A church has existed on the current site for many centuries. There have been a succession of church buildings on the site next to the castle, with the current building, a distinctive local landmark, designed by John Douglas and dating from the 1880's.
The Domesday Book records that part of Pulford was held by the secular canons of St Werburgh's in Chester both before and after the Norman Conquest indicating that there was possibly a church presence although no church is mentioned. The earliest record of a Christian foundation in the parish is of an abbey established in Poulton in the 12th century but this was very short-lived as it moved to Dieulacres in Staffordshire in about 1220. The first recorded Rector of Pulford dates from the same time c.1214, and there has been an unbroken succession of rectors to the present day.
Pulford Church in 1870
This article first appeared in Essentials Mag in September 2017
by Michael Nethercott
Research to locate a picture of the previous Pulford church had proved unsuccessful over many years, despite visits to local archives, libraries and enquiries of local residents, all of which had been to no avail. However, one day about six years ago, descendants of a Rector of Pulford, the Reverend James Radcliffe Lyon (Rector from 1818 to 1870) visited the U.K. from Australia and called in to Pulford churchyard to visit the grave of their ancestor. During their visit they met a past chairman of our History Group. It was from this contact to our great surprise and delight that the family from Australia had original photographs of Pulford Church and Pulford Rectory dated 1870. On their return to Australia they kindly sent copies of the photographs for our archives.
This church had accommodation for 220 adults on the ground floor (including both North and South Transepts in addition to the Nave). There was further accommodation for 50 children in a gallery. More research is required to establish the date of build, but it is understood the building underwent some restoration in 1833.
By 1881 the church building had deteriorated and the then Rector, Rev. J.R. Williams, was speaking of the roof as ‘providing extempore shower baths for the congregation’. His Grace, Hugh Lupus, the first Duke of Westminster, generously provided a new church for the people of Pulford, designed by John Douglas, a well-known Chester architect, which was completed by 1884 and which we continue to enjoy to this day.
The parishes of Pulford and Eccleston joined together to become a united benefice in 1972.
Consider this, an insomniac septuagenarian which is me as I lie in bed at perhaps three in the morning and wonder about the current state of accuracy of the Clock set in the tower of St Mary’s Church in Pulford - this old timepiece dating from 1883, a traditional mechanism which was manufactured and maintained by Clockmakers Joyce of Whitchurch who, as well as making the beautiful and fascinating movement which can be found at Pulford, also produced the mechanism for the clock in The Shanghai Customs House in China, not to mention that found on the Eastgate here in Chester.
I had a wonderful hour recently when I was able to climb the old wooden stairs up to the clock room in the tower - it was just about to receive its weekly ‘wind-up’ and to be calibrated for accuracy. When it actually chimed the hour (10 o’clock), the tenor bell high in the tower was struck to produce 10 sonorous ‘dongs’ to be heard over the village of Pulford and beyond. I loved the winding mechanism, a huge handle which reminded me of the starting handle traditionally found on old cars and this cranked the weights on their pulleys many metres up and then to stop and to recommence the slow descent as they drove both the chiming and escapement mechanism. All this power, being controlled by a pendulum which beats at 1.25 pulses per second and amazingly (because it doesn’t look that big) weighs 1.5 hundredweight or, in new money in excess of 75 kg. This whole weighty piece has a steel heart, a cold zinc mid-section and a steel outer - sounds a bit like a fictional James Bond villain does it not?
Anyway, enough of this factual stuff, let me return to my nocturnal ramblings. I love technology and projected on to my bedroom ceiling I have an hour and minute display in red which is emitted by one of those timepieces controlled by a signal from an atomic clock located goodness knows where. I like to watch in the dark to assess the accuracy of the clock at St Mary’s Church when compared to modern technology - surprisingly close and this is testament to the work of J.B.Joyce of Whitchurch and the diligence of the gentleman who makes his weekly climb into the bell tower at Pulford.
The Local History Group has produced a booklet about the church, with many illustrations, that covers:
the early church in Pulford
a description of the current building
the Victorian pipe organ
the fire in 1991 that damaged the spire
the ring of eight church bells.
There is also a chapter on the church in 'Pulford and Poulton Through the Ages'.