St Anne’s – A History

[Author Sue Wilson]
The church is dedicated to St. Anne, the mother of the Virgin Mary and is situated on High Street in Chapeltown, Turton.

Those who worship here regularly are privileged to live in this very beautiful part of Lancashire.

This splendid church is set in delightful grounds which give it an air of peace and tranquillity. It has been aptly called “the cathedral on the hill”. If you take a visit to the church we know you will return to your home refreshed in body, mind and spirit. As you look around, spare a thought for the generations of parishioners who have worshipped here, been baptised in the font, married at the Chancel steps and who are now resting in God’s acre outside.

The following text tells you a little about the fascinating history of the church.

Turton was settled in very early times, remains found on the nearby moors include a Druid circle, standing stones and copper and bronze artefacts. The name Turton is thought to derive from two early British/Anglo-Saxon words….Twr, Tur, Tor, meaning Tower and Tun meaning Town.

The Romans came to the North in 79A.D., and by the time they left in 447 A.D., the area had become Christian (by imperial decree!)

The Chapel of Turton has existed since 1111 when a chapel was built on this land, probably by Roger de Poictou. He was a cousin of William the Conqueror, and had already built Bolton Parish Church in 1110.

In 1333, Turton Fair was established on Chapel Fields. The celebrations originally started as an all-night service to commemorate the patron saint of the chapel, gradually feasting, drinking, trading and bartering were added until it became a Fair. The tradition continued as Turton Agriculture Fair until 1932.

It is thought that the earliest chapels were dedicated to St. Bartholomew, a derivative of St. Botolph, a Christian missionary to the northern heathen tribes.

In 1523, the chapel was “in the gift of” Ralf of Rauff Orrell, Lord of the Manor of Turton, and the incumbent was a James Anderton. At this stage the chapel was merely a “Chapel of Ease”, serving the needs of the parishioners who lived in the isolated farms and crofts, and who could not travel into Bolton to the Parish Church.

In 1565 the priest in charge was described as “decrepit” or sick, so it is not clear how much the chapel was being used. By 1610, however, it was said to be “well supplied with ministers”.

In 1630, Humphrey Chetham who had purchased the manor of Turton rebuilt the chapel. This reputedly philanthropic man later founded the Chetham Hospital and Library in Manchester and donated “goodly books” to the parishes of Turton and Walmsley for the use of the parishioners. These chained books and their ornate carved chest can now be seen in Turton Tower.

The Turton Chapel was not licensed for weddings, and until about 1705 it was served by curates who travelled out from Bolton for the services; there was no clergy resident in the village.

In 1717, Samuel Chetham secured “Queen Anne’s Bounty”, a grant of money used to supplement income for church and clergy. It is possible that the church’s name was changed from St. Bartholomew’s to St. Anne’s at about this time, in recognition of this assistance.

Historians point to the fact that St. Anne’s Sermons Sunday used to be on the first Sunday in September, followed by the Fair opening on the Monday, as showing the link with St. Bartholomew’s day on September 4th.

In 1779 the chapel was rebuilt yet again. It is recorded as being a long low building with mullioned windows, leaded panes, and a gallery reached by an outside staircase. There were 470 sittings, 38 of these being “free”.

It was thought that these early chapels were sited to the south-west of the present church. The altar was probably situated where the Spencer family vault is now, the left of the diagonal path to the small lynch gate.

Turton Old Chapel 1779

In 1837, Turton was made an Ecclesiastical parish, and by 1840 the increase in the size of the local population which had accompanied the arrival of mills and bleach works in the area made a larger building necessary.

The present church was built between 1840 and 1841 and dedicated on October 2nd, 1841 by the Bishop of Chester, the Right Reverend John Bird Sumner D.D, who went on to dedicate Christ’s Church Harwood on the next day.

 Organ in Gallery

In the new Turton church, the Father Willis pipe organ and pews were installed in a gallery at the west end.

In 1870, (or 1871 depending on the source material) lightning struck the spire, dislodging a coping stone. This crashed through the roof into the organ pipes in the gallery, demolishing the instrument entirely. The stone then fell through the gallery floor and destroyed a family pew beneath!

Organ installed in Chancel in 1890/91

The new Father Willis excellent pipe organ was re-built by the well-known firm who was the builder of the original Father Willis of which was originally located in the gallery is shown here in its present position in the Chancel installed here in 1890/91. It is still maintained and tuned regularly and is in good condition.

In 1887, the magnificent stained glass window at the east end was given by the widow of Kay Knowles.

In 1888, the marble Reredos was erected behind the altar, and the Chancel was enlarged and refurbished. The organ and choir pews were moved from the gallery and installed in their present position in the Chancel in 1890/91

In 1898, the old enclosed “box” pews were replaced by the oak seating the church has today, and the gallery was re-fronted at a cost of £1000. In the course of this work, dry rot was discovered in the floor which had to be completely replaced costing £117.

St. Anne’s Church (circa 1887)

The font was donated and installed at the back of the church in 1899.

The oak panelling and screens were installed in the Chancel in 1924 and the Rood screen was added in 1927.

In 1954, £5000 was raised to treat a recurrence of dry rot.

In 1977, with the dwindling congregation and the need for a function room, the back of the church was partitioned off to form the Broadhead Room and the gallery was adjusted. The font was moved from the back of the church to its present position in front of the Lady Chapel. The Chetham pew and the Chetham books and chest were moved to Turton Tower.

In 1988, the Lady Chapel was refurbished in honour and memory of Florence Taylor, churchwarden for many years.

In 1991, the 150th anniversary of the dedication of the church was celebrated with a solemn Eucharist and social activities in a marquee in the grounds.

[Author Sue Wilson]