PRESTBURY. It is one of those places that north countrymen are proud to show to their southern cousins, and truly this old town within a mile or two of Macclesfield is altogether charming.
In the street leading from Butley Hall over the bridge across the Bollin we find inns where coaches used to pull up, a row of cottages with no two alike, black and white walls, and houses with odd porches, all set in a frame of trees. There is an old schoolhouse and an older watermill, and looking through its many little leaded panes on to the oldest group of all is the 14th century black and white house where the rector used to live, with a platform over the doorway which an ejected rector used as his pulpit during the Commonwealth.
It looks on to the churchyard.where a Saxon cross, a perfect Norman chapel, and a 13th century church stand side by side with two yews of about 600 years each, the big glass case over the Saxon cross rerrrinding us of the precious mantelpiece figures treasured by Victorians. The cross is about four feet high, made up of fragments of interlaced carving 1200 years old.
To the east of the chancel lie broken gravestones of Prestbury folk who saw the building of the church and the chapel and the planting of the yews. Opposite the rectory is a 19th century stone with a pathetic inscription to Maria Rathbone, who lost her way home, wandered helpless until she dropped, and was found dead in a field after a search far and wide which had lasted 25 days:
Thrice helpless Child, thus doomed to roam
And leave thy every friend at home.
Three more gravestones inside are cut with the portraits of important men of Tudor days: Robert Downes praying with his wife, in the ^rmour he wore at the end of the 15th century; Jasper Worth in the , .extremely elaborate armour of 1572, with his well-dressed wife and their three tiny children; and Sir Edward Warren in the armour he !\ may have taken with him when he set off for Scotland demanding Mary Queen of Scots as wife for Edward the Sixth.
Another gravestone is inscribed to Reginald Legh of 1482, who was "chief helper" in building the tower. His tower, with its two rows of faces and grotesques, still stands, the base forming a porch, with a painted and gilded roof and wall panels of names which are part of Prestbury's peace memorial. The 13th century interior has been altered, but many of the old stones are left in the lofty arches of the tower and the chancel. The 14th century east window is filled with a 20th century Tree of Life, a striking and unusual design.
Jacobean carvers made the small pulpit, the sanctuary chair, and one of the chests; the other is an immense ironbound affair nearly eight feet long. On the arcades of the stately nave are 18th century oil paintings of the Apostles, and two oak screens are from the same period. The brass candelabra in the nave is remarkably fine. The font with its crude faces may be Norman, but earlier and finer Norman work is in the little chapel next door, one of the most interesting buildings of its kind, with the oldest doorway in these parts.
The arch of the doorway is carved with zigzags and fabulous beaked heads, with a tympanum meant for Christ in Majesty and a row of stone figures above it which may be saints. There is also a rich hood moulding. Under this handsome arch we enter to find another Norman arch to the chancel, but the rest is severely simple and bare of all furnishings, save two seats and an altar. The very bareness adds to the interest, for this is how the chapel appeared to its first worshippers. Only the roof had to be made new when this oldest of Prestbury's shrines was restored 200 years ago.
The King's England, Cheshire (1938) by Arthur Mee. Original transcription by CuriousFox, edited for watermarking purposes.