The first confirmed church on the site was a Norman Church which lasted for many hundreds
of years with resulting problems. In 1724 it was described as:
'a mean building extremely small, low and dark, and consisting of a body and semi-circular
chancel with a bell turret'
At that time the church stood within the courtyard of Thurstaston Hall. The Church was taken
demolished in 1820 and a second church was built on its site in 1824. This was a plain stone
building of no acknowledged style of architecture. Nothing remains of the earlier church
except for tower which was kept in the Southwest of the Churchyard. At a Vestry Meeting on
23rd March 1871, the demolition of the second Church was approved and the executors of
Joseph Hegan of Dawpool set apart £4,500 for a new third church.
The present church "St Bartholomew's" which we see today,was designed by J.
Loughborough Pearson. It was erected to the memory of Joseph Hegan of Dawpool by his
two daughters, and was consecrated by William Stubbs the Bishop of Chester on the 7th
January 1886. It is a splendid example of a Victorian revival of mid-gothic architecture, being
of the late 13th century character and built entirely of local sandstone, both inside and out. In
the same year the old building was taken down and the material used to build a wall to
enclose the new churchyard, which today is separated from the Hall.
The Lychgate was erected in memory of Thomas Henry Ismay of Dawpool in 1900. The name
Ismay appears many times on various brasses inset into the walls of the Church, and refers
to the ship owning family, who in 1884 rebuilt and occupied Dawpool, a splendid house that
stood for only forty years. The Lychgate is of course fitted with benches on which the bearers
of the dead might deposit their burden and rest before proceeding. A short path bordered by
Yew trees leads to the West door of the church. Around the archway inside the porch are
two inscriptions that record the dedication of the church by Joseph Hegan's daughters.
Above the entrance to the porch is a small niche. Since 1988 this has contained a statue of
St Bartholomew, the work of Shelagh Frances, a parishioner. There is also a beautiful stained
glass window dedicated to St Bartholomew at the rear of the church, facing the entrance
door. This was paid for by the parishioners in memory of the late Reverend John Henry Dodd,
Rector of Thurstaston 1922-1934.
The Parish War Memorial is a marble obelisk on which are engraved six names of those who
fell in the 1st World War and thirteen who fell in the 2nd World War. Inside the Church the
effect of being in a small cathedral is felt. The building was completed shortly before the
architect began work on Truro Cathedral, and as you walk around you notice that on the
many pillars in the church they have an engraved band surmounting them while its pair on
the other side has a plain band, possibly as if the architect then stepped back and compared
the two to see which was the more pleasing design to use in his later and greatest work.
Like a cathedral it is divided into three distinct areas, the nave, chancel and sanctuary, the
impression being given of increasing richness, as one walks eastwards, culminating in an
elaborately and finely sculpture alabaster reredos, representing the resurrection. Marble and
alabaster abound, the floor of the chancel is an arrangement of many coloured marbles and
encaustic tiles, the steps being all of marble. The pulpit is of alabaster, and richly carved in
open latticework. The whole of the upper portion of the font is constructed of a solid piece of
Mexican onyx, the pillars of Blue John stone and the base of three different kinds of marble.
Several of the stained glass windows are very beautiful, especially the East and the West
windows, and the organ contains painted wings in the early Italian style. The copying of the
gothic system of stone vaulted roofing is particularly interesting.
Under the West window there is a stone taken from the south side of the first church which,
in curious lettering contains an ancient inscription:
SANCTI BERTHLMI JOHN WITTMOR, WILLIAM HOE . . . it is incomplete and GARDIANI is
probably the missing word: so the inscription commemorated John Whitmore and William Hoe
Churchwardens of Saint Bartholomew's Church. A facsimile may be seen alongside it.
On the West wall alongside the ancient inscription is a list of the rectors of Thurstaston. This
begins with Simon de Meoles who was instituted as the incumbent in 1303 and from then the
list is complete to the present day. Two rectors are known before him however, Alan de
Thornton in about 1212, and Robert de Thurstaston in about 1298, though there is doubt
about the latter who is described as chaplain. Some of the rectors seem to have lived
Philip Ewyas was sued for the detention of an ox. Robert de Crouton was indicted for killing
an inhabitant of Barnston, and John Whitmore of Thurstaston was bound in 100 marks to
keep the peace towards Sir John Bennett in 1492. Thomas Sharpe appears to have been the
incumbent for fifty nine years, and this is substantiated by other sources. He died in about
1601 aged 91.The rector and churchwardens were again involved in controversy in 1671 as
the records testify.
Over the door is a painting of the arms of Queen Anne bearing the motto: 'Semper Eadem’.
Around the West end of the Church are a number of white marble tablets commemorating
certain of the families of the Whitmores who for centuries lived at Thurstaston, and of the
Gleggs who feature prominently in Cheshire history. It would appear from the dates that
these tablets were taken from the original church together with a bread shelf dated 1723.
In the churchyard, the oldest inscription consists of a flat stone, south of the old tower
marking the grave of John Whitmore and his wife Eleanor but so eroded that only some of the
letters are discernible. The wills supply the illegible dates - 1672 and 1688. Nearby is an
altar tomb supported by six pillars, the clear inscription mentioning Ann Hughes with the date
1688. Another flat stone inside the old church marks the grave of one of the Rectors, Robert
It is interesting to reflect how the parish has changed through time. Thurstaston was not an
independent parish until it was probably cut out of West Kirby and Woodchurch at about the
end of the 12th century. Only a small part of what is today Irby was included in the parish,
and a large church was formerly never needed as can be seen from the census of 1810 when
it was recorded that the population of Thurstaston and Irby together was a mere 173. With
the growing importance of Liverpool and Birkenhead as a trade centre and the resulting
outward spread of the towns, the number of inhabitants had risen to 272 in 1871.
The population of the parish in 1951 was 717. From then on the story is complicated by the
alteration of the parish boundary to take in almost the whole of Irby, now a considerable
residential area separated from Thurstaston by only a few fields.
As a result the population of the parish in 1961 was 3,725. This enormous increase obviously
meant that the parish needed another church. So it was that in 1967, from the contributions
of parishioners, a combined Parish Hall and Church was built in Irby and dedicated to St. Chad.
With four buildings in the parish's 900 years of recorded history, the modern chapel in Irby
built for the needs of a changing world, and the quiet church in Thurstaston with its elegant
charm of a past age, make the parish perhaps symbolic of the Church's need to adapt in
these days of change; to welcome the best of the new, whilst keeping the best of the old.