St Mary’s Church was built by the Ecroyd family who provided a substantial amount of the funding with the balance being raised by public subscription. It was constructed in two phases between 1877 and 1907; designed by the Burnley architects Waddington and Dunkerley, it also contained outstanding windows by the artist Edward Burne-Jones and manufactured by the famous William Morris and Co from London. Some of the windows were the last commission before the firm ceased trading in 1939.
The Church was declared redundant in 1989 and sold to a private developer, who, in 1996, was refused permission to demolish the building. It was at this point that Pendle Borough Council approached the Trust to suggest alternative uses for the Church, and this led in 2000 to the Trust acquiring the building. Since then the Trust has carried out urgent structural repairs at a cost of £250,000, funded by the Trust’s own resources and substantial support from English Heritage and Pendle Borough Council, and the Architectural Heritage Fund.
It is always difficult to find new uses for redundant Churches. The preferred scheme originally was offices for the Trust, but these have now been located at Higherford Mill, another Trust property. There was a long debate about St Mary’s becoming a new Community Centre, but it has been agreed that this be located in the Town Centre.
A proposal has been put forward by the Trust in partnership with Elevate East Lancashire, English Heritage and CITB Construction Skills Board to establish a Centre for Traditional Building Craft Sills, and St Mary’s Church is considered to be the ideal location.
A conference was held in St Mary’s Church on Tuesday 18 September 2012 when the first phase of the Centre was officially launched.
The Centre now houses the Trust’s collection of architectural features. Eventually it will be adapted to incorporate conference and meeting rooms, exhibition areas, research facilities on roofing, lime plastering, stone masonry and brickwork, carpentry and joinery, blacksmithing and stained glass.
This unique resource will be available to property owners with information on conservation, energy efficiency and sustainability. Other facilities will eventually include a shop, café and information centre, with small offices to sublet. The proposals will enhance this splendid building and put it back at the heart of the community.
Manchester Road, Nelson, BB9 7HB
Kay Leech, NW Heritage Skills Officer.
National Heritage Training Group, English Heritage.
The Prince’s Regeneration Trust