Some time ago an article appeared in the ‘Parish News’ asking of us ‘who was St Plegmund?’; not surprising since reference to ‘St Plegmund’s Roman Catholic Church’ appears monthly on the back page of the ‘Parish News’.
St Plegmund may not be one of the more commonly known Saints but he is regarded to have been an influential ‘Holy Man’ and ‘Scholar’ of the early Medieval Period.
A contemporary of King Alfred the Great, Plegmund is believed to have lived as a hermit, it being recorded that ‘Plegmund, an Eremite (lived) in the Isle of Chester’, when Chester was part of the Saxon Kingdom of Mercia. A learned man, he was famous for his scholastic writings and translations which were recognised as some of the best of Saxon literature.
Plegmund rose from relative obscurity to positions of high office during the reign of King Alfred (871-899AD). He undertook significant reforms as part of King Alfred’s vision to reintroduce theological scholarship in England and he was appointed ‘Primate of all England’ in 890AD, being preferred by Alfred ‘to be Archbishop of Canterbury’. He travelled to Rome to be consecrated by Pope Formosus.
Following the death of King Alfred, Plegmund crowned Alfred’s son, Edward the Elder.
He continued as the 19th Archbishop of Canterbury until his death in 923AD (some sources suggest 914AD) and he is buried in Canterbury Cathedral. His feast day is 2 August.
St Plegmund’s Roman Catholic Church is to be found on Tattenhall Road and was opened in the 1970s by the Roman Catholic Bishop of Shrewsbury, the Rt. Rev. WE Grasar (since writing this Webpage, St Plegmund’s Roman Catholic Church has closed and the building has now been completely demolished to make way for modern development – see Footnote).
St Plegmund’s Well
Interestingly too, ‘St Plegmund’s Well’ is located at Plemstall, near the village of Mickle Trafford. The ‘Well’ is named after ‘Plegmund’ who is reputed to have lived nearby. In fact, it is believed that the present church of St Peter is built on the site where Plegmund actually lived. In his youth, Plegmund was drawn to the life of a hermit and became a ‘solitary’. On account of this location having been the residence of Plegmund (a ‘holy man’), the area was named ‘Plegmundham’, later ‘Plemondstall’ and now ‘Plemstall’ near Mickle Trafford. The surrounding land, formerly marshland, is slightly elevated and was known as “The Isle of Chester”. The ‘Well’ comprises a stone lined pit with two steps, beneath which is a circular rough stone well 0.4m in diameter. The ‘Well’, now restored, stands on the edge of a low cliff above one of the channels of the River Gowy.
The annual ‘Well Dressing’ of St Plegmund’s Well has also been revived at this location as shown below.
St Plegmund’s Roman Catholic Church, Tattenhall
Historically, Catholics in Tattenhall and it’s immediate District attended Mass at the Righi which was a convent, a priest coming in from St Werburgh’s in Chester. Following the closure of the convent, Mass was celebrated in a hired room in the Bear and Ragged Staff public house. The Sacred Heart Fathers assumed responsibility for Tattenhall when they established themselves in Malpas. The building of a designated place of worship for Catholics was finally fulfilled with the building of ‘St Plegmund’s Roman Catholic Church’ at a cost of £5,000. The image below shows The Bishop of Shrewsbury, together with some of his parishioners, at the official opening.
Footnote: St Plegmund’s Roman Catholic Church closed during the Autumn of 2012 and the building was demolished in the Autumn of 2014.
Should you wish to find out more about St Plegmund’s connections with Mickle Trafford and/or visit the ‘Well’, reference to the Mickle Trafford and District Website is in our ‘Links’ section of the Toolbar.