This picture shows the bottom of Wharton Hill and the way that the traffic over the Town Bridge used to be two-way outside the Red Lion. You can see the road become the High Street at the top of the picture – now, of course, the Old High Street. All buildings on the left of the photo have now long gone.
Over United Reformed Church is in Swanlow Lane. It is designated by English Heritage as a Grade II listed building, and continues to be an active congregation within the United Reformed Church.
The church is built in polychromatic brick with a slate roof and red sandstone dressings. It was originally built as a Congregational chapel and was the second church to be designed by John Douglas.
It is an unusual building which Douglas’ biographer Edward Hubbard describes as being “experimental” and as presenting “an astonishing sight”. The architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner described it as “very ugly”.
There is a church hall which hosts various organisations throughout the year.
In 1860 Hugh Cholmondeley, 2nd Baron Delamere, commissioned the Chester architect John Douglas to build a church in the centre of Over, which was then a village separate from Winsford, as a memorial to his wife, Sara.
At that time Douglas was at the start of his career and was working for Lord Delamere at his house and estate at Vale Royal Abbey. A new parish of St John the Evangelist was created out of the parishes of St Mary, Whitegate and St Chad, Over. The church was consecrated by John Graham, Bishop of Chester in June 1863.
This was the first church designed by John Douglas.
In 1961 a new choir vestry was formed to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the church. A Lady Chapel was dedicated in 1972 with an aumbry added the following year. Outside porch doors were fitted in 1979.
In the churchyard there are many memorials; these include one to those who died in a cotton mill fire in Over in 1874. This memorial is constructed in yellow sandstone ashlar and carries inscriptions, including a quotation from St Mark’s Gospel, and the names of the four victims which include a baby aged three months.
St Chad’s Church is the oldest place of worship in Winsford. Recent archaeological opinion suggested that it occupies a pre-Christian place of pagan worship, though tradition says it was dropped out in the fields by the devil when he tried to steal it to prevent worshippers using it.
Legend has it that the church was originally built in Over Square, but the devil was so angry at the people’s use of it that he decided to fly off with it. The monks at Vale Royal Abbey were said to have seen him and rung the abbey bells so that it was dropped at its current location.
In fact, its location is probably due to it having always belonged, along with its tithes, to St Mary’s Convent in Chester. This presumably convinced the Abbot to build the town far enough away from the Church in order to gain the tithes himself.
A tiny fragment of a Saxon cross shows that Christian worship has taken place here for over a thousand years.