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The Church of St Luke (formerly St Wilfrid), Farnworth, Widnes
in the County of
-- Lancashire --

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St Luke, Farnworth - graveyard at rear
St Luke, Farnworth: photograph by kind permission and © Jean Berry 2010

St Luke, Farnworth - porch Farnworth Chapel was founded in about 1180 as a Chapel of Ease within the ancient parish of Prescot. The chapel was originally dedicated to the Anglo-Saxon St Wilfrid, until its rededication in 1859 to St Luke. Originally a rectangular building with no aisles, it was extended in 1280-1300 to include a north aisle. The south aisle was added in around 1360-1380, and it is thought that the tower was added at about the same time.

The church contains two chapels, Bold Chapel and Cuerdley Chapel. Although these are physically within the main church building, each has its own door to the outside, and a path leads from each door to the village whose inhabitants came to worship at their respective chapels. Separate registers were kept for some years. Bold Chapel dates back to 1406. In 1431, restoration work was done on the main body of the church, including the ceiling. At the time of the dissolution of the monasteries, the rood screens were removed and placed in the Cuerdley chapel loft; the largest of these was about 30 ft long.
St Luke, Farnworth - interior

A major restoration took place in 1855, replacing the decorated oak roof, built in 1431, with a deal roof. It had been thought that this had caused problems where the nave arcades and aisle had been thrown out of the perpendicular, but in fact the cause was later discovered to be the undermining of the foundation by the large number of graves both inside and outside the church.The Nave and North Aisle were taken down and rebuilt, and the South piers and arches cleaned. The total cost of the work was £1120, half of which was supplied by Henry Hoghton, Esq. He also rebuilt Bold Chapel, at his own expense, but in the process destroyed much of the former character and antiquity. The roof was raised to accommodate the monuments which now occupy the north wall. The old organ was moved to the gallery of the West wall.

St Luke, Farnworth - Hoghton plaque in Bold Chapel
One further restoration took place in 1894-5. The Rev John Wright Williams became Incumbent in 1892, and set about putting the church to right, architecturally. He employed the architects Paley, Austin and Paley, and took advice from experts, in order to preserve as many features of the earlier chapel as possible. The galleries to the south and west were removed, and the plasterwork renovated. Timbers were replaced in the ceiling of Cuerdley Chapel, and work was done to create a choir vestry. The sandstone for this restoration was dug from a quarry in the churchyard, near to the north door. The whole floor of the building, except Bold Chapel, was excavated; human remains were exhumed and reburied in the quarry site which was levelled.

St Luke, Farnworth - Interior and Bold Chapel
St Luke, Farnworth - Bold Chapel
The earliest registers were copied in 1598 by the then incumbent William Sherlock, and thereafter were kept up to date. After centuries of unrest and sometimes open verbal hostility between Farnworth and its 'mother church' of Prescot, the Farnworth Chapel of Ease was eventually created as a parish in its own right, in 1859, when the church was rededicated to St Luke. At this time, the parish of Farnworth included Cronton, Bold and Cuerdley townships, and Widnes (including the West Bank area).


Old Widnes and Its Neighbourhood - Charles Poole, publ. 1906

A History of Farnworth Church, Its Village and Parish - Alan Foster, publ. 1981

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