(20) The Church of the Holy Ascension, Upton-by-Cheater.
This is not an old church, rich in history and ancient monuments; it is just three years short of its centenary. The name is an uncommon one shared by very few churches in this country.
Passing through the lych gate, you see the simple, yet beautiful little church, built of local red sandstone in the Decorated style. It consists of a nave (60ft. by 24ft.), a chancel (30ft. by 20ft.) an organ recess and vestry off the chancel, a western tower and a south porch. The tower, which is open to the church, contains a clock and one bell, and has an octagonal spire 93ft. high.
As you enter the church you are Impressed by the loftiness of the open roof, and by the pearly hue of the sandstone walls when the sunlight falls across them. Inside, there are several stained glass windows, including a brilliant east window by Kemp, a handsome carved oak reredos representing the Ascension,, and memorial tablets and inscriptions to former parishioners and church workers.
Stained Glass Windows
West Wall. This is a representation of St. John the Divine, St. Cecilia, St. Philip and St. Hugo: in memory of Philip H. Humberston 1884.
1. A representation of Christ and
Mary in the Garden after the Resurrection: in memory
of Thomas T. Harding and of Mary Ann his wife.
2. Depicts St. Paul and St.
Elizabeth: in memory of Edward and Elizabeth Dean of the
Acres, Upton, 1941.
3. St. Maria and St. Michael Archangel.
visit of the Angel Gabriel to Mary: in memory of Elizabeth H. Humberston,
2. (21) St. Lucas and St. Catherina : in memory of Edward H. and Catherine Roscoe, 1881.
On the north wall of the chancel there is a beautiful little window depicting the Good Shepherd, presented by Col. E. Evans Lloyd.
The east window, representing the Crucifixion scene, in memory of Ed. Logan and his three children, was given by his widow.
On the wall in the baptistry.
"Ad majorem Del Gloriam"
The clock in this tower was the gift of Elizabeth A. Thomson in memory of her husband Thomas Walton who died at Torquay on Ascension Day, 1896,. and who is burled in this churchyard. He was formerly a resident of the parish and served as churchwarden in the years 1887-89.
In the vestry there is a tablet to the memory of Catherina M. Humberston.
On the South Wall are tablets to the memory of Philip S. Humberston 1812-1892, and to the men who died in the 1939-45 war.
Behind the Vicar's prayer desk there is an inscription:-
"Remember Wilfred Sparling, Priest, Master of Arts, First Vicar of this Parish, 1882-1932."
On the south wall, too there is a row of little wooden crosses from Flanders Field.
On the North Wall is a Memorial to the Fallen 1914-19, erected by Ricardo and Florence Simpson in memory of their son, and a brass tablet in memory of Balfour Logan died 1898. Also a stone tablet with the following Inscription:- (22)
"Sacred to the memory of Edward Evans-Lloyd, Col. of the Cheshire Gar. Artillery Vols. Born 1826 died 1916. Warden of this church from its consecration in 1854 till 1883, and Hon. Organist for thirty years; Hon. Treasurer of the Schools till 1900. By his efforts a fund was raised for building the Vicarage and in many other ways the welfare of the Parish was promoted by him."
Outside lies the churchyard, screened with trees, the older part to the south, and the newer part on the north dedicated in 1939. Colonel Humberston in his will bequeathed a sum of money for the maintenance of the churchyard.
Prior to 1882 the township of Upton formed part of the parishes of St. Mary-on-the-Hill, and St. Oswald, Chester. The greater part belonged to the former parish.
At the end of 1852 the Rev. William Massie, Rector of St. Mary's, exhibited plans for a church to be built at Upton. These plans were designed by Mr. J. Harrlson. He took for his model the church at Aldford, whose tower and spire formed the only remaining examples, near to Chester, of a small village church of "Decorated date, a good though simple style."
There was a scattered rural population in Upton and the Rev. William Massie felt a church was needed in the township Itself to supply the spiritual needs of the village separated, by the larger part of Chester, from its parish church. He was unceasing in his efforts to raise funds and was helped in this by the inhabitants. The site was presented by Sir Philip Egerton, M.P. The Marquis of Westminster gave £1,000 towards the Endownent and £1,000 to the Building Fund, and contributions came from all quarters, from private individuals to Christian societies.
It was on 10th March at 2 o'clock in the afternoon in the year 1853 that the corner stone was laid by the Marquis of Westminster. There was a numerous gathering of all classes of society, including the local landowners, farmers and cottagers. The children from the National School of Upton marched in procession, with flags and banners, to the service.
