This church has an ancient history, traced back to the Anglo-Saxon period. This is shown by the old stones in the south aisle and perhaps also the font.
Following the Norman Conquest (1066) the Domesday Book (1086) gives Acton as having two priests. The new Norman Barons set up Combermere Abbey in 1133 and gifted Acton and its church to the abbey.
The tower is claimed to date from 1180 (the base solid, without the later arches). Many of the stones in the base may be Roman. It played an important part in the protection and control of local salt production in the nearby Wyche. The Monks assisted by nearby men of wealth built a Nave which existed as early as 1291 when the Pope recognised the importance of Acton church (in a Papal Taxatio). Acton and Middlewich were the most valuable in Cheshire. The Vernon and Bromley families added to the Church in the 13thCentury (including St Mary’s Chantry, on the north side of the nave, taken down in 1547 – under the Chantries Act).
In 1399 Sir William Mainwaring (an important knight) of Baddiley, paid for the arcades and aisles to be constructed (see the west door and the Mainwaring arms around the church); see his monument in the north aisle. George Cotton bought the Combermere Abbey estate from King Henry VIII on the breakup of Combermere Abbey in 1538, and the Wilbraham family of Woodhey and Dorfold bought the surrounding estates to Acton. The earliest date of the chancel is not known. In c1633 the Wilbraham family (of Woodhey) considerably enhanced and rebuilt the chancel to contain the Wilbraham monument, later moved to the south aisle.
A great storm in 1757 destroyed the top of the tower (it was previously six metres higher). The Nave roof and the musicians’ gallery (attached to the tower) and the pews were also damaged. It took over 100 years to pay for the restoration.
In 1897 a local family – Sutton-Timmis – of soap manufacturing fame, paid for a major restoration; under-pinning the Tower, new floors and stone clerestory, oak pews, partitions and roof panel-work and heating. Lord Tollemache of Peckforton paid for the chancel work and Mr Henry Tollemache of Dorfold paid for a new stone organ chamber to be built.
A new organ was purchased by public subscription to replace the old box harmonium, which in turn had replaced individual musicians. An old seating plan included the names of Viscounts Kilmorey and Cholmondeley, the Earl of Bridgwater, the Wilbrahams, Leicesters, Chetwoods and Tollemaches.
During the period from 1979 till 1995 Gerald Emerton produced the Parish Magazine. During this time a series of 12 items of historical interest were included under the title ‘Acton Round’. These were intended to expand on a history of the Church and parish written by Canon Herbert Moore MA in the 1930s. Canon Moore’s history has been reprinted twice since WW2. Additionally, Rev W H O’Brien-Hodge produced a pamphlet ‘A Few Historical Facts’ in 1898, to celebrate the Sutton-Timmis restoration of that date. A further account of Acton Church is included in ‘Cheshire Churches’ written by Raymond Richards and published in 1947. In 2010 Gerald Emerton wrote ‘Acton through the Ages’ which incorporates much of the above referred to work, together with a background of earlieir history. Also included is a bibliography and a number of other useful appendices.
‘ Acton through the Ages’ is available at the Church priced £15.00.