Backford, Mollington & Lea Villages

History of the church:


The present church building was begun in the late 13th century, while its parish may well have been carved at the same time from the north Chester parish of St Oswald: a good explanation for the church's dedication to St Oswald.

Backford church is first mentioned in an assessment of English churches by Pope Nicholas, between 1288 and 1292. However, our first known vicar, William d Aston, was appointed by Birkenhead PRiory in 1305, so we may consider St Oswald's history to start from then. Birkenhead retained the rectorial tithes and advowson until the 16th century. However, after the dissolution of the monasteries, the church was placed in the new Diocese of Chester, and the Bishop of Chester was granted both privileges. That remains the position today.

The building is of three separate sections:

  1. The Chancel: much of the stonework, together with the east and north windows, and south doorway, are 13th century, although some restoration was carried out in 1879. The roof beams also are mostly original. The south wall windows are both of 15th century design. Of other medieval features, the ambry in the south wall is said to be the only one left in Wirral. The stained glass windows are 19th century, with the exception of the south west window, which received a new design to commemorate the Millennium in 2000. The vestry and organ are 19th century additions.
  2. The Nave: The original construction would have been stone or wood with a stone base. Howeer, none of that is visible. We are lucky to possess pictures of the later nave, of 1727, with its flat roof, and brick walls. Total rebuilding took place in 1879, when the pillars were repositioned, a new roof added and Gothic style windows introduced. The font and pulpit date from that time, as do the pews. However, the old brick walls were encased in stone, not taken down, and may be seen on the inside if the plaster is removed. There is a carved oak screen of 1904, separating nave and tower, and more recently this has been extended to cover the whole arch. A feature of the nave over the chancel arch and along the walls are the 19th century frescoes by Edward Frampton.
  3. The tower, is of the 16th century, square and perpendicular in style, with some repair work and decoration of the 19th century There are eight gargoyles at the top of the tower, renovated in 1879. THe clock on the south side commerates the Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1887. Backford tower contains a peal of six bells four from 1714, two of 1887, though all six were refurbished and rehung in 1945. On top of the tower is a weather vane of 1772.

Other features of historic interest. 

  • An old parish chest, dated 1636, with the names of two church wardens of the time cut into the wood, and another chest presented in 1702, are kept in the church.
  • A chained bible, printed in 1617 and at Backford since, is preserved in a display case.
  • SIx wooden memorial boards of the 17th centyury, one of which may be by Randle Holme the THird (1627-1699), are hung on nave walls.
  • The Royal Coat of Arms of Elizabeth 2nd, painted by a local artist, were hung over the south door in 2000.
  • In the churchyard is a doorway, leading to Backford Hall, dated 1774. It is thought, howeer, that this doorway is not in its original position. 

Reference: 'St Oswald's Church in the Parish of Backford', by John Peter Hess, 1998.