VOLUME III contains the history of eccle-siastical organization in Cheshire, both before and after the Reformation, medi-eval religious houses, Chester cathedral, education before 1903, and the more historically important endowed grammar schools in the county. In the Middle Ages the organization of the church in Cheshire was based on parishes which in the east of the county were exceptionally large, while those of the west resembled more closely the nor-mal English parish. Between 1075 and 1102 Chester was the seat of a bishop; for the rest of the Middle Ages the county lay in the diocese of Coventry and Lichfield. In 15411 the vast but poorly endowed diocese of Chester was formed, extending into Westmorland and the North Riding of Yorkshire. In the 19th century it was reduced in size until it included little more than the county of Cheshire. The county produced both protestant and Catholic martyrs, and the nonconformist sects were well represented. The largest and most important of the religious houses were St. Werburgh's abbey at Chester, which became the cathedral church of the new diocese in 1541, and Vale Royal, a Cistercian house founded by Edward I.
Recent archaeological work has revealed much about some of the smaller houses, especially Norton. The city of Chester contained, in addition to St Werburgh's, a nunnery, friaries, and hospitals. Like the diocese, Chester cathedral suffered from an inadequate endowment, but its standing among English cathedrals improved under ener-getic deans in the late 19th and the 20th century. The rapid growth of industrial towns, especially in north-east Cheshire, created a pressing need for schools, bur the institution of school boards, the late 19th-century solution favoured by central government, failed to make headway. Grammar schools were endowed in many of the towns and villages in the 16th cen-tury and later, and the histories of seven-teen of them are described in the volume.