St Nicholas Parish Church
Church Lane, Newchurch
St Nicholas Church, Newchurch

In a decree of the Chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster dated 1550 there refers to the Church and people of Newchurch the following passage:

"Forasmuch as the Castle and Church of Clitheroe, being their parish Church, is twelve miles from the said forest, and the way leading between the said parish Church and the Forest is very foul, painful and hillous, and the country in the winter season is so extremely and vehemently cold, that the children and young infants in that time of the year, being borne to the church to be christened are in great peril of their lives, and almost starved with cold: the aged and impotent persons, and women great with child are not able to travel so far to hear the word of God, &c. and the dead corpses there are like to lie and remain unburied for lack of carriage….. the inhabitants of the Forest, about thirty-eight years past, or thereabouts , at their own proper cost and charges, made a chapel of ease in the Forest of Rossendale."

In the beginning

In 1507 King Henry VII decreed that the Royal hunting forest of Rossendale should be deforested (opened up for habitation and cultivation). And as the population of the area started to increase the inhabitants soon required a church of their own rather than travel to Clitheroe, which was the main church for the vast parish of Whalley. So in 1511 a site was selected at Mitchell Field Nook but according to legend the stone collected there on three successive nights was mysteriously removed to the present site on the slopes of Seat Naze by unseen hands. This was seen as supernatural intervention and the site of the Church was altered accordingly. There were also settlers at Higher Tunstead and it was also proposed to build the Church there. It is probably nearer the truth that the best building stone was at Seat Naze, and the cost of transport would be less if the Church was built on that spot. Little is known of the original Church though it was probably a temporary one and was rebuilt in 1561. This church, with an enlargement in 1753 served until the present church was built in 1826.

The present Church

The old Church was showing the ravages of time by the early eighteen hundreds and in 1821 the roof of the Church was in serious danger of collapse. At this time the parish of Newchurch covered all of Rawtenstall, apart from the parish of Goodshaw, and had a population of over five and a half thousand people. With the Church only able to seat eight hundred and fifty persons it was decided build a new structure. The old Church ceased to be used in March 1824 when a licence was issued to hold Divine Services at the old Grammar School in Turnpike. The old building was pulled down and on November the 11th 1825 the foundation stone for the new Church was laid. The new Church, which had cost £2,500 inclusive of the new organ and capable of holding 1350 persons, was ready for use by March 1826 and the first service was held on Easter Day. The consecration took place on Tuesday the 12th of September 1826 and the Church, which had previously been know as the Chapel of our Saviour or Holy Trinity was dedicated to St Nicholas, doubtless to perpetuate the memory of the Rev. Nicholas Rigbye Baldwin who was incumbent of Newchurch until his death in 1824.

The Vicars of Newchurch

  • 1511 Rev. James Roberts
  • 1515 Rev. Edward Tattersall
  • 1521 Rev. Stephen Smith
  • 1532 Rev. George Gregory
  • 1548 Rev. Henry Ramsbottom
  • 1548 Rev. Lawrance Ashworth
  • 1592 Rev. James Kershaw
  • 1622 Rev. William Horrocks
  • 1646 Rev. Robert Dewhurst
  • 1662 Rev. Thomas Sanders
  • 1695 Rev. Thomas Leigh
  • 1726 Rev. John Welsh
  • 1767 Rev. John Shorrock
  • 1802 Rev. Nicholas Baldwin
  • 1811 Rev. David Rathbone
  • 1825 Rev. Philip Abbot
  • 1833 Rev. Edward Burrow
  • 1850 Rev. J.B.Phillips
  • 1891 Rev. Herbert Bury
  • 1896 Rev. John Bennett
  • 1906 Rev. J.S.Addison
  • 1920 Rev. G.E.Knapp-Fisher
  • 1928 Rev. Maxwell Young
  • 1942 Rev. Stanley Lane
  • 1956 Rev. G.Hamilton Richards
  • 1957 Rev. Francis Bennett
  • 1961 Rev. Frank Robinson
  • 1972 Rev. John Titterington
  • 1981 Rev. Alan Toombs
  • 1999 Rev. Charles Ellis
  • 2005 Rev. Sue Davies
  • 2014 Rev. Rosie Bowers
  • 2016 Rev. Penny King

For a more indepth history follow this link to the church website  St Nicholas Church

The contents of this page are reproduced by kind permission of the Rossendale Family History Society