Saint Mary's Parish Church, Todmorden

St Mary's Parish Church stands on Burnley Road, Todmorden.

There may have been a church here in 1400.

The church was built around 1475 on land given by the Radcliffe family of Todmorden Hall.

This was the first chapel in the Todmorden district and was originally a chapel of ease of St Chad's Church, within the parish of Rochdale and the Diocese of Lichfield. In 1541, it joined the Diocese of Chester. In 1847, it joined the Diocese of Manchester. In 1920, it joined the Diocese of Wakefield.

Part of the tower may be 15th century.

Around 1546, when Henry VIII was railing against popery, the church was confiscated. It was bought back by the parishioners for the sum of 6/8d. In 1552, when the Royal Commissioners again visited the church, only a chalice, vestments and a copper and gilt cross was found.

In 1770, the church had fallen into disrepair. The nave was rebuilt and 3 galleries were added, with Anthony Crossley paying a greater part of the costs. It accommodated [1778]

In 1805, the organ (possibly) by Gray & Davison was installed in the south-west gallery. Details can be found in the National Pipe Organ Register.

In 1813, the galleries were altered and could accommodate 743 worshippers.

In 1832, when Christ Church opened, St Mary's closed and the organ and pews were moved from St Mary's to the new church.

On 24th June 1857, the Secretary of State issued an order burials in the old church yard be discontinued on and after 1st October 1857

except in walled graves which were in existence on 12th June 1857, and in which case each coffin shall be embedded in charcoal and separately entombed in an air-tight manner

St Mary's was used occasionally until the 1860s.

The church was unused. A great many locals were alienated by the closure of the church.

The lower windows were replaced by flagstones. The clock was rewound, and there were funerals conducted at the church but no other services.

After 20 years, it was said that the old church had lapsed out of the hands of the patron, the Vicar of Rochdale, and could now be reopened – see William Helliwell.

In March 1860, it was decided that the height of the tower be raised when a new illuminated clock was installed. The bell was re-cast and shrubs were planted in the church-yard. The bell is inscribed

In dulcedine vocis cantabo tuo Domine.
In jucunditate soni sonabo tibi Domine.

W [..] O LAM SRE 1603
Recast, tower raised new clock 1860 Mears, Lond. fecit

With a sweet voice I shall sing to you, Lord
With a pleasant sound I shall resound for you, Lord

The church was altered during the ministry of Rev R. F. W. Molesworth. He removed the north and east galleries, reseated the body of the church, and rearranged the pulpit and the reading desk. In October 1868, a new harmonium was installed.

In December 1885, the church closed for the construction of a new chancel, the installation of new pews in the nave, and other improvements.

In 1892, it was listed as a chapel of ease for Christ Church.

The Gothic Revival chancel, by Medland Taylor of Manchester, was added in 1896, together with a porch which was removed during renovations in 1990. The east window by Kempe shows the Crucifixion and is a memorial to John Fielden.

It became the Parish Church again in 1992 when Christ Church closed. It was again refurbished.

Samuel Brooks, and John Law are buried here, and there is a memorial to John Nowell near the south door

The records for the Church are held at the West Yorkshire Archive Service office in Wakefield (Collection WDP46): Baptisms [1865-1987] and Marriages [1865-1984].

A list of some of the Vicars of Todmorden is given in a separate Foldout

See All Saints' Church, Harley Wood: War Memorial, All Saints' Church, Harley Wood, John Hawksworth Jackson Barker, William Greenwood, Jeremy Hauworth, Josiah Lord, St Mary's, Todmorden: Graveyard, St Mary's, Todmorden: War Memorial and Todmorden Burial Ground

© Malcolm Bull 2022
Revised 12:19 / 5th August 2022 / 8209

Page Ref: QQ_22

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