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St Mary's

The Church :

A brief History for visitors to Prestwich Parish Church.

View from the West beside the memorial to John Brooks

From the leaflet "The Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin Prestwich"
First compiled by F Paton-Williams, Rector and revised by Tom Evans, Rector.

There is no mention of Prestwich in the Domesday Book (1086), but in 1193 there is a record that Robert de Prestwich was fined 4 marks for supporting Count John and his rebellion against King Richard I. The Roman road from Manchester to Ribchester passed through Prestwich - "the dwelling place of the Priest" - and it is possible that an Anglo-Saxon Church and Graveyard may have occupied the present site in pre-conquest times.

1200 A.D. the first mention of a Rector of Prestwich Thomas de ( ? ). Probably for many years before, and certainly from that time,800 years ago, a place of worship stood where the Parish Church now stands. [The rectory is mentioned early in the 13th century, and in 1291 its annual value was given as 18 13s. 4d. (fn. 25) Fifty years later, the ninth of the sheaves, wool... was only ten marks. (fn. 26) At this time the tithes of half of Tottington in the parish of Bury were paid to the rector of Prestwich. This may have been the result of some grant by the lord of Tottington, or may indicate that originally the parish also included Bury, Middleton, and Radcliffe.]

A once round graveyard is alluded to by the SE boundary, 1848.

It is almost impossible to say what is the age of the present structure. The irregularity of the height of the arches, and the fact that the pillars are not opposite to one another indicates different dates of building. The whole body of the Church seems to have been rebuilt about the beginning of the 16th century.

In 1485 A.D. the Wars of the Roses ended, and the newly created Earl of Derby had taken over the Pilkington estates. He it was who built the Tower in or about 1500, displaying his arms as 'Lord of Man' on its east side.

Between 1485 and 1550 the roof was raised, and the clerestory windows added: at the same time was added the handsomely carved ceiling. (special note should be made of the carving on the bosses ). The Chantry Chapels at the end of each aisle must have been completed between 1530 - 1550.

The present Chancel was built in 1889, and is late perpendicular in style, designed recognisably by Paley& Austin, Architects of Lancaster. The Chancel Screen and Pulpit date from 1805. The stained glass is mostly Victorian, though the windows in the West Wall near the North Porch are probabiy l8th century. The great East Window is a memorial to Margaret, Countess of Wilton.

The Church possesses a peal of eight bells, the first four being mentioned in the time of Edward VI., 1552. The total weight of the peal is a little over 69 cwt. The peal is in the key of F.

The fine 18th century Candelabra hanging from the roof was "Given by the Pilkington side instead of a garland 1701.' It bears the Derby Crest of the Eagle and Child. The white marble memorial to Rector Lyon (l783 - 1836) above the vestry door in the organ chamber should be noted; the work was executed by Seivler at a cost of £250.

There are 19 Heraldic Shields, under the clerestory windows etc. Reading from the West End on. the South Side, and from the West End on the North Side you have the arms of :

On the North Wall -
IX. Wilton-Stanley.
VIII.Grey de Wilton.
VII. Holland of Heaton.
VI. Egerton of Heaton.
V. Holland of Denton.
IV. Pilkington of Lancashire.
III. Langley Lords of the Manor and Rectors.
II. Jordan of Tetlow.
I. Francis Grundy High Sheriff

On the South Wall -
IX. Leverof Alkrington.
VIII: Egerton 3rd Bart.
VII. Assheton (Rector).
VI. Dauntesey of Agecroft.
V. Kenyon-Holland(Rector). IV. Issac Allen (Rector). III. Egerton-Copeley.
II. Thomas de Tonge.
I. Prestwich lords of the Manor.
On the West wall - Sir Frank Lord.

The Lever Chapel on the South Side was originally a Chantry Chapel containing an Altar dedicated to St. Margaret. It was a Langley foundation, and has been twice re-built, first in 1731, and again in 1874, by Canon Birch. A plaque commemorating this is set on the South Wall.

The Wilton Chapel on the North Side originally known as "Hyltons Chantre." was also a pre-reformation Chantry Chapel. It is now a War Memorial Shrine covering the two great Wars 1914-1918 and 1939-1945. The centre panel depicting the Risen Christ was painted by Prof. Tristram.

