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The arms of "Bishop Peploe" appear on the wall of the Consistory Court at Chester Cathedral in a different form to this modern illustration, of the kind you can get printed on mugs etc.

The Peploes and their relatives the Hamiltons had a major impact on the development of modern-day Hoole. In places the hisoric record as regards Hoole has become somewhat confused, partly because the family tree is complicated and partly because there were some name-changes with the intermarriages of the Peploes, Wards and Hamiltons. The Peploes are mentioned in connection with other elements of Chester history, some of which are of interest and many of which have been somewhat mangled in the mill of history:

  • The Hoole Urban District Council "Handbook" of 1947 confuses Hoole's William Hamilton with the husband of Nelson's Emma Hamilton;
  • The "Handbook" also confuses a local Peploe-Ward with Chester's Bishop Peploe;
  • There are several versions of when the "Old Bishop's Palace" at the Groves actually became the residence of a bishop, when it was built, who lived there, etc. and;
  • Some guidebooks to Chester have a Peploe-related coat of arms on the City Walls as being from the Exchange, whereas evidence suggests otherwise.

Bishop Peploe

Bishop Samuel Peploe (1667-1752) was born the son of yeoman farmer Podmore Peploe (c. 1641–1714) and was baptized at Dawley Parva, Shropshire on 29th July 1667 (or 68). He had three brothers, Jonathan, Nathan and Paul, and was educated at Penkridge Free School, Staffordshire. He then matriculated at Jesus College, University of Oxford, on 12 May 1687, where he graduated and obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree on 12 March 1690 and his Master of Arts degree on 19 October 1693.

After being ordained, Peploe became rector of Kedleston, Derbyshire, in 1695 and vicar of Preston, Lancashire, in 1700. His Whig and anti-Jacobite politics made him attractive to his patrons, the Hoghton family of Hoghton Tower who were staunch Presbyterians. He gained a reputation as an outspoken enemy of the local Roman Catholic inhabitants, who were in the majority. In November 1715, when Jacobite forces came to Preston, Peploe is said to have preached a brave sermon urging support for King George I, who had become king the previous year. He possibly took part in the Battle of Preston and suffered damage to his property with his house plundered, his horses stolen and his barn destroyed. He would get his revenge when the Jacobites were put on trial and he opened the proceedings with a sermon. Today he is best remembered outside of Chester for a story: perhaps apocryphal - concerning his behaviour during the Jacobite rising of 1715. It is said that, when he was conducting a service, a group of rebels entered the church at Preston and threatened to kill him unless he ceased to pray for the "Hanoverian usurper". Peploe supposedly replied Soldier, I am doing my duty; do you do yours"; and continued his prayers. When this was reported to George I, he apparently remarked: "Peep-low, Peep-low is he called? But he shall peep high; I will make him a bishop".

The Consistory Court at Chester Cathedral. The coat of arms on the wall is that of Bishop Peploe who was a distant relative of the Peploe-Wards of Hoole. For some reason the same coat of arms is to be found half-way along the spur wall leading to the Watertower on the Chester City Walls. The arms comprise three hunting horns, possibly associated with Cannock Chase near where the family seems to have dwelt.

His sermons on the "dangers of popery" also brought him wider attention, and in July 1717 he was nominated as the warden of Manchester collegiate church; however, Francis Gastrell, as Bishop of Chester, refused to sanction the appointment on the basis that Peploe's Lambeth degree of Bachelor of Divinity was not a valid qualification. It took many years of litigation, until 1725, before it was ruled that Lambeth degrees, which are awarded by the Archbishop of Canterbury, were of equal status with university degrees. For that reason he returned to Jesus College and obtained his Bachelor of Divinity degree on 10 March 1718.

