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Taken from "A Short Guide to Saint Bartholomew's"

This venerable old parish church needs no written word to convey its beauty and quiet charm. Plain and symmetrical and uncluttered, it stands as a monument to the Glory of God and to the loving care of thousands of men and women who have worshipped here during the centuries of its existence.

The first mention of this church is in a document dated 1335, in which it is described as "the Chapel of Harwode". It would be a simple structure, built as a chapel of ease and served either from the well established church of Blackburn or from the very new Whalley Abbey. It was dedicated to St Lawrence, but the present church is dedicated to St Bartholomew; no one knows when the change took place, but we do know how.

In 1521, Thomas Hesketh of Martholme, Lord of the Manor, founded a chantry chapel so that masses might be said for his family. It was at the east end of the south aisle and it would be separated from the rest of the church by a wooden screen. He dedicated it to St Bartholomew, but it had a very short life. Following the sweeping changes of the Reformation, chantry chapels were abolished. Somehow, the name of St Bartholomew came to be applied to the whole church. This change would be gradual, and probably the two names were used side by side for many years. It is interesting to note that early maps of Great Harwood show St Lawrence's well, and there is a St Lawrence Street today.

So much for the foundation and the dedication. What about the fabric of the church? It is very simple, consisting of Tower, Nave, Aisles, and Chancel, two Vestries, and a Porch.

The Tower

Dated sometime in the 15th century, the Tower is the oldest part, the huge stones are evidence of this. Against the tower arch can be seen the pitch of an earlier and steeper nave roof. There is a narrow belfy door, a blocked up west door, and a handsome window of three lights depicting the Crucifixion. The refurnishing of this area was done with money from the Catterall bequest in 1967.

The Nave

This part of the church was rebuilt sometime during the 16th century, probably after a fire in 1591. The style of the windows is similar to that of the manor house of Martholme, which Thomas Hesketh repaired. He was living there in 1559, and it is more than probable that he was responsible for the rebuilding of the church. According to the registers, two of his sons were buried here. The new Nave would be open to the rafters. It did not get a ceiling until 1774. Examination of the ceiling will show that it was never intended for this church since the principal timbers do not match the spaces between the Clerestory windows, and there is a theory that the ceiling came from Whalley Abbey.

Apart from the chancel, the main part of the church is substantially as it was during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

The Chancel

During the second half of the 19th century, Great Harwood was growing rapidly. Mills had been built as well as houses for the new families who flocked in from county districts to work the new looms. It was a time of prosperity, and so it was decided to enlarge the church by building a chancel. This was done in 1881. The organ was enlarged and the choir stalls made. Care was taken to match the style of the old church, but careful inspection will show that the two arches and pillars nearest the chancel are new, and that the original pillars of the 16th century nave were built into the bottom of the chancel arch beside the pulpit and the vicar's stall. The aisles were extended and two windows inserted into each aisle wall. Again, careful inspection will show which is which.

In the new south aisle window, two fragments of ancient glass were fixed, bearing the initials TH and the sheaf of corn which appears on the Hesketh coat of arms. These obviously came from the old chantry chapel. The east window of the 16th century nave was set in the end wall of the vicar's vestry, and can be viewed from the outside. A new handsome traceried window of four lights was built into the new east end. The stained glass windows are self-explanatory. The two on the south side of the chancel are in memory of a much loved vicar, Rev W H Haslewood, 1861-1888. He was vicar when the church was extended and the chancel built.

In 1953, there were alterations to the sanctuary. The reredos with its picture of the Annunciation and four panels on which were written the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the Ten Commandments was moved to the Tower area. They were replaced by a new English altar with riddel posts.

More recent alterations to the fabric of the church were discussed and agreed during the 1980s. It was decided to demolish the old choir vestry and to build an extension to provide more space for the choir, plus a toliet and enough room to hold meetings for various parish groups. This extension was dedicated by the Bishop of Burnley on Trinity Sunday, 1988.

Items of interest

A "poppy head pew" can be seen in the South aisle (having been moved from the North aisle as in this picture). This was an early attempt at seating in the church. The inscription reads: "Pray for the soul of Hugh Stanworth and Letice his wife, who caused this to be made". This bench can be dated between 1518 and 1547.

An old oak chest is located just outside the choir vestry. This chest is made of huge planks, bound with large iron straps and hinges. It has three locks for safety, because this is where church documents were kept as ordered by Queen Elizabeth I. Keys to the locks were kept by the vicar and the two churchwardens.

The font, which has been moved from the North aisle and then the Tower area to the area between the Nave and the Chancel, is dated 1662 and bears the initals I E. This could refer to John Eddleston, who was churchwarden at this time.

The pulpit is a handsome wooden one with linen fold panelling.

The children's corner is at the east end of the north aisle. This was a memorial to another well known vicar, the Rev A F Johnson, who was very interested in the welfare of children. During his ministry the two church day schools were built, Holgate Street School in 1895 and Ash Street School (the present St Bartholomew's CE) in 1915.