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18 June 2014
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Legacies - Lancashire

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Myths and Legends
Figures on stain glass window
Detail from stain glass window

© Mary Whitehead
Your Story: Albion United Reformed Church: Stamford Street East, Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire

stain glass window figures
Detail of stain glass window at the Albion Church
© Mary Whitehead
The Earl of Stamford who owned large areas of land in and around Ashton had refused an extension to Albion Chapel’s building on Penny Meadow stating “no dissenting chapel will ever be built on my land”. However, Albion’s magazine editor, a Mr. D. F. Howorth, was the proprietor of a long established private school which occupied an ideal site for the new church, just a few hundred yards away from the Parish Church, and it was agreed to purchase this land and erect a new chapel. The architect chosen was Mr. John Brooke, who had been responsible for the restoration of Ashton Parish Church but a few years before.

When completed it was an astonishing achievement, a source of great satisfaction in knowing the new church was bigger and taller than the Parish Church which in a sense it could look down upon – the church spire reaching a height of two-hundred and twenty feet. When the foundation stone was laid in September 1890 the Minister said:

“We who lay this stone today are not blind to the fact that a great conflict has yet to be fought out in England before all religious communities stand the same relation to the law of the land as free churches in a free state” and then looking towards the Parish Church he said “…the Parish Church, whose noble tower looks down upon us now, we have nothing but a feeling of friendly rivalry”.

church covered in snow
Albion Church covered in snow
© Mary Whitehead
The Gothic design of John Brooke ARIBA is in every respect the rich man’s Dissent overtaking the Anglican – Albion was clear-eyed about it. The Church reports the following decision:

“In specking of the contemplated sanctuary, it is desirable to use the word ‘Church’ in place of ‘Chapel’ in all references thereto…as Nonconformists we ought not use a word, given to our place of worship, signifying a place that is inferior to the Parish Church.”

Words: Mary Whitehead B.A.(Hons)

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