Gastrell died in 1725 and Peploe, supported by Edmund Gibson (Bishop of London) and the Duke of Newcastle, was appointed. Gibson ha made his feelings about Chester clear to Townshend:

  • "The diocese of Chester is full of papists, and the late bishop has given great strength to the tories' interests there, especially among the clergy; which will require a person not only of zeal for his majesties servive, but also of experience and auhority, such as may awe the clergy and prreserve the bishop from errors of administration among a people who will not fail to improve upon and expose them is any be committed"

Peploe was consecrated on 12 April 1726 and allowed to continue to hold his Manchester wardenship (which he held until he made way for his son, another Sanuel, in 1738), although he had to resign his position in Preston, again managing to reserve the living for his son with the intervention of George II. When in 1745 Prince Charles Edward Stuart, (Bonnie Prince Charlie), and his Jacobite supporters marched as far as Derby in an attempt to overthrow the king, Peploe once again denounced ‘Popish idolatry’ and donated £200 towards local defences. His son became Chancellor of the Diocese of Chester and hence presided as the judge of the Consistory court: a role which he held until his death in 1781. Until the nineteenth century the jurisdiction of the ecclesiastical courts, including the Consistory court covered the moral and religious conduct of clergy and laity, the maintenance of the fabric and furniture of church buildings, and matters relating to tithe, probate and matrimony.

In later life Samuel Peploe Snr. suffered poor health. He remained Bishop of Chester until he died on 21 February 1752 (aged 85) with last will dated 24 April 1749 and was buried in Chester Cathedral where he has a memorial. The next bishop, Edmund Keene for the then Bishops Palace (at the Cathedral) in such a poor state of repair that he rented the Cholmondeley House (in Grosvenor Park) as his summer residence and started to construct a new Bishop's Palace off Abbey Street.

Coat of Arms

Peploe's coat of arms as described in some modern sources (such as the purveyors of tea-mugs and the like which feature a "family crest") has:

  • "Azure, on a chevron counter-embattled between three stringed bugle-horns Or a mitre with labels of the first".

This means it is a blue shield with a chevron having a battlement-like edge in gold and the hunting horns also in gold. The arms may, according to these sources, derive from the fact that the area around Penkridge, where the family appears to have originated was part of the royal forest of Cannock Chase. Other modern writers state that in use as the Bishop's coat of arms a mitre was added on the chevron, although they were probably added later.

This coat of arms appears (in slightly variant forms) in two significant places in Chester, the Consistory Court in the Cathedral and on the spur-wall leading to the Watertower. The arms in the Consistory court bear the date of 1775, and the initials S.P. As Bishop Samuel Peploe died in 1752, these are the arms of his son, another Samuel who died in 1781. The chevron in the Cathedral arms bears the mitre of a bishop. The bishops seal however tells a quite different story - this has "Sable, a chevron ermine between three martlets" (a black shield with an ermine chevron and three birds"). Bishop Peploe appears to have learned of these arms from a possibly dubious source, who gave its origins as "Peploe Castle" in Cheshire - a place for which there is no evidence. He used these arms at least from 1726 until 1744 when he had a search made of the Records in the College of Arms and nothing could be found to connect the arms with the name Peploe. He then switched to the arms with the blue field and the horns. The Bishop's son had the new Coat of Arms officially confirmed in 1753 (the year after the bishop died) and the son added the Bishops mitre to the chevron, together with the sword and crozier in the corner of the shield to represent the Battle of Preston in 1715.

It is often said that the stone-carved arms on the spur-wall comes from the Exchange, which once functioned as the Town Hall and stood in the Market Square (now Town Hall Square). The Exchange burned-down on 30th December 1862 and some items of stonework were moved to the vicinity of the Watertower. The Exchange, known at first as the "new common hall", was erected between 1695 and 1698 at the corporation's expense but with contributions from William III, Peter Shakerley (former governor of the castle and a Tory M.P. for Chester from 1698), Francis Gell (projector of a plan to improve the River Dee navigation), and the estate of Thomas Cowper of Overleigh Hall. The building, of brick with stone quoins and elevated on pillars, was adorned in 1712 with a life-sized statue of Queen Anne (6 February 1665 – 1 August 1714) "curiously gilt and painted" placed over the main entrance in the south front. According to one source, the decorative panel to the east of Queen Anne was the one which is now supposedly on the spur-wall and which bears the arms of Peploe.

The coat of arms on the spur-wall at the Watertower.

As noted above, Peploe only became bishop of Chester on 12th April 1726, sometime after the death of Queen Anne, so it would seem unlikely that his arms should have appeared on the building at the same time as Anne's statue. We also have the following description from Batenham (1827):

  • "The Exchange is the large handsome building .. supported in the centre by a range of pillars and by a few shops on the west side which were unfortunately obliged to be put there to strengthen it it is in length about 126 feet in breadth about 46 and was erected in the year 1698. In it are contained the Town Hall, a large Assembly room, the Mayor s office and others. The exterior is finished with stone facings angles and cornices and surmounted with a neat cupola and has a fine statue over the south entrance of her Majesty Queen Anne besides which in two large panels are carved the arms of the Earldom and that of the kingdom before the Hanoverian quartering. The whole of this fine sculpture was unfortunately much injured during the election contests of 1784 and 1812."

