All Saints Church
The Chapel in the Fields that became enveloped in the Town
The following is an article published during the 1930s and reproduced here by kind permission of the Bolton Library Archives.
Two hundred years ago the original All Saints’ Church was appropriately styled Chapel i’th’Fields, but today its successor is hemmed in by property. The countryside has receded far from its parish boundaries.
Surrounded as it is by buildings there is really only one point from which this church can be seen to advantage and that is from Bridge-st. looking down Bark-st.
Viewed from the exterior, All Saints’, perhaps because it is thus hemmed in, is not an attractive building, but if one enters the church and stands near the west door one is bound to admire the beauty of its early English style of architecture, the graceful lines of the pointed arch that spans the chancel being particularly noteworthy.
The pillars bearing the arches which separate the nave from the north and south aisles convey an impression of solid strength, while the arches themselves, though smaller than the chancel arch, are none the less finely designed. The dimensions of the interior are well proportioned and the shaded brown of the dressed stone is very attractive.
The white Caen stone of the pulpit stands out in striking relief, whilst if one approaches the east end, the reredos is revealed as a beautiful piece of work.
But it is indeed a fine interior, surprisingly so in view of the unattractive interior.
The church, which was built in 1870, is not large. Its length is 92ft, width 49ft, and the height of the nave is 50ft, and that of the chancel 40ft, and of the aisles 20ft. It comprises nave, chancel, north and south aisles, chapel (erected to the memory of the Rev. Wm. Chaytor, who was vicar from 1880-1916), clergy vestry and choir vestry.
Near the west door stands the font which once stood in the old church and which was the gift of former Sunday school teachers and scholars of All Saints’ in 1858.
The history of All Saints’ goes back more than two centuries, and links us with the days when Bolton was little more than a couple of villages, Great and Little Bolton, one part on each side of the Croal valley, with, in all, some 4,000 inhabitants. The Vicar of Bolton, when the parish was formed, was the Rev. Thomas Morrall, who realized that another church was necessary to supply the spiritual needs of the Little Bolton side of the growing population.
He was assisted financially by Mr John Moss, a Manchester woollen merchant, who had bought the manor of Little Bolton in 1716.
In 1726 they established a chapel to supply the township of Little Bolton and Tonge. Until 1743, it was merely a chapel of ease to the Parish Church, and for that reason, and because of its rural surroundings, it was known as the Chapel-in-the-Fields.
It was not given the name of All Saints’ until the building was consecrated by the Bishop of Chester. The first incumbent - from 1726 - 1743 services were probably taken by the clergy from the Parish Church - was the Rev. Thomas Moss, brother of the Lord of the Manor. He was then known as the perpetual curate of Little Bolton.
The original chapel has been described as “a small stone edifice, with a singular front opening from the street, into the burial ground. The belfry is still more curious, yet not displeasing to the eye. The entrance to the body of the church is surmounted by a stone staircase outside, leading to the gallery. It is well lighted by gas. They have a cemetery and gateway to the main street. The inside is well pewed, gallery supported by stone pillars, an organ graces the gallery.”
There were extensive alterations about 1750, the pews and gallery referred to above being added about this time.
Samuel Crompton worshipped in the old church, and his father, George Crompton, helped to erect the organ gallery after his day’s work. He was mainly responsible for collecting subscriptions for the organ, and helped to make the pews in the gallery, the rents of which were intended for the organist’s salary.
The Crompton family attended All Saints’ regularly, Sunday by Sunday. At noon they had a frugal meal of broth at a local public -house, after which they attended the afternoon service, invariably returning home before milking time.
Gradually the district changed its character as open fields gave way to streets and mills and rows of houses, and the old church rapidly became inadequate.
The Rev. Thomas Lowe realized this, and embarked on the demolition of the old, and the construction of the present church. The year 1869 saw the last of the old building and the new one was opened on March 22nd, 1871, the corner-stone having been laid on October 30th, 1869. The corner-stone used in 1726 was again used for the new church in 1869.
The Vicarage formerly stood at the corner of Clarence-st and Kay-st, but in 1897 a house in Radcliffe-rd, Eastfield, was purchased, adjoining the residence of the Vicar of Bolton.
A name held in special remembrance at All Saints’ is that of the Popplewells, and a tablet at the west end of the church records the benefaction of John Popplewell and his two sisters, Ann and Rebecca.
The Communion plate includes a chalice and paten cover dated 1648, which were apparently the gifts of the Moss family. The hallmarks that give the clue to the maker have been deciphered by an expert as the work of a well-known craftsman. He said that so far as he knew no other example of his work existed in cathedrals, college chapels, or ancient churches, and that possibly they were unique and really a treasure.
The three wardens’ staves are also of interest. One bears the names of the Boroughreeve and Constables for 1831. The other two bear the date 1788.
The Rev. B. G. Clauss, who came to All Saints’ 20 years ago, is the present vicar.