(... written many years ago)
Very quaint and charming is the little market town of Malpas, with
its grand old embattled church perched right on top of a hill, and
its two streets lined with irregular ancient houses; it would be
more in keeping with the place if the bus which runs to the station
a mile and a half away were a stage coach. I put up my steed at
the "Red Lion," a plain brick hostelry, but interesting,
for this is the inn which has more than once entertained royalty.
The King-James I it is said - came to Malpas and entered the tap-room
of the 'Red Lion,' for even kings get thirsty, and there, .supping
their beer, sat rector and curate, enjoying good cheer.
joined them and the toasts went round. When it came to the rector's
turn to stand treat he refused to pay for the curate, exclaiming:
- "Higgledy piggledy Malpas shot! Let every tub stand on its
replied the convivial monarch, well up in Cheshire sayings, "Maxfield
But the rector was stupid, so the king paid for the curate and himself
and went his way, wroth with the stingy parson. In a short time
the rector found that his subordinate was no longer curate but had
been appointed joint-rector. Such is the legend of the double living
of Malpas, a curious state of things which continued until the growth
of the parish warranted the erection of new churches. The chair
in which the king sat is shown at the 'Red Lion." and when
the late Empress of Austria was hunting in Cheshire, and the hounds
met at Malpas, the landlord brought it out for her use.
The tower of Malpas Church is square and massive, and the whole
structure looks solid and lasting;inside the carved oak roof, ornamented
with angels whose wings look rather dislocated, is very fine, and
the two chapels are surrounded by oak screens. Randle Brereton,
of Malpas, and Shocklach lies alongside his wife, daughter of old
Peter Dutton of Hatton, in the Brereton chapel; he was the father
of that unfortunate Sir William who was accused of having "intrigued"
Probably the charge was false, but the fickle monarch did not hesitate
to sacrifice his faithful servant to trump up a charge against the
wife he was tired of. In the Cholmondeley Chapel there are the figures
of Sir Hugh Cholmondeley and his wife, and both monuments are well
worth examining; they are excellent workmanship and seem to have
escaped the wear of time and the malicious chipping of Roundhead
soldiers and thoughtless visitors.
The fourteenth-century piscina, the great oak chest decorated with
chased iron-work which stands near the door, and the old oak stalls
are memorials of the lasting work of the past.
Close to the fine old church is the Higher Rectory where one of
the most noted of our colonial bishops was bom. Reginald Heber,
for ever famous as the author of that grand old missionary hymn
'From Greenland's Icy Mountains," was by birth a Malpas man,
though he did not follow his father as rector here. The late T.W.
Barlow relates a story about the bishop which he rightly says "will
Heber's celebrated prize poem, "Palestine," was read to
Sir Walter Scott before it was recited at Oxford, and the great
novelist remarked that no mention was made of the building of the
temple without tools. "Upon this Heber was silent, and buried
in thought for a few moments, when he dashed off these exquisite
fell, no ponderous axes rung;
Like some tall palm the mystic fabric sprung.
Quiet as Malpas is now, what must it have been like a hundred years
ago when there was not a single turnpike road in any direction which
led to the town? Even in the middle of the last century the weekly
market was but thinly attended; now first-rate roads lead to the
church and Chester, and a better one still to the station where
there is good communication by rail with these two towns.
Two old Cheshire families - the Breretons and the Drakes -owned
parts of Malpas, and from here too sprang the Egertons and the Cholmondeleys,
who both claim descent from Fitz-Hugh, Baron of Malpas. The baronial
castle, the centre of the three defenders of the pass, has gone;
so also has the home of the Breretons which stood "at the end
of the South Street."
Sir Francis Drake belonged to the Devonshire branch of the same
Drake family; in a quaint letter written in 1692, suggesting a marriage
between Sir Francis Leicester of Tabley and Lady Mary Drake of "Sharloe,"
the writer says:- "I suppose you have heard of Sir Francis
Drake that was in Queen Elizabeth's tyme and a Drake by character
stamped on her shilling in honour of his name and family, this same
Drake is descended of that seed and family," and as a private
hint to Sir Francis, he adds - "I could tell you of five hundred
ways and tricks they have and use to courte ladyes at London without
error or mistake."
A little to the south of Malpas is the village of Bradley, where
in 1625 lived and died a hero, Richard Dawson, a humbleman and a
poor one, whose self-sacrifice is recorded in the Malpas parish
register. Smitten with plague, for this dire calamity was devastating
the district, he rose from his bed and aided by his nephew dug a
deep hole near his house.
In this grave, hallowed only by heroism, he instructed his nephew
to place straw; then he entered and lay down and so dep'ted out
of this world." He was a strong man, the register informs us,
stronger indeed than the parish clerk meant, and "heavier than
his say'd nephew and another wench were able to bury."
Wych Brook, one time called the River Elfe, forms the boundary line
between Cheshire and the isolated bit of Flintshire; here the third
and most southerly of the border castles guarded the pass into Cheshire.
Oldcastle Hill marks the site of the fortress, overlooking a deep
ravine. Fullwich, Foulwich, or Dirtwich were the names given to
the salt springs which ain very early times were worked for salt;
this was the most convenient place for the traders of Shrewsbury
and North Wales to obtain their salt.
During the Civil War Nantwich was stubborn, the Royalists gave orders
that all salt must be obtained from here, but Captain Croxton sallied
hither one night, and next morning trade was dislocated at Dirtwich.
A rather absurd correction was made by the editor of Burghall's
Providence Improved in connection with this event; he states in
a note that Dirtwich is a misspelling of Droitwich. It would have
been rather a dangerous outing for the Nantwich train-bands to venture
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