There have been three known churches on this site and a plaque erected in the 1833 Church building and later transferred to the porch of the 1965 building reads “Tockholes Church – Built A.D. 640; Rebuilt 1494; Restored 1620; Rebuilt 1833”. Why the date of 640 was assumed is a mystery and is probably a myth, the date being extremely early in terms of the history of the Church in England.
Mention has been made at various times that a church existed on the present site as long ago as the 1450’s but no evidence has been found to date. Further accounts state that a Chapel was built there in 1486, another states 1494, and Abram writes that it was built during the reign of Henry the VIII (1509-1547). It is not named in the Valor of 1534 and has no pre-Reformation endowment, but evidence has been found in the “Valuation in the King’s Book and Subsidies” of 1535 which refers to Blackburn’s contribution to the tenthe and this includes a reference to Tockhols, Little is known of its history but it was built as a Chapel-of-Ease and went under the name of St. Michael. In 1620 this church was either re-built or restored and the date 1620 appeared over the main door of the church and on some of the stained glass. It is thought that a bell tower was added at this time.
On 23rd February 1832 the foundation stone of the new Church was laid by Lawrence Brock-Hollinshead Esq., Lord of the Manor, and the building was completed the following year. The new Church was dedicated to St. Stephen and was built just a little to the North of St. Michael’s at a cost of £2400. Built in the early English style, St. Stephen’s Church was about 74 feet long and 45 feet wide. Inside there was a gallery and sittings for 804 persons. By the late 1950’s the building was giving cause for concern and was eventually demolished in 1964 due to extensive rot in the roof, the roots of which had also penetrated into the rubble filling of the walls.
St Stephen, Tockholes (1964/5)
The present Church building was erected in 1965 and dedicated by the Bishop of Blackburn on the 26th March 1966. It is a modern structure built partly in brick and partly in cedar wood. The porch from the 1833 Church was retained and incorporated into the present building. This structure was intended to be temporary and was only meant to last for 12 to 15 years, but apart from the addition of a metal ‘barn’ roof covering in the 1980’s to cure a raining in problem, it has lasted well and remains unaltered. The area originally covered by the 1833 Church is still visible and some of the buttresses are incorporated into the present foundations.
There is a large graveyard which has been extended on four occasions, firstly in 1833 then 1880, 1894 and lastly 1951. The oldest headstone is dated 1819 but it is thought that earlier stones may be been removed during the new building project of 1833. Prior to 1813 burials and baptisms were incorporated into the Registers of the mother church of St. Mary in Blackburn, now Blackburn Cathedral and research in those registers will reveal many local Tockholes people. The church was not licensed for marriages until 1837.
Photographs and text by kind permission and © of Judith Jacklin, 2012