It is not clear whether the long-lost chapel of St Chad had a parish or not. Chad of Mercia (died 2 March 672) was a prominent 7th-century Anglo-Saxon Catholic monk who became abbot of Lastingham, Bishop of the Northumbrians and subsequently Bishop of the Mercians and Lindsey People. He was later canonised as a saint. Chad appears in the 20th-century Stained Glass by W. T. Carter Shapland (1961) in the west window at Chester Cathedral. The other figures in the glass include Werburgh, Oswald, Aidan, Wilfred and (presumably) Æthelflæd (who wasn't a saint) - although she is labelled as being St Ethelfleda who has nothing to do with Chester. Their stories interweave in a complex manner. In the University of Chester chapel there is a somewhat simpler window featuring just Chad and Werburgh, by local stained glass artist Trena Cox, she also made a similar window for St Chad's church at Farndon.
St Chad's Church in Chester
St. Chad's existed by c. 1250. It lay in the area in the north-west of the city known as the Crofts and its status is uncertain but may once have been parochial. Harl MS 2162 records that Cecelia, maidservant of the female anchorite attached to St Chad's was involved in a quitclaim in the year 1300. By 1318 St Johns had appropriated it. The church was mentioned in the late 14th century and c. 1500, but had probably disappeared by the 1530s. Certainly no curate was associated with it in the 1540s.
By the early 17th century the exact site of the church had been forgotten, although the church is said by Hanshall to have been located at the bottom of Princess Street, on the North side, which is now the location of the new car-park in the Northgate Development. Others place it on the site of the Infirmary on what is now Bedward Row. Bedward Row was once known as Little Parson's Lane (and also as Dog Lane) and this might explain Hanshall's comment as Princess Street was once known as Parson's Lane.
Hughes writes as follows (mentioning St Chad):
- "Returning to Watergate Street we see before us Linen Hall Street called formerly Lower Lane from its being at one time the last street on this side of the city. There is nothing to interest us in this street which terminates with St Martin's in the Fields at the rear of the Gaol and General Infirmary. So late as the sixteenth century there was at the further end of this street an ancient Church quoted in old deeds as the Church of St Chad but the place thereof is now nowhere to be found."
Hemingway writes of it when discussing Linenhall street:
- "An old description says out of this street in ancient time went a lane to St Chad's church now ruined and gone called Chad's lane probably Martin's in the fields and from that church there did go a lane to the walls which was called Dog lane"
Hemingway also gives some further guidance as to where it was located:
- "The exact site of St Chadd's is altogether uncertain although its existence is clearly proved by many documents There can be little doubt of its having stood within the square formed by the city walls the Watergate and the Northgate streets. Thus for Mr Ormerod. In Mr Crane's MS it is added "The site of it must be sought for by these directions Robert de Stretton constituted his brothers William and David Ballot his attorneys to give possession to Robert Hare citizen of Chester and William Troutbeck Esquire of 2 messuages and 2 gardens jacent in pdict civitat Cestræ super le Crofts juxta ecclesiam S tæ Ceddæ existent inter messuagia Richardi Coly exparte australi et messuag Bartrami Lyalton exparte Boreali et Gardinam monach Cestr ex parte orientali et alta strata del crofts ex parte occidentali. 21 Hen VII Stephen Cross was fined 9d fregit et obstupavit viam quæ ducit ad ecclesiam S tæ Ceddæ Cestriæ ad magnum nocumentum civium civitat prædict. St Chadd's church stood in that croft where Stanley place and the Linen hall now are. It was situate partly in the road which leads from Watergate street to Stanley place and partly where Mr Hesketh built a house on the west side of that road. In sinking a cellar to this house tiles which were part of the church flooring and buried bodies were dug up. A chapel and a well in Little or Petit Parson's lane were given to our abbey by Richard Fitton in Hen 3d's time. Perhaps this chapel is the same as St Chad's""
There may be a mention of St Chad's in the Domesday book. According to the Cheshire Domesday Eyton (Eaton-on-Dee) was owned "from the time of King Edward" by St Chad's. This could be a reference to St Chad's in Lichfield, but may also be a reference to St Chad's at Chester, as the land at Eyton was granted back to St Johns after it had apparently been granted to Gruffydd ap Llywelyn of Wales for some time during the rule of Edward the Confessor. Gruffydd had reached an agreement with Edward, which, gave him lands near Chester. Domesday also states that:
- "King Edward gave to King Gruffudd all the land that lay beyond the water which is called Dee. But after the same Gruffudd wronged him, he took this land from him and restored it to the Bishop of Chester and to all his men, who had formerly held it."
So this suggests that the ownership of Eaton-on-Dee was with Chester and not Lichfield. It also suggests that St Johns was the seat of a bishop prior to the Norman Conquest.
St Chad's is last recorded as standing during the reign of Henry VII, and may have existed until the 1530's.