The coupola was also descibed by Celia Fiennes and appears in several illustrations of the city:

  • "in the middle is a tower, there are ballconies on ye Side and windows quite round ye Cupillow that shews ye whole town round. There is another town hall-a long Lofty place, and another by the Side wch is Called the Councill Roome both for ye Major and Aldermen to meete for ye buissinesse of ye Corporation."
Fox-Talbot's early photograph of the Exchange.

If Batenham is correct, and there is no reason to doubt him, the coat of arms on the Exchange building would have been the three gold garbs of corn for the Earldom (possibly impaled with three lions) and the royal arms without the references to Brunswick, Lüneburg and Westphalia, surmounted by the Imperial Crown of the Holy Roman Empire as introduced in 1714. One of the ornamental plaques situated on each side of the Queen is said to now reside in the small garden of the Grosvenor Museum, but inspection (2024) failed to find it. However, comparison of the panels on the Exchange with human figures below shows that these are nuch larger than that on the spur wall.

The arms on the spur wall at the Watertower are the later arms of 1753, with the "canton" refering to the Battle of Preston in the corner, i.e. the same as in the Consistory court at the Cathedral. It is possible that the arms at the Watertower come from the Archdeacons House which was demolished about the same time that the Exchange burnt down. Looking closely, there is an eye visible at the top of the sculpture on the Watertower. The story behind it is very strange. At one time there would have been a reindeer crest above the shield, and this had an eye in the neck. The head has been broken off. One theory put forward to explain the eye is that at least one of the Peploes had a genetic defect which interferes with foetal development so that there is partial formation of gill slits, leaving a mark on the neck like a closed eye. It could also be a play on words for "peep low".

However there is a third coat of arms on the Exchange building. This is above the door and is much closer to the size of the slab at the spur-wall. The best image of this is in Fox-Talbot's very early photograph of the exchange: the negative can be found here but it is difficult to make out the details.

The same arms are found on an armorial board in the Registrar's Office above the Abbey Gateway in Northgate Street, just opposite the site of the Exchange. Some sources consider this to be the work of the Randle Holme family, the last of whom Randle Holme IV (c1659–1707) has dates which suggest this is not the case, as Chancellor Peploe was only born in 1700.

Bishop Peploe and Peploe Ward had a common ancestor and were also related through the bishop's daughter. The Peploe, Ward and Hamilton families were the ones who developed significant parts of Hoole.


The arms of "Bishop Peploe" as they actually appear on the wall of the Consistory Court at Chester Cathedral. These were confirrmed in 1753, after the bishop's death and used by his son. The same arms are found on the spur-wall leading to the Watertower.

Around 6 June 1699 Bishop Peploe married his first wife, Anne Browne, daughter of Thomas Browne of Shredicote (died 1728) and Mary Carr (died 1689). With Anne Browne the bishop had four surviving children:

  • Elizabeth Peploe (1704-), married in 1736 to John Bradshaw;
  • Rev. Samuel Peploe (1700–1781), who married Elizabeth Birch and had one son and Rebecca Roberts. Commonly known as ‘Peploe Junior,’ he was vicar of Preston 1726–43, prebendary of Chester 1727–81, vicar of Northenden 1727–81, archdeacon of Richmond 1729–81, warden of Manchester 1738–1781, vicar of Tattenhall 1743–81, and chancellor of Chester 1748–81;
  • Mary Peploe (1701–1772), wife of Francis Joddrell (died 1765);
  • Anne Peploe (1702–1769), wife of James Bayley of Withington (1705–1769);

Anne Browne died on 5th December 1705, possibly from complications associated with the birth of a further daughter Jane (bpt 25 Nov 1705 - d.2nd December 1705). On 8 January 1712 he married secondly Anne Birch, who died in 1758.

