Tuesday, 19 July 2016

The Hidden Village of Grappenhall, Cheshire

The village of Grappenhall in Cheshire is a hidden gem, full of history, and still has a picturesque quality with its cobbled road, two great pubs and a string of cottages. The Church of St. Wilfrid dates to the 12th century and features what may have been the origin of Lewis Carrols Cheshire cat - seen in the frieze on the tower. This is similar to a cat carved on St. Giles Church in Wrexham, which incidentally also has a pig carved on a frieze of the church in a similar way to Winwick Church. The village was a location for trade being near the River Mersey, and the nucleus of the village still reflects the character of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

However, the old Grappenhall Hall School has recently closed and has an uncertain future, the fine early nineteenth century manor house was once owned by the Greenall Family and later became a residential school. It's a beautiful building which should be stirring the interests of architectural conservationists. The Parr family were also linked to Grappenhall, occupying Grappenhall Heys which lay about a mile from the village. This banking family were close to the Greenalls and are remembered through the Parr Arms - one of the pubs in the village. Certain members from both families have memorials in the church.

Grappenhall village today. The cobbles are still there - not sure about the new pavement though!
The carving of the cat in the frieze on the church tower.
The old stocks, now kept in the church.
Late eighteenth century grave showing the skull & crossbones, a symbol for mortality, but a symbol also used in Freemasonry.
The early eighteenth century sundial in the church yard.
The medieval font.
The Royal Arms displayed in the Church.
One of the two pubs in the village; the Rams Head.
Grappenhall Hall, once owned by the Greenall family before becoming a residential school. Now in need of conservation.
Distant view of Grappenhall Hall.

A similar view over a century ago, courtesy of this website which discusses Grappenhall's history.

All photos taken with permission by Dr David Harrison


  1. Just been researching Grappenhall Hall from the Malta angle due to one Eugenie Mattei marrying Gilbert Greenall in 1876. They both died in Valletta. So I felt you should know that it's Greenall not Greenhall as you have several times on this page. Just so that other researchers can find your page on a search for Greenall.

  2. There's always something that slips through the net, but all adjusted now. It would be good to see your research, there's an interesting section on the family here: https://www.myheritage.com/names/eugenia_mattei

  3. Thanks for the update, David. My research is more into the Greenalls than Grappenhall itself but, as you know ,they are very much interlinked. I can detail my discovery yesterday of this connection to Maltese 'nobility' which starts with a g-aunt's baptism record in 1882 (in Hampstead) showing godmother as Eugenie Marie Greenall and my then trying to find out who this woman was.
    Although there are a couple of references to Mattei-Greenall online such as the link you give, it seems no other tree on ancestry that has Gilbert Greenall has him married to a Mattei (and the marriage record is incorrectly Mattie). I found some queries on a message board (from 2009) that were asking who this Mattie woman was because there's no UK record for her apart from the marriage. Please email me on peteragius362@gmail.com and I can send you some info on who the Mattei family are.

    Two mysteries for me are ... how does a young Catholic Maltese girl get to marry into Anglican landed gentry in Cheshire in 1876.. and why do Gilbert and Eugenie go back to Malta where Gilbert dies in 1881 leaving Eugenie a widow for 50 years (died 1931). Was he retiring to a warmer climate or was he setting up a an office for the family wine business to cover the Med? We'll probably never know!

  4. Thanks for your comment Peter. It is indeed a very interesting aspect to the family. I'll email you with some details of research I've done on the Masonic career of Sir Gilbert Greenall which I included in my book The Transformation of Freemasonry, and I look forward to reading your information on the Mattei family.