Both Farndon and Holt also have a church of St Chad. It seems likely that there was a church at Farndon in the Saxon period, and one existed at the time of the Domesday Book in 1086. The parish church of Farndon is set within a circular churchyard, an indication of an early origin, as is its dedication to St Chad. A similar circular churchyard is found at Eccleston. It has been suggested that there was an early minster parish based on Farndon which encompassed the medieval parishes of Farndon, Aldford, Tilston and Coddington, including everything between the Dee and the southern end of the Mid-Cheshire Ridge. Farndon has several characteristics which are indicative of a multiple estate; and possibly in the 10th century this was under royal patronage. The settlement plan, however, is more reminiscent of a monastic site.
The earliest part of the current church building at Farndon, however, dates to the 14th century, given the presence in the nave of the effigy of Sir Patrick de Bartun, a knight of King Edward III. Very little is known about Sir Patrick, save that he fought for Queen Philippa at the Battle of Neville's Cross in 1346. It is remarkable that the effigy has survived; it was one of three similar effigies of knights discovered buried near the chancel during church repairs in 1800. The other two effigies were ground into sand and sold, but for some reason, the Barton effigy was spared.
The Church was damaged during the English Civil War and later repaired. The church contains a unique Civil War memorial Stained Glass window, and features an image thought to be that of William Lawes, the famous court musician, who was slain at the battle of Rowton Heath. The church tower still shows signs of Civil War musket ball damage. William Barnston had the structure, apart from the tower, substantially rebuilt in 1658.
Every July the villagers at Farndon parade to St Chad’s Church for their Rush Bearing Celebrations. Before churches had paved floors, rushes were strewn to keep the earth floors sweet and it was common to make a special occasion from their annual renewal. Few such customs survive and the ones which do are mainly in North-West England. At Farndon the special service in the church is preceded by a procession involving the local schoolchildren, their Rushbearer and Rose Queen and the Farndon and District Brass Band, and flowers and rushes are used to decorate the church and graveyard.
There is also a St Chad's at Winsford (and several others in northwest Mercia). This one has a peculiar legend: the people of Over (as Winsford was then known) were good and would not worship the Devil. He became angry with them and stole their church, his intention was to take it far away, but the monks (at Vale Royal) remembered the Devil hated to hear church bells ringing and so rang the Abbey bells. The people of Over were praying and their church landed safely, where it is now, a mile from town, hidden away, down a lane off Swanlow Lane. In fact, its location is probably due to it having always belonged, along with its tithes, to St Mary's Convent in Chester.
The stained glass of Chad in the Cathedral cloister at Chester shows Chad with a walking staff rather than a crook and carrying a water bottle. Some sources claim he is the patron of astronomers, while others have him as the patron of disputed elections.
Most of our knowledge of Chad comes from the writings of the Venerable Bede (672/3 – 26 May 735) who had gathered information from at least one who knew him personally. It is reasonable to suppose that Chad and his three brothers (all of whom were involved with the church) were drawn from the Northumbrian nobility. They certainly had close connections throughout the Northumbrian ruling class. However, the name Chad is actually of British Celtic, rather than Anglo-Saxon origin. It is an element found in the personal names of many Welsh princes and nobles of the period and signifies "battle". The only major fact that Bede gives about Chad's early life is that he was a student of Aidan at the Celtic monastery at Lindisfarne. After the death of Aidan in 651 Chad traveled to Ireland as a monk, before he was ordained a priest. He was almost certainly inclined towards the "Celtic" strand of the church.
Bede gives great prominence to the Synod of Whitby in 664, which he portrays as resolving the main issues of practice in the Northumbrian Church in favour of Roman practice. Cedd (Chad's brother), abbot of Lastingham, is shown acting as the main go-between in the synod because of his facility with all of the relevant languages. Unfortunately, the synod may have helped to spread the plague within the church, killing many including Chad's brother Cedd (d. 26 October 664). Cedd was not the only prominent churchman to die of plague shortly after the synod. This was one of several outbreaks of the plague; they badly hit the ranks of the Church leadership, with most of the bishops in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms dead, including the archbishop of Canterbury. The plague had a direct role in the rise of Wilfrid of Ripon to Bishop of York. Wilfrid may have played a part in the foundation of St Johns in Chester.
There is reason to believe that the original name for Lastingham was Læstingau. Læstingau first appears in history when King Ethelwald of Deira (651-c.655) founded a monastery for his own burial. Bede attributes the initiative to Ethelwald's chaplain Caelin, brother of Cedd, Chad and Cynibil. Bede records that Cedd and Cynibil consecrated the site, and that Cynibil built it of wood. Cedd ruled the monastery as the first abbot until his death, combining this position with that of missionary bishop to the East Saxons. St. Cedd died of the plague at Læstingau. Bede records that a party of monks from Essex came to mourn him and all but one were all wiped out by the plague. Chad then became abbot.
