The History of St Mary’s

A short history of our Parish Church

The present church of St Mary the Virgin stands on the site of an earlier church built, presumably by the Montalts sometime during their Lordship of Mold in the 12th or early 13th century. Records from the Norwich Taxation of Ecclesiastical Property show that a church of some sort did exist in Mold in 1253 and named Kenric as Rural Dean and probably also Rector of Mold at this time.

The building of the present church was initiated by Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond, to commemorate the victory of her son, Henry Tudor, at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. Previously, in 1482, Margaret Beaufort had married Thomas Stanley, Lord of Mold, King of Man, and at that time, Steward of the Royal Household. Margaret became his second wife, while he was her third husband. Lord Stanley played a dubious part in Henry’s campaign for the English Crown, seemingly preferring to wait for a clear indication of who was most likely to win before declaring his own position. Henry Tudor met Richard III in battle at Bosworth Field, near Leicester, and after some cautious hesitation, when Richard’s cause seemed totally lost, Lord Stanley eventually joined his stepson , and tradition has it that he picked up the fallen crown and placed it upon Henry’s head.

Margaret Beaufort at prayer

Lord, Stanley, as just reward for his pains, added the Earldom of Derby to his already considerable possessions in Wales and the Isle of Man. In thanksgiving for their good fortune, Lord Stanley and Margaret Beaufort endowed colleges at Oxford and Cambridge and undertook the rebuilding of several churches including St Mary’s Mold.

Other Churches in North Wales accredited to them are St Peter’s in Northop, All Saints Gresford, St Giles Wrexham and St Winifred’s Chapel in Holywell. The Stanley involvement is highlighted in by the number of Stanley crests and arms to be found in the churches. Lord Thomas Stanley was the last to call himself King of Man. Thereafter the Lords were called Lord of Man.

The Stanley Crest

The rebuilding of St Mary’s was never completed as originally intended. The proposed tall grand clerestory was thought to be too extravagant and was abandoned in favour of the shallow uninspiring clerestory that can be seen today. A grand chancel arch was built, but due to financial and political restrictions it remained blocked until opened by Scot in the nineteenth century. Rebuilding the Church was a slow business and continued well after the Reformation with contributions made by Robert Wharton, Bishop of St Asaph (1536 – 1554) and William Hughes, Bishop of St Asaph (1572 – 1600).

However, even with this input the completion of the church took a further 8 years.

F J Violet, writing in his Mold Gleanings in 1927, refers to the stone in the church carrying the inscription Fundamentum Ecclesiae Christmas 1597 – W. Eps”, which implies that the church was eventually completed, albeit a somewhat abbreviated version of the proposed, more extravagant structure, in 1597, well over a century after rebuilding had first begun!

The main body of the church was built in Cefn Sandstone in the late 15th Century, but without apse and porches. There was originally a 5-lighted central east window and a wrought iron rood screen.

 The interior of the church had an earth floor, open fireplaces or stoves and was disfigured by many and various box pews. There was also an unsightly musicians gallery at the west end. Some burials took place within the church  and benches were allocated  for the poorer classes next to the outer walls.

There are a great number of entries in the accounts regarding payments made to builders and carpenters for necessary maintenance work over the years, as one might expect, but it is only in 1742 that the results of a thorough structural survey show just how serious the situation had become. The record of the Vestry Meeting dated December 27th 1742 states:

“A survey has been taken and a report made that the roofs of the middle and south aisles are much decayed and in a dangerous condition and that the expense of repairing them would be very considerable and above what the inhabitants of the said parish can afford.”

It is interesting to recall that only 5 years previous to this report the church accounts for 1737 recall:

“whereas a sum of £95, being several benefactions for the use of the poor, also a sum of £50 were advanced and lent to the parishioners to enable them to make a new middle roof to the church”.

One can only hope that the roof was in fact repaired promptly after the survey revealed it to be dangerous, but other work was obviously neglected. For instance, the Rural Dean’s report in 1749 includes:

“The church is a stately building consisting of 3 larges aisles, but a very poor steeple some part of which is on props”.