The history of Cheshire's leaning tower

Leaning church tower

The tower of Wybunbury still leans – but not as much as it once did - Credit: James Balme

James Balme visits the village with a crooked tale to tell.

Deep in the heart of the South Cheshire countryside lies the beautiful village of Wybunbury, its name believed to have derived from Wibba, the second king of the Mercians who died in 615 AD.  As with many Cheshire villages, Wybunbury was to have its own church, dedicated to St Chad, and it is this church that tells many stories from its ancient past. 

Indeed, in the year 1464, St Chad's was to become the scene of sacrilege when it was broken into during the night resulting in the theft of many valuable treasures. Items taken included a cross worth five marks, a shrine with all its relics and jewels, two chalices worth £10 and two silver phials worth 13 shillings and 4 pence.

The perpetrators, both local yeomen, were soon apprehended and charged, however, as none of the stolen items could be found they were both sentenced and duly hanged. 

Today, the great west tower of St Chad's is the focal attention in the village, being the only survivor of five successive churches that stood on this site before all slowly sinking into the soft ground undermined by natural springs, and having to be demolished. 

The first church was taken down in 1595 and the last in 1976. Standing at a magnificent 96-feet high, the tower, built in the 15th century on the site of an earlier church, is one of the finest in Cheshire. It once leaned more than six feet out of the perpendicular giving rise to the Cheshire phrase: 'Crooked as Wybunbury Tower’. 

In 1791, quotations were given for the reconstruction of the church and tower, estimated to be in excess of £2,555. Then in 1834, as most of the fabric of the church was being taken down and rebuilt, the renowned English builder and architect James Trubshaw saw a chance to implement his theory that adjusting the foundations by simply lowering the subsoil below the tower would correct the leaning.

Most Read

And, much to the amazement of villagers, the tower slowly but surely started to right itself.

Despite Trubshaw’s notable achievement in saving the tower from certain collapse, it still leans by two and a half feet from the perpendicular and continues to be known as the Leaning Tower of Wybunbury. 

Stone carving

One of the bishops standing guard at the tower without a church - Credit: James Balme

If visiting the tower, take a look at the four wonderful carved statues of medieval bishops that stand proudly in canopied niches at each side of the door. 
 
My film, My film, The Leaning Tower of Wybunbury, shot in Wybunbury, can be viewed for free with many other local history films by visiting my channel, youtube.com/Tvpresenter4history, shot in Wybunbury can be viewed for free with many other local history films by visiting my channel, youtube.com/Tvpresenter4history

Things to look out for
15th-century leaning medieval tower 
Four carved statues of bishops
Remains and marks on rear of tower where the church was attached 
Original church doors that led from the tower into the now-demolished church