Ancient Monuments

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Site of church and churchyard at Overchurch 875m north west of Upton Hall

A Scheduled Monument in Upton, Wirral

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Latitude: 53.3919 / 53°23'30"N

Longitude: -3.1081 / 3°6'29"W

OS Eastings: 326405.854458

OS Northings: 388906.857509

OS Grid: SJ264889

Mapcode National: GBR 6YQ6.XV

Mapcode Global: WH767.706K

Entry Name: Site of church and churchyard at Overchurch 875m north west of Upton Hall

Scheduled Date: 15 April 1980

Last Amended: 22 July 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015602

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27607

County: Wirral

Electoral Ward/Division: Upton

Built-Up Area: Birkenhead

Traditional County: Cheshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Merseyside

Church of England Parish: Upton (or Overchurch) St Mary

Church of England Diocese: Chester


The monument includes the curvilinear embanked enclosure which formed the
churchyard of a church at Overchurch. The church, of which little remains, was
demolished in 1813. Among the stones taken from the site to build a new church
at Upton was a fragment of an Anglo-Saxon cross slab inscribed with runic
lettering. The fragment points to a church on this site before the Conquest.
In addition, a stone voussoir was found on the site and confirms that much of
the original fabric of the demolished building was from the Romanesque period.

The remains of the churchyard enclosure consist of a bank and outside ditch
enclosing an oval area 26m from west to east and 16m from north to south. The
interior of the enclosure is raised from the surrounding ground level by
0.45m. The bank is well preserved on the south and west sides and is 4m wide
at the base with an entrance on the west side. The ditch is now visible on the
north and north west sides and is 3m wide and 0.3m deep on average.

In the interior there are the remains of gravestones, now heaped up in the
centre of the yard. Many are damaged and there is evidence that they have been
broken to provide stone for rockeries in neighbouring gardens. Yew trees grow
out of the bank on the west side.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

A parish church is a building, usually of roughly rectangular outline and
containing a range of furnishings and fittings appropriate to its use for
Christian worship by a secular community, whose members gather in it on
Sundays and on the occasion of religious festivals. Children are initiated
into the Christian religion at the church's font and the dead are buried in
its churchyard. Parish churches were designed for congregational worship and
are generally divided into two main parts: the nave, which provides
accommodation for the laity, and the chancel, which is the main domain of the
priest and contains the principal altar. Either or both parts are sometimes
provided with aisles, giving additional accommodation or spaces for additional
altars. Most parish churches also possess towers, generally at the west
end, but central towers at the crossing of nave and chancel are not uncommon
and some churches have a free-standing or irregularly sited tower. Many parish
churches also possess transepts at the crossing of chancel and nave, and south
or north porches are also common. The main periods of parish church foundation
were in the 10th to 11th and 19th centuries. Most medieval churches were
rebuilt and modified on a number of occasions and hence the visible fabric of
the church will be of several different dates, with in some cases little
fabric of the first church being still easily visible.
Parish churches are found throughout England. Their distribution reflects the
density of population at the time they were founded. In regions of dispersed
settlement parishes were often large and churches less numerous. The densest
clusters of parish churches were found in thriving medieval towns. A survey of
1625 reported the existence of nearly 9000 parish churches in England. New
churches built in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries increased numbers to
around 18,000 of which 17,000 remain in ecclesiastical use. Parish churches
have always been major features of the landscape and a major focus of life for
their parishioners. They provide important insights into medieval and later
population levels or economic cycles, religious activity, artistic endeavour
and technical achievement. A significant number of surviving examples are
identified to be nationally important.

The remains of the enclosed churchyard and church at Overchurch remain
identifiable. The former presence on the site of important Anglo-Saxon
sculpture points to a 9th century church foundation on the site. The former
presence of Romanesque carved masonry, in the form of a voussoir among the
stones retrieved from the demolished church, show that the structure was from
a date in the immediate post-Conquest period.
The curvilinear form of the yard is taken to mean that the foundation may be
early and possibly in the pre-Conquest period. The remains below ground will
contain evidence of a buried population from the 9th century onward. The silts
which have accumulated in the ditch will also preserve the remains of whatever
has been discarded over the years including important organic material in
those sections which remain waterlogged. The foundations of the Romanesque
and earlier churches will also survive beneath the present ground surface.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Bu'lock, J D, Pre Conquest Cheshire, (1972), 48-9
Thacker, A, The Victoria History of the County of Cheshire, (1987), 280
Voussoir from South Door Overchurch Church, (1993)

Source: Historic England

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