Great Sankey Chapel
later known as St Mary
The chapel is now a Parish Church of the Church of England and is dedicated to St. Mary, although over the centuries it has undergone a number of alterations to bring it to its present standard.
Great Sankey itself is a civil parish and lies in the suburbs to the west of Warrington.
Photograph courtesy of Jean Berry
The Original Chapel was first built around 1640 and was a part of the Prescot (or Prescotte Parish as it was known pre 1730’s) which at the time was in the Diocese of Chester It is documented that it was built on land given by the Ireland family of Bewsey and was built by public subcription. It was first used for Presbyterian worship and in 1646 when the Lancashire Presbyterian Classes were formed Peter Brook and William Barnes were named as lay elders. No mention was recorded of the minister.
1649 the Rev Hugh Henshaw called himself the first minister of Sankey and was ejected from living in Cheshire under the Act of Uniformity in 1662. In the 1650 Parliamentary survey made of church lands, there was a chapel at Sankey and recommendations were made that it should become a separate parish. This did not happen until some 200 years later.
In 1667 and 1669, George Fox, the founder of the Society of Friends visited Sankey and held meetings in the home of William Barnes who was one of the elders.
In 1720 the Chapel had become in a bad state of repair when Bishop Gastrell of Chester visited.
The Second Chapel was rebuilt in 1728 and placed under Episcopal government by the Atherton family of Bewsey.
The Rev. Thomas Hayward was appointed curate. He was also headmaster of Boteler Grammar School in Warrington. (See additional information on Botler Grammer School). On his death in 1757 the Rev. Edward Owen was appointed to both posts. He resigned living at Sankey in 1767 on being appointed Rector of Warrington.
The Third Chapel came when it became necessary to rebuild again in the mid 1760’s as it was once again in need of repair and they needed a larger church. On the 11th June 1769 the new building was consecrated The patronage was invested in Robert Gwillyied who had married the heiress of Richard Atherton of Bewsey. Through marriage this has passed to Lord Lilford, who is the present patron.
The incumbent at the time of the consecration was Rev. Edward Edwards.
In 1773 he was followed by a Rev. Edward Lloyd who was second master at Boteler Grammar School. When he died in 1813 the connection with the Grammar School ended. It was during Lloyd's time that the first parsonage was built. The early clergy lived in Warrington, as they were masters of the Boteler Grammar School.
The first vicarage was built about 1800 for Reverend Edward Lloyd. This was replaced at the end of the century.
From the beginning of the 19c it was time for expansion rather than of rebuilding.
In 1813 a new organ was installed. This was placed in the gallery.
A school was built on the north side of the chapel in 1815 and enlarged in 1838. The School became one of the National Schools run by the "National Society for the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church". The School closed in 1886 when the new Board School opened. This continues today as Sankey County Primary School.
By 1833 the existing graveyard was nearly full and was extended by using land between the school and the chapel. This land also filled up quickly. The churchyard was extended by using land down St. Mary's Road. This land was given to the chapel for use as a burial ground when Greystone Common (or sometimes known as Heath) Penketh when an award for enclosure was made in 1868 and confirmed in 1869. The first burials took place in 1881. Most of this land was compulsory purchased in 1969 by the Education Authorities for use as a playing field for Penketh High-School. The Cemetery on St Mary’s Road Cemetery is still used for internment today and within the cemetery is a War memorial.
In 1842 the gallery was enlarged due to the increase in 1821 of the population of Sankey and Penketh which was 1028 and with this rise it had caused a lack of accommodation in the chapel.
In 1867 the tower became unsafe and was rebuilt in its present form.
In 1876 under the recommendation from 1650’s it became a separate parish.
About 1880 it became necessary to replace the old box pew seating. The vicar, Reverend E. S. Jackson (1879-1899) and wardens took the opportunity to enlarge the church by building an extension on to the east end of the church. This contained an organ chamber, chancel and vestry. The church was re-seated and re-roofed. A porch was also added. The old vicars vestry which had contained the stairs to the gallery was converted to a Baptistry. This work was completed by August 1883 and gives us the church we have today, with the exception of the choir vestry which was added in 1930.
In 1887 a Sunday School was built as the parish was growing (2769 in 1901) and in 1889 a mission church was built in Penketh.
In1898 the church was lit with oil lamps. In that year they were replaced by gas lights, which in turn gave away to the electric lights in 1926.
In 1900 Reverend J. Roger Jones moved into the new vicarage when he was appointed vicar.
The third vicarage was built in 1968 and the Reverend Gordon McKibbon, who had been living in Stocks Lane, moved into it. All three vicarages have been built on the same site.
During the past 50 years there has been a great population explosion in the area and the spiritual needs of the people have had to be met. This has been accomplished by creating three new parishes. In 1978 St. Paul's, Penketh became a separate parish and in 1982 parts of the parish went to form the parishes of St. James, Hood Manor and St. Phillips, Westbrook. It was recorded in 1907 in the History of the County of Lancaster:-“Great Sankey is a flat country with open fields, mostly under cultivation, where crops of potatoes and wheat are raised on a loamy soil. The occupation of the inhabitants is still largely agricultural. The canal, which winds along beside the Sankey Brook has the credit of being the first work of the kind in modern England, the Sankey Navigation being formed in 1755. The population numbered 1,034 in 1901 and the township is governed by a parish council of five members." In the 2001 census the avarage age was 24.3 years of the 16,960 residents. Now Great Sankey boasts a population of 25,260 (Mid Year Estimates 2004, Cheshire County Council Research and Intelligence) and is no longer mainly agricultural. There is a major employer (United Utilities) within the Parish, but many people who work elsewhere choose to live in Great Sankey because of the great choice of housing, the green space and the excellent transport links. As the Parish has grown so has the Council. There are now 15 Councillors who take an active part in the running of the Community.
|The vicars of St Mary’s|
|Rev. Edward Lloyd||1773 - 1813|
|Rev. James Simpson||1813 - 1871|
|Rev. J.W. Spencer||1872 - 1879|
|Rev. E.S. Jackson||1879 - 1899|
|Rev. J.R. Jones||1900 - 1928|
|Rev. T.H. Pullen||1928 - 1940|
|Rev. H.T. Clark||1941 - 1947|
|Rev. P. Carmen||1947 - 1963|
|Rev. G. McKibben||1964 - 1997|
The present vicar is Michael Buckley (2007)
Great Sankey was until recently the only village in the United Kingdom to have a Parish Church, a Post Office, a Pub and a Police Station (known locally as the 4 P's), each situated on one of the four corners of a crossroads. In 2004 the post office was closed.
The church is now under the Diocese of Liverpool, a boundary change moving the area from Lancashire to Cheshire took place in 1974
The churches register starts in 1728 although early records are water damaged.
The majority of the information on St Mary’s C of E Parish Church, Sankey as been obtained from the church’s informative web site, where you can also obtain information on the beautiful stained glass windows starting with The Resurrection window which was given by Rev. Edwin Sandys Jackson who was vicar of the parish from 1879 – 1899 In memory of his wife.