In 665 the pro-Roman Wilfrid was expected to become Bishop of York which had been vacant since the departure of Paulinus of York in 633. Wifrid left the country to seek a valid ordination in France as he did not consider any bishops in Great Britain or Ireland to be validly consecrated any any ordinations in Britain to be invalid. In his absence King Oswiu of Northumbria, successor to Oswald of Northumbria, became impatient for some religious guidance in his kingdom and decided to send Chad to Kent to be ordained Bishop of the Northern Church at York and this duly took place, although with some complications. Deusdedit of Canterbury had died of the plague at some time around the Synod of Whitby, although the exact date is disputed. The next Archbishop of Caanterbury was Wighard who died in Rome (of plague) after travelling there for confirmation by the papacy of his elevation to the archbishopric. From Canterbury Chad travelled to Wessex, where he was ordained by bishop Wine of the West Saxons and two British, i.e. Welsh, bishops. Neither of these British bishops was recognised by Rome. It is worth noting that at this time the Bishop of York was not the head of a province as York was only elevated to an Archbishopric in 735.
When Wilfred returned in 666 he was displeased and opposed St Chad’s ordination. Three years later a new Archbishop of Canterbury Theodore was appointed and he soon charged Chad with holding his office illegally, by dint of his ordination involving the Welsh bishops. Chad quickly replied that if this were the case he was very happy to resign as he had only taken up the bishopric out of a sense of duty and never thought himself worthy of the position. Theodore was so moved by Chad’s humility that he promptly completed Chad’s ordination in the Roman manner, but Chad preferred to resign and retired back to Lastingham again as abbot.
In AD 669, Bishop Jaruman of Mercia died and King Wulfhere of Mercia (the father of Werburgh) asked Archbishop Theodore to send his people a new Christian leader. The primate did not wish to consecrate a fresh bishop, so he persuaded King Oswiu to release Chad from the Abbacy of Lastingham to be the new Mercian Bishop, whose see was then at Repton having been founded 656 by Diuma. Theodore re-consecrated him conditionally according to the Roman rite and insisted that Chad must abandon the Celtic custom of visiting his diocese on foot. According to tradition, when Chad remonstrated, the archbishop himself forcibly lifted him on to a horse. Chad did not stay long at Repton, but removed the centre of the Mercian See to Lichfield in Staffordshire. According to Bede, the choice of Lichfield as the site of the principal Mercian bishopric was Chad’s while Stephen of Ripon, Wilfred’s biographer, says that the choice was Wilfred’s. King Wulfhere gave Chad the land of fifty families upon which to build a monastery.
According to tradition Chad (while Bishop of Lichfield) educated Werburgh at home. She was born after c650, when Chad was either in Ireland or at Lastingham. However this is dubious historically as the same tradition mentions two brothers of Werburgh, Wulfhad and Ruffin who are not believed to have existed, and claims that King Wulfhere, Werbergh's father (who died in 675, evidently in his mid 30's) was a pagan at the time and killed both his own sons when he discovered that Chad was educating them as christians. The date and the circumstances of Wulfhere's conversion are unknown. It has been suggested that he adopted Christianity as part of a settlement with Oswiu in 658 (when Wulfhere would have been about 18), some years before Chad moved to Lichfield. Walter de Whittlesey, a 14th century monk of Peterborough Abbey, compiled and wrote an account of Saints Wulfhad and Ruffin, sons of King Wulfhere, who was supposed to have been the founder of Peterborough Abbey. The foundation charter of Peterborough Abbey (then "Medeshamstede") dated 664 (Wulfhere would have been 24) is, in fact, a forgery from the 12th century. Fabrications such as this to prove the ancient origin of a religious foundation were common at this time. Chad worked (mostly on foot) in Mercia and Lindsey for only two-and-a-half years (669-672) before he too died during a plague.
In 786 King Offa made Lichfield an archbishopric with authority over all the bishops from the Humber to the River Thames; his appointee was Archbishop Hygeberht. This may have been motivated by Offa's desire to have an archbishop consecrate his son Ecgfrith as king, since it is possible Jænberht refused to perform the ceremony, which took place in 787. Offa also seemed to resent his own bishops paying allegiance to the Archbishop of Canterbury in Kent who, whilst under Offa's control, was not of his own kingdom of Mercia. The elevation to the seat of a primate was done with the consent of Pope Adrian I and he gave Lichfield bishop Hygeberht the pallium in 788, the year after he had consecrated Ecgfrith.
After King Offa's death in 796, Ecgfrith's reign lasted 141 days and Lichfield's power waned; in 803 the primacy was restored to Canterbury by Pope Leo III after only 16 years. Bishop Peter of Lichfield moved the see of Lichfield to the fortified and wealthier Chester in 1075, leading to the rebuilding of St Johns. The "Two Saints Way" is a 92-mile pilgrimage/walking route between the cathedral cities of Chester and Lichfield. Chester and Lichfield were the resting places of St Werburgh and St Chad respectively.
Returning to the Cathedral west window we find Werburgh (died 700) and Oswald (died 642) to whom the church was rededicated by Æthelflæd who lived much later (c870-918); Chad (died 672) and Wilfred (died 710) who were "rivals" as bishop of York and both appointed by the brother and successor of Oswald; and, Aidan of Lindisfarne (died 651) who taught both Chad and Wilfrid.