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  • "ECCLESTON, a village, a township, and a parish in Great Boughton district, Cheshire. The village stands on the river Dee, near the Chester and Shrewsbury railway, 2¾ miles S of Chester; is a pretty place; borrows beauty from the Marquis of Westminster's neighbouring seat of Eaton Hall; and has a post office under Chester. The township includes the village. Real property, £2,112. Pop., 267. Houses, 49. The parish contains also the township of Eaton. Acres, 2,402. Real property, £4,186. Pop., 349. Houses, 64. The manor belongs to the Marquis of Westminster. Eccleston hill commands a fine prospect. The parish is traversed by Watling-street. The living is a rectory in the diocese of Chester. Value, £403. Patron, the Marquis of Westminster. The church was built, in 1808, by Earl Grosvenor, after designs by Pordon; is a handsome structure, with lofty pinnacled tower; and contains the family tombs of the Grosvenors. Charities, £14." - The Imperial Gazetteer of England & Wales [Wilson, John M]. A. Fullarton & Co. N. d. c. [1870-72].

A Brief History

Old postcard of Eccleston.

Eccleston has a name which is a compound of the latin for church (ecclesia) and the English word for settlement (tun). This may indicate some kind of religous settlement, possibly relocated from the Roman village at Heronbridge or otherwise associated with it. It was apparently the site of one of the crosses destroyed by the iconoclast John Bruen.

St. Mary's Church was built at the expense of the Duke of Westminster and cost £40,000 in 1899. Local legend has it that Hugh Lupus Grosvenor, 1st Duke of Westminster, asked leading architect George Frederick Bodley to build him a cathedral in Eccleston. On being told that one already existed close by in Chester, the Duke is reported to have replied: "Then build me a small one!"

The present church was built on the site of an earlier church that was constructed in 1809. Part of the churchyard is unusual in that it is circular in shape, which indicates pagan origins. In 1929 an excavation revealed 20 bodies which are believed to date from AD 390. They are the earliest known Christian burials in Cheshire. The early importance of Eccleston may have been a reason why the Battle of Chester was fought here around 616 as it would be a known place on a Roman road where the Welsh defenders could agree to muster in order to confront the approaching Northumbrians.

The "pump house" was designed (1874) by John Douglas for the first Duke of Westminster but it is not clear whether there was there ever a pump. A fictional Eccleston appears in the 1853 novel "Ruth" by Elizabeth Gaskell, the Knutsford/Manchester novelist. Coward notes that Gaskell uses local places in his Picturesque Cheshire, although it is likely that Gaskell's "Eccleston" is based on Macclesfield. There is a very similar monument, also believed to be by Douglas, in Christleton which is marked "ERECTED BY LUCY ANN INCE TO THE DEAR MEMORY OF HER SISTER AUGUSTE MARIA FULLER WHO DIED AT CHRISTLETON ON THE 4th OF JULY 1871. BLESSED ARE THE PURE IN HEART FOR THEY SHALL SEE GOD 1886." Douglas designed another well, also with an ornamental fish for Grosvenor Park in Chester.

Nearby, is a mound of uncertain purpose and date; claimed variously as a round barrow, a Roman 'botontinus' or roadside exploratory mound, a medieval motte, or a civil war mount. Ormerod writes of the 'mound':

  • "Below the church, in one of the glebe fields, was formerly a Tumulus (adjoining a bath), the site of which is now planted with trees. It stood on the Roman road which ran from Chester to the Iron Bridge over the Dee. The tumulus was opened by the Rev. Charles Mytton, then rector, about half a century ago, and a great quantity of human bones and, some say, coins were discovered."

The mound lies at about 20m above OD on a natural knoll above the west side of the Dee valley. It is 2.5m high and 15m-20m in diameter, although much mutilated by disturbances which can all be identified as modern. It is close to church and had marshland to east. Eccleston was the site of a ferry crossing of the Dee and the other crossings of the Dee are overlooked by castles (e.g. Aldford, Holt, Shocklach, Chester). It was rescheduled as a motte by English Heritage in 1993:

  • "The motte and associated earthworks east of the Old Rectory at Eccleston is one of a group of early post-Conquest mottes and motte and bailey castles forming a defensive system, the aim of which was tocurb Welsh raids on the rich farming areas of Cheshire. Equally important was the role these sites played in imposing and demonstrating the new post-Conquest feudal order on the area. The monument is a motte and associated earthworks strategically situated on a local high point overlooking the River Dee. The monument includes an oval earthen motte, or mound, mutilated on its eastern side, and partly surrounded by a ditch and bank with other earthen banks to the south and south-west. The motte measures 28m by 14.5m by 3m high and is flanked on its north and west sides by a ditch 8m wide and 0.3m deep, beyond which are faint traces of an outer bank 14.5m wide by 0.1m deep which continues in a south-westerly direction for a distance of approximately 17m. To the south of the motte, and running along the crest above the slope down to the river, is a bank measuring 23.5m long by 10m wide and 1.3m high"

The Witch

Anne Thornton who did "wickedly, divillishly and feloniously devise, excercise and practiuce certaiyne divellish and wicked acts", was from Eaton but had moved to Eccleston when widowed and it was suggested that she had: "three imps in the likeness of animals - Pygin, resembling a mole, Russoll, a grey cat, and Dunsott, a dun dog". Thornton's "wicked acts" included the murder by witchcraft of Daniel Finchett son of yeoman Ralph Finchett of Eccleston. Daniel was three days old when he became ill on the 9th February 1656 and died on the 11th. She was hanged at Boughton on the 15th October 1656.

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