(23) Some of our older inhabitants have told us how their parents watched the church being built and, in many cases, helped in the building of it. The sandstone was carted free of charge by some of the local farmers. During the building of the church scarcely a day passed without Mr. Massie being on the spot, and it was due to his indefatigable exertions that the church was successfully completed,.
The Church of the Holy Ascension, a Chapel of Ease to St.
Mary-on-the-Hill, Chester, in the Diocese
of Chester was consecrated by the Lord Bishop of Chester, on Wednesday, 31st May, 1854. When the church was first opened the people flocked together to support those who had raised funds for its erection, so that at the end of the consecration day there remained only the small sum of £15 to be collected to hand over the church free from debt.
The first Sunday services were held on 4th June 1854, when the Rev. H. I Blackburn officiated, and Col. Evans-Lloyd led the singing with a pitch pipe, which office he performed until a harmonium was bought in August of that year.
For the first fourteen years there was no fixed curate-in-charge, but from about 1868 the Rev. M.H. Towers became curate-in-charge until he resigned in July, 1882.
During this time many gifts were donated to the church, especially by members of the Humberston and Potts families. The former gave the font, the baptistry, the vestry and organ chamber; the latter gave the silver communion plate, the lych gate and part of the churchyard on the south-east side.
In 1854 there were 273 sittings made of oakwood; these were later increased to 280, a quite inadequate number to-day when there are 622 on the electoral roll.
There are a few differences inside the church as we know it and as it was in 1854:
1. The font was on the left of the
entrance and was removed to its present position
2. The pulpit used to be on the
opposite side and was moved in 1894, when the oak screen
was lowered six Inches.
3. (24)Two tablets inscribed with the Ten
Commandments, presented by P. S. Humberston,
and erected at the east end of the church, Christmas 1858, are no longer there.
4. In addition, the original east window, depicting the Ascension, was removed and the present one was put there in September 1885.
In April 1882, came the first steps towards the forming of a district ecclesiastical parish, when the owners and occupiers of property in Upton, Little Mollington and Moston met to "memorialise" the Duke of Westminster, patron of the living of St. Mary's, to separate the Upton district for the above purpose.
In September, 1882, the church was closed for repairs and alterations.
In the London Gazette for 8th December, 1882, It was announced that "a consolidated chapelry" was assigned to the Church of the Holy Ascension, Upton, and the ecclesiastical boundaries were set forth to include the three townships of Upton, Moston and Little Mollington. So these townships became legally constituted into a parish.
The Duke of Westminster appointed his son's tutor, Mr. W. Sparling, to be the first Vicar of Upton. From 1882-1932 the Rev. W. Sparling was Vicar here and watched the congregations increase and church life in the parish expand. A story about him states that at the age of 65 he climbed to the top of the church to fix the lightning conductor as no one else would volunteer for the rather dizzy task.
Incumbents since 1932:
The Rev. F. S. G. Gardner Brown Jan. 1933-1936.
The Rev. T. O. C. East Sep. 1956-1946.
The Rev. J. Wheldon Williams Dec. 1946.
As this is a comparatively young church, we have included a list of first events in the life of the church:
From the Parish Registers
The first baptisms were on 4th June, 1854 when five babies were baptised.
(25) The first marriage was solemnized between William Holland and Marv Ellen Stockton on 1st June 1875.
The first burial was that of E. Smith, Upton, on 1st December,1853.
The first churchwarden was Col. Edward Evans-Lloyd (1854-1883).
The first vestry meeting was held at Easter 1883 when Charles Townsend and William Wannop were appointed churchwardens.
The first (recorded) occasion of the giving of buns to the Upton school children on Ascension Day was in 1889. This is a custom which is still kept up after a service at the church on Ascension morning.
The first confirmation service held in Upton church was on 27th March, 1893, when there were twenty-one candidates from Upton.
Finally the first occasion on which the choir ladies wore their purple and white choir robes was at a wedding on 17th July, 1937.
In 1879 and 1904 there were special services to commemorate the twenty-fifth and fiftieth anniversaries respectively of the consecration of the church. The next to which we look forward is the celebration of the centenary in 1954.
We have written at length about the church because we wanted to show how it belongs to the people of the village in a way that no ancient church could, in that their fathers saw it grow, and almost all its contents were the spontaneous gifts of the inhabitants. It is truly our village church.