The Parish Church of St Mary, Chirk
The memorial to Walter Balcanqual, Doctor of Divinity, is on the pillar facing the pulpit. He was a celebrated seventeenth century divine, one of James I's chaplains who represented the Church of Scotland at the Synod of Dort in 1618. He was successively Dean of Rochester and Durham. During the Civil War he sought refuge in Chirk Castle and died there on Christmas Day 1645.
The latin inscription on his monumental brass was composed by Dr. John Pearson, Bishop of Chester. The memorial is the work of William Stanton, (1639 - 1705) and was erected in ' 1678 Aug 2 Payd William Stanton the stonecutter. for Doctor Belcankwell's monument . . 10.0.0.'
A brass tablet commemorates Samuel Myddelton (of Jersey and Chirbury) who died in 1678 aged 98 years and the Reverend Elias Durance a French refugee driven into exile by the Edict of Nantes in 1685. He was ordained by Bishop Lloyd at St. Asaph in 1687 and became Chaplain at the Castle where he died in 1717.
The other memorial tablets in the Church commemorate but a few of the faithful who have worshipped in this church for twelve hundred years.
The Church Bells
The Church Bells were the pride of the community summoning the faithful to worship, announcing every event of local and national importance - funerals, weddings, national victories. The earliest record of the bells occurs in the Rural Dean's report on the state of the Church in 1749 when he lists 'a ring of 3 Bells & one small Saints Bell with a 5th not in use.' By 1791 they had been reduced to 'three tuneable bells, one damaged by lightning, & one call Bell.' They had been used regularly and on one occasion were rung for thirteen days after the death of Dame Mary Myddelton widow of the Parliamentarian General.
1674 Feb 25 Payd Edward Samuell, the Clarke of Chirke with his seaven partners, for ringeinge the bells at my Ladys funerall 13 en daies, Hugh ap Owen witness 3.0.0.
Bell ringing was notoriously thirsty work
1688 Payd for Ale to ye Ringers when the byshopps were gott frome out of the tower 0.2.0.
It is not surprising that the bells had to be replaced
1813 Jan 10th Ordered that the Church Wardens owing to the bad state of the Bells and one of them having been lately broke do wait upon the Chirk Castle family, Lord Dungannon and the principal Inhabitants of the Parish to endeavor to raise a Subscription towards recasting or procuring new ones.
This was done the following year when Rudhalls of Gloucester supplied '6 musical Church Bells with their Stocks, Wheels, Clappers, Ironwork and Brasses', for a cost of £340. 'The weight of Tenor about 12 cwt. note G'
Simpson when he visited Chirk at the beginning of the nineteenth century noted that 'Even to this day the bell of vassalage, the curfew is rung every night at Chirk but never at Llangollen. This goes for to prove that Norman Law reached Chirk.' The 'curfew' was rung in Chirk until quite recently.
Another ringing was described as 'Y Gloch botes', the broth bell, tolled when the congregation departed from church after the Sunday morning service both to remind those left at home on the impending return of the worshippers to a meal and to summon the slothful to the afternoon service. The Parish Clerk was paid by the farmers for ringing this bell and when he collected the tithe for the parson he received his portion which was called the bell sheaf.
The fine bells of Chirk have a young enthusiastic team of ringers to carry on the tradition and perform their primary purpose of summoning the faithful to worship.
© The Parish Church of St Mary, Chirk
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