PDF Print E-mail

With the demolition of St John's in 2009, the final chapter in its history has been written. Here, we look back at some of the important events in the Church's past.

The story began on Trinity Sunday in the year 1881 when the vicar of Great Harwood, Revd. W H Haslewood, opened a mission church in the Old Butts Chapel on Delph Road. At first the congregations were very small, numbering only five on one occasion, but services continued to be held there until St John's School was built, which then took the place of the Butts Chapel as the centre for worship, the first mission services being held in the schoolroom on 29th April, 1888.

Shortly afterwards land was obtained, alongside the school playground, on which to build a church and an iron church was opened on the 12th November 1898. The vicar of Great Harwood at the time was Revd A F Johnson, and a curate, Revd. J.A.Wilson, was appointed as Curate-in-charge of St John's on 1st April 1899.

St John's was still a mission church, but in 1908, £3000 was raised for the endowment of a Peel District (so called because they were first set up by Act of Parliament in 1843, when Sir Robert Peel was Prime Minister). It was on August 1st, 1908, that King Edward VII sanctioned the Deed of Separation of the new Peel District, published in the London Gazette of August 4th. Thus, the new parish of St John, Great Harwood, was formed and, on November 3rd, 1908, Revd J A Wilson was licensed as the first incumbent of the parish, by the Lord Bishop of Manchester, the Right Reverend E A Knox.

Exactly 3 years before this, the first steps had been taken towards raising funds for the building of a new stone church, £1000 being raised at a Parish Bazaar! The first plans submitted by Messrs Austin and Paley, of Lancaster, proved to be too expensive, but their revised plans were acceptance and preparations began.

The foundation stone was laid on the 27th May 1911, by Mrs E B Loynd, at a service conducted by Bishop Henn of Burnley. On that same day a procession of about 1000 people also took place.

17 months later, on October 1st, 1912, the church was consecrated by the Bishop of Manchester, Dr Knox, at a service of Holy Communion, with 220 communicants. The total debt of £6000, was paid off from a legacy left to the church by Mr Edward Brogden Loynd.

Rev Canon J Wilson continued as Vicar of the Parish, assisted for a period of 6 years (1941–47) by Rev C H Nesbitt, who served as Curate, and from May, 1948, by Henry Dunkinson, the first Lay-Reader in the Parish. In September, 1950, Rev Wilson, now Canon Wilson, retired after several months of ill health and having completed over 50 years' ministry in Great Harwood. After Canon Wilson's lengthy incumbency, St John’s had a series of vicars staying only for short periods (there were 7 vicars in the next 21 years).

In February, 1951, the Rev J Taplin was instituted by the Bishop of Blackburn. It was during his time as Vicar that serious structural faults were detected in the East end of the building. In order to overcome this problem, the area was excavated and new concrete foundations were laid under this part of the church at a cost of over £2000. (Unfortunately this never fully cured the problem and there was still movement in the East end when the church was last used for worship.)

Rev Taplin left St John’s to be followed by Rev G H Griffiths in 1957. In 1958, it was decided the West end of the church building should be completed. A tower had been intended to be built and a fund was in place for this project, but due to the instability of the foundations it could not be built, and in it’s place a new porch was erected at the main north-west entrance. This was completed in September, 1961, and dedicated by the then Bishop of Blackburn, Dr C R Claxton.

Meanwhile Rev Griffiths had left, in May, 1961, to become Rector of Whittington-in-Lonsdale. Rev D Prewer succeeded him in January, 1962, staying for 2 years, as did the next incumbent, Rev J T W B Jenkyns.

During Rev Jenkyns' ministry, the various churches in Great Harwood began to work more closely together, especially through the setting up of ACME Youth Club (ACME standing for Anglican, Congregational, Methodist, and Emmanuel) with leaders from all denominations and using premises at St John’s, St Bartholomew’s, and Central Methodist’s churches.

Rev W E Davey was inducted Vicar in 1967, and Rev E B Kennedy in 1972. Tragically, Rev Kennedy suffered a heart attack whilst serving as Vicar and died after several months in hospital.

Following the death of Rev Kennedy there was a lengthy interregnum of 18 months before Rev K Logan was inducted, to be succeeded by Rev B Darbyshire. It was after Rev Darbyshire moved to the Isle of Man that discussions began regarding the uniting of the two parishes of St John’s and St Bartholomew’s, and Great Harwood was once more served by one Parish as it was before 1908.

The reredos from St John's is now part of St Margaret's Church, Oldham, and part of the Organ case has been incorporated into the organ at Lancaster Priory.