Todmorden Unitarian Church
Todmorden, West Yorkshire | Listed Grade I
History and Architecture
Todmorden Unitarian Church was built between 1865 and 1869, near the meeting house, in memory of John Fielden (1784–1849), a wealthy philanthropist, cotton manufacturer and Member of Parliament. The cost of the new church was borne by his three sons. The architect was the eminent John Gibson (1817–92) who also designed Dobroyd Castle and the famous classical Town Hall.
The Victorian gothic church is set amid moorland scenery on a steeply sloping site, surrounded by ornamental gardens, and with a commanding tower and spire. There is a large, wooded graveyard, which is extensively landscaped.
Inside, the nave is long and aisled with arcades standing on circular piers of polished stone. The chancel is richly elaborated and furnished with choirstalls, a communion table, and brass light fittings. The font and pulpit are of outstanding quality. The stained glass was designed by J.B. Capronnier, the Brussels glazier. In the tower is a peal of eight bells, a carillon and clock.
Christopher Stell, a national authority on Nonconformist architecture and HCT Trustee, comments that "as an example of High Victorian church architecture, this bears comparison with some of the best buildings of the Established Church; as representing the Nonconformist architecture of its period, it is unrivalled".
A free 2-page guide is available here.
Repair and Regeneration
HCT has completed a £1 million repair programme at Todmorden, thanks to generous grants from English Heritage and Heritage LOttery Fund. Works to date include:
- extensive repairs to church roofs and stained glass
- rehabilitation of the derelict listed lodge, now habitable and let.
- restoration of the historic landscape
- installation of a new heating system and electrics,new WCs and a small kitchen.
- In 2014, thanks to a generous legacy from a former bell-ringer the ring of bells was restored.
The building is in good condition, but parts of the stonework needs re-pointing and this is a large and costly structure to maintain.
HCT has acquired the design drawings (cartoons) for the outstanding 19th-century stained glass in the chancel. Gibson commissioned the designs from the "atelier" of the celebrated Brussels glazier, Jean-Baptist Capronnier (1814-1891) who created many windows for English and continental churches, cathedrals and public buildings.
Supporting Todmorden Unitarian Church
A regular working party of volunteers undertakes landscape maintenance works in the gardens and grounds from 1pm until 4pm on the first Sunday of each month. There is another working party on the third Sunday of the month from 10.00am to 12.00 noon. Further volunteers are most welcome.
The church can be hired for events and concerts. The Church is registered for Inter-faith religious marriages - for details contact us.
A guide, written by John Crabbe, is available from HCT office and in Todmorden.