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The Church of St Mary, Great Sankey
in the County of
-- Lancashire --

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St Mary (formerly Great Sankey Chapel)

St Mary, Great Sankey, Photograph courtesy of Jean Berry
St Mary, Great Sankey
Photograph courtesy of Jean Berry

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.

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 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. 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 C19 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.

In 1898 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.

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
Rev. M. Buckley 1997 - 2015
Rev. Dr. S. Baker Jan 2016 - Sep 2016
Rev. J. Tear Sep 2016 - present

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 has been obtained from the church’s informative web site.

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