Westminster Road in Hoole was originally called Peploe Street after the Peploe-Wards who married into the Hamilton family. In 1865 the Marquis, later to be the Duke, of Westminster, built the School for Girls & Infants lower down the Street and enlarged it in 1895; in recognition, the Street was re-named Westminster Road. Other streets in Hoole are named after the Haliltons and the Pantons. Martha Hamilton had married Rev Hamilton of Chester in c.1822. Hamilton was born as Peploe William Ward, son of Peploe Ward and grandson of Abel Ward. At around the same date as he married Martha he resigned his new position as perpetual curate of Shotwick. Abel Ward (1716-1785) was not a native of Chester although his family was to have some impact on the city. He was born in Whitgreave Staffordshire, the son of Thomas Ward and Mary Peploe. Mary Peploe was born in Penkridge, Staffordshire and shares a common ancestor (Humphrey Peploe) with Bishop Samuel Peploe (who was also born there) - her father Reverend John Peploe (1648-1728) the "fanatical parson of Penkridge" was brother to Podmore Peploe and hence Bishop Peploe's uncle. Penkridge was a Royal Free Chapel and remained outside the diocesan structures of the Church of England, one of the handful of royal free churches or peculiars that were self-contained ecclesiastical islands within – but paradoxically outside – the Diocese of Lichfield. Evidently Abel Ward was greatly favoured by Bishop Peploe who appointed him to a prebendary stall at Chester, then to the Rectory of St Ann's, Manchester, and later to the Archdeaconry of Chester (1751). Both were almost fanatical anti-Jacobites. Abel Ward died at Neston, where he had relatives and a rectorship. William Peploe Ward/Hamilton ended-up as a significant land owner in Hoole, this was partly due to the purchase of estates by Peploe Ward and partly due to his family having purchased the contingent estate of the remaining children of the Burrows and Tonna families.

St John by Moses Griffiths showing The Groves, The Archdeacons House (center), Samuel Peploes house, later the Bishop's Palace and a part of Dee House.

The Bishop's Palace

On the early 18th century there was much rebuilding in Chester. Space within the walls was at a premium and it was noisy and crowded. Consequently some of the more important and wealthy citizens chose to live outside the walls where the air was cleaner and they could constuct new mansions with elaborate gardens. By the mid 18th Century several mansions had been constructed between St Johns and the Groves. One group of these were illustrated in a watercolour by Moses Griffiths. The largest surviving structure is the Old Bishop's Palace which was constructed from 1751. Some sources state that it was constructed for Bishop Samuel Peploe to replace a medieval palace nearby. However Bishop Peploe died on 21 February 1752 and had been ill for some time. It seems unlikely that he would pursue the construction of a new house at the very end of his life.

The Bishop's See included land between Souters Lane and the City Walls, and some land to the east of Souters Lane. How far this holding extended to the east is not known. The Archdeacon of Chester had a house on this land, probably on the site of the central building in the watercolour by Griffiths. However Peploe is known to have leased this out. It appears that around 1741 the Bishop built a house in the garden (or orchard) of the Archdeacon's house. He may have lived there or he may have also leased it out.

The building now known as the "Old Bishop's Palace" was constructed in three phases with the oldest part being nearest to St Johns and progressive extensions to the west. The last of these was an extension to the west for Bishop Jacobson c.1865. In 1920 the building was sold to the YMCA, later became offices and is now a wedding venue. It's use as the YMCA was indicated by some ornamental ironwork on the steps leading to the Groves. This ironwork was listed, but has vanished.

Bishop Peploe of Chester had a daughter Mary (later Mary Jodrell) who rebuilt the Archdeacon's house left to her by her father and it was described by a contemporary as "a pretty showy house." It had a main south front of five bays and three storeys in a style resembling houses shortly to be built on the north side of Abbey Square and was positioned on the banks of the River Dee with St Johns Church set slightly back on one side and Bishop Peploe’s old house on the other. Acording to one version of events Mary’s nephew Abel Ward took the lease on, not Chancellor Peploe, and his son Peploe Ward continued to live there until at least 1800. Peploe Ward was the father of William Peploe Ward, who changed his name to Hamilton and married Martha Panton, whose family names were both given to roads in Hoole.

Local historian Tom Walsh noted that John Prescot, writing to his brother on 5 February 1755, says:

  • "Miss Peploe’s marriage with Mr Jodrell, of Twemloe (58 with 70 odd) is expected this week, at least they say she won’t keep this Lent. She had built herself a pretty showy House on the Bank of Dee, near that her Father built out of St. John’s Church-yard, which the Chancellor has pull’d down, & erected himself a larger on the same spot."

