Church History

The building of this lovely church was financed by John Bibby of Harthill, a wealthy iron and copper merchant, in memory of his first wife. She was born on All Hallows' Eve 1812 and, appropriately, the foundation stone was laid on 31st October 1872. For more information on the Bibby Family press on the link.

The architect opted for the use of local red sandstone for the exterior and white Storeton stone for the interior. The crowning glory of the church is its stained glass, which is largely the work of Sir Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris, the former a founder member of the Pre-Raphaelites and the latter, a leading member of the Arts and Crafts movement. The windows were not installed at one time, but over many years, Bibby’s contribution being supplemented with donations from family and friends. So lavish was Bibby’s outlay that there was no money remaining for bells or, more importantly, an endowment.

By 1876 the church was largely complete and was consecrated by the Lord Bishop of Chester on 10th August. The first vicar was the Revd Nicholas Kemble, whose ministry lasted for nearly 30 years. The congregation was small in the early years for the township was rural and sparsely populated, and the members mainly consisted of local magnates, their families and their servants. From the 1920s onwards the population increased, and by the time of the Second World War it stood at just over 7,000. It was rumoured that Canon Jordan, the third vicar, would follow removal vans to their destinations and extend a hearty welcome to new residents regardless of creed. The former leafy retreat was giving place to large residential development, and today the population of the parish is 11,500.

The first visible change to the interior of the church, after the installation of the stained glass, was the appearance in 1899 of the replica of a statue in the Campo Santo in Genoa: an angel carrying a soul to heaven, known irreverently as 'Flossie'. Previously it had stood outside the church but, having  weathered badly, was placed in the south transept. After the end of the First and Second World Wars, memorials were placed on the walls of the north transept in 1920 and 1951 to the memory of those who had laid down their lives. An oxidised cross is to be found at the high altar in memory of two grandsons of John Bibby, both of whom died in France in 1915.

To meet the needs of a growing congregation, a church hall was built on a site adjoining the church and was opened for use on 4th October 1930. There was a wide range of activities available for all ages and the hall was to prove itself a real asset. The stained glass of the church was removed for safety at the outbreak of the Second World War and replaced with plain glass. It was stored in the cellars of the rectory of St Andrew’s Church, Slaidburn, and was not returned to All Hallows until 1946, when it was rededicated at a Service of Thanksgiving on 1st September.

Perhaps the most dramatic development in the history of the church was the erection of a dais for a small altar at the nave crossing in 1979. This, significantly, brought the celebration of the Eucharist into the body of the church and away from the more remote high altar. The west end of the church was reordered in 2001 with the removal of rows of pews, the placing of a new glass door at the entrance of the west porch, the placing of the font in front of the window depicting the Baptism of Christ; and the installation of toilets and other facilities in the tower space.

In 2011, extensive restoration was carried out on the tower at a cost of just over £203,000, this sum bring raised by a generous response from the congregation and those organisations who gave us grants in support of this work. 

ALEC ELLIS