St Mary's

Our vision
'Revealing Jesus as we love God and serve others in the power of His Spirit'.

Come join us at our 10:30 am Sunday morning service or
our 6.15 pm Sunday evening service!​​​

Coming soon

 The Sunday School.
Before St Mary's Church was built, Henry Hargreaves founded a Sunday School in Rawtenstall.  He rented a cottage at his own expense and opened on Sundays for reading, writing and scripture. He soon has so many attendees that the cottage was deemed to be too small and a new school had to be built. Records show that a piece of land was purchased and legalities completed on 7th May 1816. The building of the new school had already begun when the land was first agreed to be purchased on 1st August 1815. At that time the School Master was named as John Pickup. Witnesses who signed a document on 14th August 18[front cover of parish magazine c.1960] 17, stating how Trustees of Rawtenstall School were involved in purchasing the site and school buildings, are named as John Ashford from Cloughfold, Henry Hoyle from New Hall Hey, John Hargreaves from Rawtenstall, Henry Hargreaves and John Pickup.

The Church Building.
The building of St Mary's Church was entrusted to John Noble. He had provided the lowest of six estimates for construction work. On the 7th March 1836 the first stone was laid by Mrs Hoyle and later on Good Friday, 1st April, Master Henry Hoyle laid the corner stone in the presence of 3,000 people.
Mr Hoyle and his friends had requested that Reverend William Whitworth be appointed as the first Vicar. However, at the time Mr Whitworth was still only a Deacon so the Bishop offered to relax the rule - a man must be 12 months a Deacon before he is admitted to Priest's orders. This resulted in Mr Whitworth being ordained in July 1836 allowing him to become the first Vicar of St Mary's.

By January 1838, the Church was sufficently complete to be used for public services. However, it was not formally opened until 15th March 1838. It was reported in the Blackburn Standard newspaper that "nothing could exceed the anxiety of the congregation to obtain admission into the church on that Sunday afternoon. Nearly 500 persons remained in the churchyard and hundreds went away, not able to endure the pressure of the throng." On 20th September 1838, the church was consecrated by the Bishop of Chester and shortly afterwards the Reverend William Whitworth was inducted as the first Vicar.

The Sunday School continued to be the basis of the church work - seven women and thirty one men are recorded as being Sunday School teachers in 1835. Mr Henry Hargreaves was the Superintendent of the Boys' School and Mr John Lord of the Girls' School. The school met on Sundays at 9am and 1.45pm and subjects studied included, alphabet, large spelling, small spelling, testament and bible class.
The Church building continued to be developed over the following years. In 1853 a clock (not the present one) was placed in the Church Tower.  
In 1854 the Side Galleries were build to accommodate more people.

In 1880 the tower (situated at that time on the west side of the church) was taken down and re-erected on the south side of the church. The West Gallery was also taken down and extended to make the church larger. At this time a new organ was installed by cutting away a portion of the North Gallery. Choir stalls were erected and the pulpit and reading desk were removed and reinstated a little further westward. The dedication service for the new tower, clock, Cambridge quarter chimes, and bells in commemoration of the first jubliee of the church took place on Thursday December 20th 1888, at 7pm by the Right Rev. the Lord Bishop of Manchester. Misses Law and Schofield set the clock in motion at 6.55pm. 

Centenary celebrations were held in the week commencing 12th March 1938. The Vicar at that time was Rev A.G. Lee.

In 1966 the rear pews were removed to create the Foyer. It was extended in 1978.

In 1966/7 the creation of a new road, St Mary's Way, resulted in many graves being removed and the church yard being reduced in size.

In 2006, refurbishment included a new roof, enclosure of the bottom bell tower, new foyer, new kitchen, new toilets, additional meeting rooms, new lighting, new sound system and the installation of underfloor heating.

The Organ
William Hill, a prominent Victorian organ builder, built the organ in 1881. The organ was opened during a service in 1888.

