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, embracing
- the repair of the church roofs and stained glass
- the rehabilitation of the listed lodge and the refurbishment of the interior of the tower
- repair of the clock and carillon
- restoration of the historic landscape
- installation of a new heating system and electrics,together with wcs and a kitchen. The local committee have raised funds to enable a new cooker to be installed in November 2011.
The building is in good condition, but certain parts of the structure are in need of re-pointing, a first phase was undertaken in 2011 and a second phase in March 2012.
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.
A guide, written by John Crabbe, is available from HCT office and in Todmorden.