A pre-reformation Aumbry remains to this day set in the stone of the pillar nearest the Altar, preserved behind a glass panel.

In 1959 the North and South Galleries which had been in the Church since 1756 were removed, and the Church restored to its original form, and open beauty.

Further Information
The height of the Tower is 86 feet: the length of the nave 80 feet and the Chancel 40 feet, the total length being 120 feet.In 1983 lightning damaged the Tower during a severe thunderstorm, A stone was blown out of the North Wall and its replacment can be seen clearly. At various heights old carvings and cryptic signs can be discerned in the wall of the Tower. The oldest gravestone lies at the South-East corner of the Church being the date 1641 and naming the children of Thomas Collier. To the right of the Church Gate, the first Outhouse was an 18th century Mortuary, to the left is an ancient mounting block (curiously positioned back to front).

A list of Rectors is found here


During the 19th century the Church was referred to as being dedicated to St Bartholomew. This is thought to be due to the unpopularity of St Mary at that time - or through ignorance. St Bartholomew's day is close to when the Church Wakes were held.

Famous Burials include...Charles Swain - Poet, Sir William Fairbairn - Engineer, James Lamb - cabinet maker, John Brooks - member of the Anti-Corn League, Richard Buxton (one of the Manchester Botanists) and William Sturgeon - inventor of the Electro Magnet.

The Parish of Prestwich originally comprised the district of Oldham and 41 Parishes have been cut out of this ancient Parish of Prestwich-cum-Oldham. The following 41 Parishes have been cut out of the ancient Parish of Prestwich-cum-Oldham:

1—Prestwich, St. Mary ?
*2—Oldham, St. Mary 1406
*3—Shaw, Holy Trinity 1515
*4—Ringley, St.Saviour 1626
*5—Unsworth, St.George 1730
6 —Hey or Lees,St. John Baptist 1743
*7—Royton, St. Paul 1754
*8—Hollinwood, St. Margaret 1766
*9—Oldham, St. Peter 1766
10—Stand, All Saints 1826
*11—Oldham, St. James 1829
12—Tonge/Alkrington,St. Michael 1839
13-Glodwick, Christ Ch. 1844
14—Werneth, St. John 1845
15—Waterhead,Holy Trinity 1847
16—East Crompton,St. James 1847
17—Coldhurst, Holy Trin. 1848
18—Leesfield, St. Thomas the Apostle 1848
*19—Prestwich, St. Margt. 1852
20—Werneth, St. Thomas 1855
21—Chadderton, St. Matthew 1857
22—Prestolee, Holy Trin. 1863
23—Rhodes, All Saints 1864-
24—Stand Lane,St. John Evt 1866.
25—Chadderton,Christ Church 1870
26—Moorside, St. Thomas 1872
27—Oldham, St. Stephen, All Martyrs 1873
28—Oldham, St. Andrew 1873
29—Glodwick, St. Mark 1876
30—High Crompton, St. Mary 1878
31—Heyside, St. Mark 1878
32—Oldham, St. Paul 1880
33—Middleton Junction,St. Gabriel 1885
34—Chadderton, St. Luke 1888
35—Northmoor/All'Saints 1891
36—Royton, St. Anne 1910
37—Chadderton, Emmanuel 1911
38—Prestwich,St. Hilda 1920
39—Chadderton, St. Mark 1922
40—Oldham, St. Matthew, St. Aidan 1925
41—Prestwich, St. Gabriel 1926 And also part of St. Paul,Kersal 1852

* The Rector of Prestwich is the sole patron.See also Norman Prestwich, John Higson's Local History pages...St Marys

Deyne Hall :

The Old Deyne Hall, residence of the Rectors.

Deyne Hall

The Rectors :

The Rectors of Prestwich, from 1316 to 1632

Donate to the upkeep of the St Mary's Churchyard

Your kind donation will go towards tools, or employing professional stone masons to reinstate stonework damaged by time, trees, animals or humans.

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Take a tour of St Mary's Graveyard