St Mary’s Church was built by the Ecroyd family of Nelson 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 in a modern Gothic style and contained an outstanding series of stained glass windows by the artist Edward Burne-Jones and manufactured by the famous William Morris and Co. 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 was refused permission to demolish the building. Pendle Borough Council approached the Trust to suggest alternative uses for the Church, and this led to the Trust acquiring the building. The Trust has since carried out urgent structural repairs at a cost of £250,000, funded by the Trust’s own resources and substantial support from English Heritage, 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 which eventually was located elsewhere. Instead planning permission was granted for a Centre for Traditional Craft Skills and a conference was held at the church when the first phase of the Centre was officially launched.
The Centre now houses the Trust’s collection of architectural features and fittings and is it used daily for training in craft skills and the repair of fittings and furniture. Eventually, it will incorporate conference and meeting rooms complemented by exhibition and research facilities on historic building and traditional craft skills. The proposal will enhance this splendid building and put it back at the heart of the community.