Bolton - St Edmund

St Edmund Street, Bolton BL1

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One of the earliest surviving churches in the Bolton Deanery and an interesting and now relatively rare example of the modest church/school buildings that were built in large number to serve poor, often Irish communities in the growing industrial towns of the diocese. It is a simple building that retains its original form, and while the population has moved away from the area in which it stands, it still maintains a loyal and committed congregation.

The foundation stone of a church dedicated to St Edmund of Canterbury was laid at a site in Grime Street (now St Edmund Street) in August 1860 by Bishop Turner. The moving force behind the building of the church (and the church of St Patrick Bolton, qv) was the Rev. Canon Carter. The building was of two storeys, the upper storey built to serve as a church and the lower as a school. In the following year, a mission was established in what was considered at the time to be ‘the very centre of the lowest district of town, a part occupied by the lowest and most disreputable characters, the true pariahs of society for whom no means of religious instruction was hitherto provided by any denomination.’ The site was surrounded by textile mills and workers’ housing, and the church was deliberately located there so that the local inhabitants could enter in their clogs and shawls.

The school was relocated in the early twentieth century, and the lower floor of the building was converted to a parish hall. A single storey extension to the hall was added in the 1960s. Around the same time, the church was reordered with the introduction of a narthex and new furnishings.

Fr Haugh has been associated with the parish for over thirty eight years, both as a curate and parish priest. In 2003 the parish of St Patrick was combined with St Edmund under his care, and with the closure of St Peter and St Paul in 2010, it too was subsumed within the re-named parish of St Edmund and St Patrick.          

The church was built in 1860-61 on a steeply sloping site. It is a simple rectangular building of rubble stone with a slate roof and three light lancet windows lighting the church on the upper floor. The roof of the sanctuary steps down, and has a five-light east window with pairs of smaller lancets lighting the sacristies to each side. The lower floor, which was originally used as the school, has pairs of square-headed windows, and is partly below ground as the street rises alongside, being separated from the pavement by a narrow area bounded by iron railings. A pointed arched doorway gives access to the church.

The interior is open to the roof which is supported on timber scissor trusses, and has a choir gallery at the west end. The gallery was enlarged and a screen was installed below it in the 1960s to create a narthex. More recently an organ was obtained from a church in Rochdale and rebuilt to stand at the rear of the gallery. There are four late nineteenth century stained glass windows depicting single figures of saints, as well as the Sacred Heart and Our Lady of Sorrows.    

Diocese: Salford

Architect: Not established

Original Date: 1861

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed