Sefton, Lancashire Genealogy

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See a List of Chapelries within Sefton Parish

Sefton St Helen

Parish History

Sefton is a village and civil parish in the Metropolitan Borough of Sefton in Merseyside, England. Located to the south west of Maghull and to the north east of Great Crosby, it is on the flood plain of the River Alt. Historically a part of Lancashire, the name Sefton is thought to be derived from the Old Norse sef, meaning "sedge" or "rushes" and tún meaning "farmstead". In the past Sephton was an alternative spelling.
The Parish Church of St Helen (Church of England) - the only Grade I listed building in the Borough - was first built around 1170 as the private chapel of the Molyneux family.
St Helen's has gained recognition for its extensive carved Tudor woodwork, which Pollard and Pevsner describe as the "great glory of the church", and for its inclusion in Simon Jenkins' book, England’s Thousand Best Churches, and Clifton-Taylor's list of 'best' English parish churches.

A small, decorated chapel in the Norman architectural style is known to have existed by 1291,[2] when the building's worth was estimated at £26 19s 4d in the Valor of Pope Nicholas IV. No part of this original chapel exists today, however during building works at the East Window in the early 2000s, substantial Norman floor tiles were discovered and are now displayed in the Lady Chapel.

By 1320, the original building had been completely removed and replaced with a more contemporary Decorated Gothic structure, which incorporated a small nave with pointed, geometric tracery windows and pitched roofline. A West tower with angle buttresses, a cornice and parapet with beehive-shaped pinnacles and distinctive tall spire was also built adjoining it. The spire was partially rebuilt following damage by severe gales in 1802.

The church has been extensively renovated in ensuing centuries.

SEFTON (St. Helen), a parish, in the union and hundred of West Derby, S. division of Lancashire; containing, with the townships of Aintree, Great and Little Crosby, Ince-Blundell, Litherland, Lunt, Netherton, Orrell with Ford, and Thornton, 6164 inhabitants, of whom 395 are in Sefton township, 7 miles (N.) from Liverpool. Previously to the Conquest, " Sextune," one of the original parishes of Lancashire, was held by five thanes. The family of Molyneux or Molines subsequently settled here. William des Molines, so named from Moulines, a town of Bourbonnois, in France, is mentioned in the Norman Chronicles as a man of noble origin, held in high esteem by the Duke William, afterwards William I. of England. In the roll of Battle Abbey, his name stands the eighteenth in order; and soon after the Conquest, he acquired, by gift of Roger de Poictou, the lordships of Sefton, Thornton, and Kerden, of which he made Sefton his chief seat. Richard Molyneux, of this family, was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1586; and, on the institution of the order of baronets, 22nd May, 1611, was the 2nd baronet advanced to that dignity, by James I. Sir Richard, his successor, was elevated to the peerage of Ireland, by the title of Viscount Molyneux, in 1628; and Charles William, the 9th viscount, was created Earl of Sefton, in November 1771. The townships or manors in the parish now belonging to this noble family, are, Sefton, Litherland, Orrell and Ford, Netherton, Thornton, Lunt, and Aintree. The parish extends seven miles in length and four in width, and comprises 9525 acres, of which 1140 are in the township of Sefton. The western townships are bordered by the Irish Sea and the mouth of the Mersey, a range of dreary sandhills forming a barrier along the shore, which is lined with marshes and covered with rabbit-warrens. The river Alt, fed by numerous rills, flows by Aintree, Lunt, and Ince-Blundell, and discharges itself into the sea to the north, below Formby Point. At Sefton, this stream resembles a canal, and in wet seasons overflows the meadows, a flat district extending several miles, which, during inundations, assumes the appearance of an arm of the sea. The Leeds and Liverpool canal intersects the parish. The principal halls are those of Little Crosby and Ince-Blundell. Sefton Hall existed in 1372, and was a stately pile, with a circular moat (still in existence) inclosing about a quarter of an acre of elevated ground, opposite the church. The farmhouse which subsequently occupied the site of this ancient seat of the Molyneuxs, has been taken down, and all that now remains of the mansion is a few heaps of stones scattered from its strong and massive walls. A brewery here, established about a century ago, is conducted by Mr. Molyneux Rothwell. The pursuits of the inhabitants are chiefly rural. The living is a rectory, valued in the king's books at £30. 1.8.; net income, £1378; patron and incumbent, the Rev. Richard Renshaw Rothwell. The tithes of the township of Sefton have been commuted for £211, and the glebe consists of 5 acres. The church is a large and handsome structure, and one of the finest in the county, originally erected in 1111, and partly rebuilt in the reign of Henry VIII. by Anthony Molyneux, a distinguished preacher, then rector. It is partly Norman, and partly in the later English style, with a lofty spire; and the interior is remarkably elegant. The chancel, separated from the nave by a magnificent screen, contains sixteen richly-sculptured stalls, and numerous monuments to the family of Molyneux, of whom Sir William performed signal acts of valour under the banner of the Black Prince, at Navaret; as did Sir Richard in the battle of Agincourt, and another Sir William in that of Flodden-Field. In what is called Lord Molyneux's chapel are several modern monuments of the family, one of them, particularly fine, in white marble, to the memory of Caryll, Viscount Molyneux, who died in 1699. At Great Crosby, Seaforth, and Waterloo are distinct incumbencies; and the Roman Catholics have chapels in several places. A sunk forest on the coast, is one of the most remarkable characteristics of the parish; and so abundant is the timber imbedded in the earth, generally two feet or more below the surface, that fifty loads of trees, chiefly of oak, arc sometimes found in a single acre.

From: A Topographical Dictionary of England by Samuel Lewis (1848), pp. 44-48. URL: Date accessed: 21 July 2010.


Civil Registration

Birth, marriages and deaths were kept by the government, from July 1837 to the present day. The civil registration article tells more about these records. There are several Internet sites with name lists or indexes. A popular site is FreeBMD.

Online index of Lancashire Births, Marriages and Deaths Lancashire BMD

Lancashire Online Parish Clerks

An extremely useful resource for research in Lancashire Parishes

Church records

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Census records

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Poor Law Unions

West Derby, Lancashire Poor Law Union

Probate records

Records of wills, administrations, inventories, indexes, etc. were filed by the court with jurisdiction over this parish. Go to Lancashire Probate Records to find the name of the court having primary jurisdiction. Scroll down in the article to the section Court Jurisdictions by Parish.

Maps and Gazetteers

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Salter, Mark (2005), The Old Parish Churches of Lancashire, Malvern: Folly, pp. 72–73, ISBN 1 871731 69 0

Pollard, Richard; Nikolaus Pevsner (2006), The Buildings of England: Lancashire: Liverpool and the South-West, New Haven & London: Yale University Press, pp. 580–584, ISBN 0 300 10910 5
Clifton-Taylor, Alec (1974), English Parish Churches as Work of Art, London: Batsford, p. 246, ISBN 0 7134 2776 0

Web sites

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