The Parish Church of St Mary, Chirk
Church Furnishings are symbols of the Ministry of Word and Sacrament.
The Font by the north west door bears the initials of the churchwardens for 1662, one of whom was Thomas Pritchard (1619 - 1690), chief agent at the Castle and Clerk of the Peace for the County of Denbigh. The Font replaced that destroyed during the Civil War.
By the south west door is the old Communion Table and as we turn down the south aisle we see the Alter. In 1674 the Reverend Robert Rigby, a former chaplain at the Castle, presented an alter cloth with the request '. . . that it may be laid on ye table for Christmas Day'. This is described with other furnishings in the Terrier of 1685.
'Item Two Surplices, one Damask Table Cloath, one Damask napkin, one Green broad cloath carpet with silke frindge (this is the alter cloth) one pulpit cloath of the same and same Frindge with one cushion of the same.'
In 1742 the Reverend Richard Smyth, Vicar of Chirk, reported
'The Sacrament since I came has been administered on Good Friday, Easter Eve, Easter Monday & the Sunday following - we had abt. 290 communicants. On Whitsunday & Trinity there were 95 Com. I design to celebrate the Eucharist oftener for the future.'
The Church posses old and valuable Communion Plate. The oldest piece is the Communion cup made by the Chester Elizabethan goldsmith John Lingley and bears the inscription
THE COMMUNION CUPP OF CHIRKE WL MR
In 1636 John Edwards of Cefn y Wern presented a flagon to hold the Communion wine. It bears the inscription, 'Calix Ecclesiae Parochialis de Chirk ex dono Johannis Edwards de Cefn y Wern armigeri 1636'. The Edwards family of Chirkland were descended from Tudor Trevor. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the head of the family bore the name John. They were stewards of Valle Crucis and member of the bodyguard of Henry VIII. At the Reformation the family clung to the old religion and were persecuted as recusants. In 1598 a memorandum forwarded by Whitgift to the Lords of the Council condemned them -
'That they christened children anew . . . that they buried children and other persons by night because they would not admit nor receive the service now used. That upon St. Winifrid's day Mrs Edwards went to Holywell by night and there heard Mass in the night season. That they carried with them by night in mails and cloak-bags all things pertaining to the saying of Mass. And these Mass-sayers used (accustomed) their audience to receive holy water and come to Confession.'
It was John Edwards IV (d. 1646) who presented the flagon. He quarrelled with his father and conformed to the Anglican Church. In 1697 Thomas Pritchard's widow presented a Paten and the Vicar of Chirk David Price a larger Communion Cup in 1796.
On the juncture between the north and south aisles in line together are the Pulpit and Lectern and as we look to the west wall we see the Ten Commandments all of which proclaim the Ministry of the Word.
In 1560 Queen Elizabeth I complained that the churches were desolate and unclean and Canon 82 aimed partly at remedying this and providing some instruction and it was ordered that the Ten Commandments be set up.
1679 June 7 Payd Thomas ffrancis, the painter for writeinge the Ten comaundments to be sett up in Chirke Church . . . 5.0.0.
The Lectern Bible is 'In memory of Doctor Charles Ernest Salt, 1885 - 1963. A Beloved Physician, Churchwarden, reader'. The Terrier of 1749 shows that the services were held in both the Welsh and English languages, ' . . . there belongs to the said Parish Church of Chirk two great Bibles the one English printed by Basket the other Welsh, also two great common prayer books the one English the other Welsh. A Welsh homily Book by James printed anno 1600 . . .'
At the beginning of the seventeenth century the Vicar of Chirk was the Reverend Robert Llwyd (1565 - 1655), a distinguished Welsh religious publicist and translator whose work Llwybr Hyffordd yn cyfarwyddo'r anghyfarwydd i'r nefoedd, etc., was a translation of Dent's Plain Pathway to Heaven. Llwyd is said to have edited 'Beibi Bach' (Little Bible) in 1630 under the patronage of Sir Thomas Myddelton and Rowland Heylin. Joseph Maude was Vicar of Chirk from 1852 - 1874 and his wife Mrs M.F. Maude was author of the hymn 'Thine for ever! God of love'
We look from the Lectern to the west gallery wherein is the Organ. The Church at Chirk has always had a strong musical tradition to the praise and glory of God. The instruments used until the harmonium was played for the first time on Christmas Day 1859 were a bass violin and a flute. In the eighteenth century there was a group of psalm singers and there is a choir in existence today. 1751 To a Pitch pipe to ye Psalm singers . . . 0.2.6.
1803 May 30th Agreed that Richard Stocker may collect a set of Psalm singers in the best manner he can and that the same are to be rewarded according to their merit or as the parishioners think right.
The present organ was installed in 1901 'In memory of Queen Victoria 1837-1901, and her brave soldiers from the parish of Chirk who lost their lives during the war in South Africa, 1899-1902.'
The Parish Chest
In 1630 Sir Thomas Myddelton noted 'That there was on the south side of the chancel until eight years ago a large strong chest for the keeping the ornaments, vestments and other treasures of the church, when it was removed to a more convenient place in the church . . .' It was also stated 'that the Vicar did sit upon it to read divine service'. The issue is confused when it is said 'that there were two chests one . . . which was a trunk of a tree made hollow and a lid upon it . . . and the other of planks with two lids upon it'. By the time of the Terrier of 1749 one of these old chests had disappeared. 'In the Chancel one old wooden Chest with three different locks also one Wainscot Chest with two Locks.' These may still be seen in the north aisle near the Lectern.
The ancient wooden chest is 7 feet 8 inches long, 17 inches high and 20 inches deep. The modern chest is dated 1736 with the names of the churchwardens of that year - Robert Simon and Edward Green. These two chests symbolise the works of mercy, the church's work in the world and the churchwardens and Parochial Church Council's efforts together with the Vicar to maintain the fabric of this ancient place of worship.
Until the nineteenth century the Parish Vestry Meeting was the unit of local government. The Parish Register, Vestry Minutes, Churchwardens and Overseers accounts are now deposited at the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth. An examination of them reveals the Churches role in the community when the parish was a welfare state in miniature concerned with education, health, relief of the poor, apprenticeship, roads, rates and every aspect of local affairs.
The Church Clock
The Church Clock is first recorded in 1676 when it was extensively repaired.
'N.B. the gift of Mr Rigbigh towards the repairing of the Clocke is fortie shillings the rest is payed out of the lewses of ye p'ish.' In 1712 the Ellesmere Clockmaker, Mr Bullock, provided a new one at the cost of five pounds. The Clock was repaired in 1858 and a new one purchased in 1900 at a cost of sixty-five pounds from J.B. Joyce, Whitmarsh.
It reminds us that time summons all. In the words of Psalm ninety
'For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday: seeing that is past as a watch in the night'
and 'We bring our years to an end, as it were a tale that is told.'
© The Parish Church of St Mary, Chirk
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