The 58 and 72 refer to their respective ages. She had briefly been engaged in 1739 to a James Chetham of Smedley (High Sheriff of Lancashire in 1730 who subsequently died unmarried), and her husband, who had been married twice before. Francis died only two years later and, according to the Peploe family records, Mary moved back to her old home - The Archdeacon’s House near St Johns, which clashes with the evidence that Abel Ward lived there, followed by his son. She apparently consoled herself by adopting a distant cousin called Ann Peploe. She was the daughter of the Rev John Peploe (1723 - 1806) of Bednall and Acton Trussell in Staffordshire and therefore a great grand daughter of the Reverend John Peploe of Penkridge. The family appear to have lived quite close to the poverty line according to an article from ‘A Topographical history of Staffordshire’ written by William Pitt in 1817.

In 1771, the Bishop of Chester who followed Bishop Peploe, Edmund Keene, was succeeded by William Markham (l77l—7). He was non resident during most of his brief episcopate, his time being taken up with his duties as dean of Christ Church, Oxford, and tutor to the Prince of Wales (later George IV). Although he made annual visits to the See, and conducted ordinations at Chester and elsewhere, he made no visitation, and left the administration at Chester in the hands of his Chancellor, now aged 70. The coat of arms in the courtroom at the Cathedral is dated 1775, at the time when Samuel Peploe was effectively in charge at Chester. The next bishop was the energetic Beilby Porteus, and Chancellor Samuel Peploe would die in Chester in 1781.

The Cunliffe's

Walsh also notes that the "Bishop's Palace" property was leased-out in 1741, and possibly also in 1755, 1757 and 1763. The last lease was to Robert Cunliffe. Robert Cunliffe was the younger son of Foster Cunliffe, a Liverpool merchant who made his fortune from overseas trade, including tobacco and being one of the main slave-traders in Liverpool, and was three times Mayor of Liverpool. Foster bought Saighton Hall in 1755, which on his death in 1758 went to his older son Ellis, who was MP for Liverpool from 1755 until his death in 1767. Ellis obtained a baronetcy in 1759, which passed, together with Saighton, to his brother. Sir Robert died in 1778, and is buried at Bruera church, near Saighton. A new lease was obtained from the bishop for his son another Foster Cunliffe, which describes the house as enlarged and improved. Sir Foster Cunliffe was born in Liverpool in 1755, but lived in Chester from the age of eight. He married Harriet Kinloch in 1781, and the first two of his ten children were born in Chester. Sir Foster was a keen archer and co-founded the Royal Society of British Bowmen at Acton Park in 1787; however it is possible that this activity began in Chester, as part of the garden at the Lower Bowling Green on The Groves was described in 1795 as laid out for archery competitions. In 1785 Sir Foster bought Acton Park near Wrexham, and after enlargements and improvements moved there about 1787. Dee-side continued as the dower house for Sir Robert’s widow, who died ‘at her house in St John’s Churchyard’ on 18 February 1791. A new lease was obtained from the bishop on 30 March 1791, Lady Cunliffe having been one of the lives on the previous lease.

Other family history

The bishop's daughter Anne Peploe (1702–1769) was the wife of James Bayley of Withington (1705–1769). As noted above her daughter (Anne) married Abel Ward. Another of her daughters (Elizabeth Bayley) married Sir John Parker Mosley, 1st Baronet, of Ancoats. Their son was Sir Oswald Mosley, 2nd Baronet, whose son Tonman Mosley was the great grandfather of Sir Oswald Ernald Mosley, 6th Baronet (16 November 1896 – 3 December 1980) the fascist politician.

Abel Ward's grandson married Martha Panton who was involved in the trial of Thomas Williams a complicated case involving a fraudulent will.

Chancellor Peploe's will made a number of bequests and left the balance of his estate to his son John Peploe Birch. He had changed his name in order to secure an inheritance from the father of his bride, Elizabeth Birch. A part of the inheritance included Garnstone Castle.

Sources and Links

The arms of the Peploe family of Garnstone, Weobley, Herefordshire, from Wikipedia. These are very similar to that on the walls and that in the Cathedral.

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