The history of St Oswald’s Church in Winwick

Aerial view of English church

St Oswald's – the church named for a king, and which later held Royalist prisoners in the final battle of the Second English Civil War - Credit: James Balme

A visit to the village that played a part in significant events in English history

As I travel around Cheshire today I come across many places with great stories to tell about their rich historical past and on my latest venture, I’ve uncovered an amazing location that has seen activity from the Saxons and the Normans as well as being the site of a decisive confrontation during the Second English Civil War in 1648, known by locals as the Battle of Red Bank. 

Legend has it that King Oswald of Northumbria had a palace at Woodhead in Winwick, near Warrington. Oswald became monarch in 633 AD but eight years was killed in battle and pieces of his body were distributed to various parts of his kingdom.  

In 1830, while digging new graves in the churchyard of St Oswald’s Church at Winwick, workers unearthed an Anglo-Saxon crosshead, one of the largest to be found in England, dated to 950 AD and carved with stunning designs. Unusually, it had been used as a grave marker in 1721 and again in 1793 before being buried once again. Today it stands inside the church. 

memorial in church

The memorial in the Legh Chapel at St Oswald's Church at Winwick - Credit: James Balme

The earliest remaining parts of the church that is named for King Oswald, date to 1330 and the Legh chapel, from the same year, is the final resting place of 14 members of the Legh family who lived at Lyme Hall, now owned by the National Trust. The chapel contains marble carvings and monuments to the Legh family detailing their lives and passing.  

The battle of Red Bank took place on land close to the church on August 19, 1648, and was the final skirmish of the Second Civil War. Parliamentarian troops were successful in defeating the Royalists with many of those loyal to the Crown held prisoner inside the church before being taken away.  

Another historical event at St Oswald's is linked to one of the biggest maritime disasters in British history. On January 13, 1887,  a wedding was to take place here between Sarah Eleanor Pennington, of Winwick, and Captain Edward John Smith, a British naval officer for the White Star Line.

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In 1912, Captain Smith, aged 62, was handed the helm of the new White Star vessel the Titanic.

On April 10, 1912, the ship set sail on her maiden voyage, then in the early hours of April 12, she was to founder after striking an iceberg. The captain was one of the more than 1,500 souls who perished in the North Atlantic. 

The marriage certificate of Sarah and Edward can be seen in St Oswald’s. 

My film, A Rich History of St Oswald’s Church can be viewed for free with many other local history films at youtube.com/Tvpresenter4history 

Things to look out for
Anglo-Saxon stone cross-head dated to 950 AD 
Fourteenth-century stone font dug up in the churchyard 
The Legh Chapel dated to 1330 AD and the Gerard Chapel 
Marriage certificate of Captain Edward Smith and Sarah Pennington