Although entirely English in creation the organ is very much on the lines of the instruments built by Cavaille Coll, the famous French organ builder, so its sound is more like one you would hear in a French church than an English Parish Church. Not only is the sound unusual, but the layout of the stops being in terraces rather than on vertical jambs on each side of the three manuals, which themselves are not in the usual order having the swell manuel uppermost, is typically French, as are many of the names given to them.

The organ is one of the finest in North East Lancashire. A three maual organ with thirty even speaking stops and fourteen accessories and nearly two thousand pipes of the very finest metal -such is seldom, if ever, seen in organs today.

The Memorial Windows
There are four memorials in glass in the church - the east window; the west window; one in the north side and one in the south. The latter two are towards the west end.

The East Window consists of three Lancets, the central one portraying the Good Shepherd and the side ones Apostolic figures. In the top of the central Lancet there is also symbolic representation of the Doctrine of the Trinity, and above this are the ancient symbols of IHS and AO. The predominant colour is blue.  

The whole window is dedicated, as a scroll indicates (see photo below right)  "in memory of George Hardman, of Oakhill, died Jan 6th 1852, and Mary his wife died Dec 9th 1832"; and bears the family motto - 'Tenax propositi' (Perserverance in purpose). The Hardman family lived at Oakhill, a large millowner's house in the parish overlooking the woollen mill, Hardman Hill at New Hall Hey. This house is now the Whittaker Museum for Rossendale.

The window is partly hidden by the Reredos erected in memory of members of the same family, but a panel in the centre of the Reredos opens so that the inscribed portion of the central Lancet can be seen when desired. Traditionally this panel is opened once a year on Sermons Sunday.
The central panel in East Window was restored in 2007 as a result of kind donations from the Hartley and Torevell families.

The West Window is probably the best glass in the Church and a fine work by Gibbs & Howard, London. It is dedicated "in memory of James Henry Ashworth of Greenbank, who died May 30th 1871 aged 40 years, also in memory of Betsy Ashworth, His sister of Greenbank, who died June 8th 1978, aged 49 years."

The window consists of five lights, grouped in a vertical three, flanked by a single one on each side. The central group portrays the Lord as the Divine Healer, and the text written beneath it is "And besought Him that they might only touch the hem of his Garment".

In the top is the angel bearing the scroll "Blessed are the dead" ; while at the base of this light is a symbol of sacrificial suffering, the Pelican plucking out its own bosom to feed its young (see photo above). On either side at the base of the smaller light of the central three appears the arms of the family, with the motto "Vincit amor patriae".  (Love of country conquers.)

The light to the left of the central group portrays the raising of the window's son Nain, while that on the right depicts Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus, having chosen the better part.
On the north side of the church we find two windows of two lights each, both erected by Thomas Whitehead. The one on the left "in memory of his mother Anne, wife of Joseph Wood Whitehead of Alder Grange, who died July 6th 1862, aged 37 years."

The one on the right is "in memory of his father, Joseph Wood Whitehead of Alder Grange, who died April 28th 1879, aged 56 years."

The glass is of somewhat sombre colouring, and depicts in the two lights of the left window the boy Christ sitting at the feet of the doctors in the Temple, while the subject in the two lights of the right window is Christ healing the multitudes of sick people who came to him and raising the dead (see photo right).

The windows on the south side are dedicated "in memory of Harriet, beloved wife of William Taylor, who died Jan 13th 1831 aged 19 years." One light depicts the manger scene and the other the Presentation in the Temple.

The Belfry
St Mary's Church has a ring of eight bells.

The number seven bell was cast by Thomas Mears in 1837, with the remaining seven bells having been cast by Mears & Stainbank in 1888 at the Whitechapel Foundry, London. The Tenor Bell weighs 711kgs.
The first full peal on the bells by a local band was rung on Tuesday December 2nd, 1890 and lasted 2 hours and 54 minutes.

The bell ringers of St Marys Church, 1938 have sat for the photograph below. There was a three hour peal of the bell of St Mary's on Saturday 12th March 1938, as part of the Centenary week of Celebrations.