and especially family style worship. Its spacious and individual rooms and well fitted kitchen provide a most desirable venue for many community groups in the area who rent the facility on a regular basis.
These include Women’s Institute; Neston and District Art Society; Mothers Union. It also provides a meeting place for the youth of the parish and the church bereavement group. The building is also well suited to, and used for, weekend group activities and courses and has adequate car parking facilities.
Traditionally the site was an ideal training facility for the parish curate. At present the emphasis is a centre for predominantly ‘lay led’ services with the aim of encouraging Family Worship
St Thomas, Daughter Church, Parkgate.
St. Thomas’ Church, situated in Parkgate and sometimes affectionately known as the ‘Fisherman’s Church’, was, until recently closed for 16 years to undergo a programme of refurbishment. Following a vigorous fundraising campaign by various groups in the community of Parkgate, restoration of the deemed unsafe building was paid for and completed between 2002 and 2009, and the Grade 11 listed building was eventually reopened by the Bishop of Chester on 4th July 2010.
Originally built as a congregational Chapel in 1843, later becoming a Presbyterian Church it was purchased for the Church of England in 1917. Unlike its sister church, St Michael’s it is a ‘Chapel of Ease’ and solely the responsibility of the Vicar of Neston and does not come under the jurisdiction of the Parochial Church Council.
The interior of the church is very adaptable and, as a result, can be used as a community resource by way of a centre for village life. This is strongly encouraged by the Church and especially by the supporting group who originally raised the money and led the refurbishment. This group is also the basis for a very strong and growing congregation. The exterior of the church is still subject to redevelopment and upgrading.