Today the church of St Stephen’s is a familiar landmark for many at the Haslingden end of Grane Road. No longer used for worship, it is now the Holden Wood Antique Centre. Of the hundreds of people that drive past every day, many would be surprised to know that this is not the original site that the church was built on. In fact, it started life just over a mile away, at the heart of Haslingden Grane village and was moved stone by stone to its present location.
Its original site can still be visited today. Sheep graze beside the gravestones which are gathered around the raised grass-covered platform the church stood on. Before we reveal how to find it, we’ll turn to the history of where and why the church was built and then moved.
The local community of Haslingden Grane felt a need for a Church of England place of worship. The nearest one was St James the Great in Haslingden, which was some walk away. Accordingly, land was acquired at Crowtrees, just to the west of the village. Construction started in 1863 and was completed four years later. Its architect was James Maxwell of Haslingden, who ran a successful business in the town for many years. He also designed Bury Baths and the offices for the Bury Times newspaper as well as the Mechanics Institute in Haslingden. Mr and Mrs Roscoe, the owners of Calf Hey quarry, made a substantial contribution to the cost of the build. Mrs Roscoe, the so-called ‘Queen of Grane’ was given the honour of laying the foundation stone. Interestingly, the church was not consecrated until 1883.
As the years passed, the church began to face a problem. Bury and District Water Board was making a concerted effort to buy up land in the Grane valley to construct reservoirs for drinking water. This led to a gradual but significant depopulation as farms, mills and homes were demolished (see our page here for the full story here).
The congregation felt that action had to be taken. In 1910, they bought land from Holden Wood Bleaching Company for £120. Here they built a Mission Room at a cost of £1800. Church services were held in the upper room, while the lower room served as a Sunday School. It was also used as a Men’s Institute and social centre. The building was only a temporary measure while a decision was still to be made about the church.
In 1921, the directors of Holden Wood Bleach company instructed Major D. Halsend to give a one acre site at Three Lane Ends to the congregation. (Three Lane Ends is the junction where Grane Road meets Haslingden Road and Holcombe Road). The land was a former football field known as Bincroft. It was here that their new church would be built. However, there were two conditions attached to the gift. Firstly, the church must be constructed within 5 years. Secondly, a stained glass window in memory of the 16 men of the parish who had died in the Great War had to be installed in the church.
Two years later, the Bishop of Manchester set up a commission which recommended moving St Stephen’s Church from its original location at Crowtrees and rebuilding at Three Lane Ends. The company of Thomas Tattersall Ltd, a Haslingden building firm, undertook the work for an initial agreed cost of £6150. To ensure an easy rebuild, each stone was marked with a number and a mark also to show which course (or layer) it had come from. Work began in May 1925, and by September the Crowtrees site had been cleared. In March the following year, Lord Derby laid the corner stone of the church at Three Lane Ends.
Costs ran over somewhat, as additional work was done on the new church. A vestry was added and a new top for the steeple, which brought the final price in at £8000. It was consecrated by Right Reverend Dr Herbert, Lord Bishop of Blackburn, in 1927. A service was also held to dedicate the Commemorative window.
Twenty years later, the parish became part of St James the Great at Haslingden. Numbers continued to fall, but it was not finally closed until 1986. A building without a use is always at risk, and fortunately nine years later John Ainscough bought the church to set up Holden Wood Antiques, which continues to thrive today.
The church exterior looks much as it did in its heyday. The interior is obviously very different, but visitors can still see many historical features. Of note are two carved stone heads at each side of the door at the end of the nave. These are said to resemble Mr and Mrs Roscoe, owners of Calf Hey Quarry and original benefactors of the church. The impressive hammer beam ceiling sits on corbels decorated with carved angels playing musical instruments. The commemorative window is well preserved and can be clearly seen and read.
Today the antique centre has 50 dealer’s stalls over two floors. The conservatory tea rooms are very popular and are packed most days. The grade II listed church continues to be well looked after.
The Mission Room was sold in 1970s and became a candlewick bedspread factory. It was later converted into a private residence in 1985, and remains one today.
Access for St Stephen’s Church Holden Wood Antiques
The antique centre is open every day 10.00 -5.30pm
The tea rooms are open 9.00-4.30 pm weekdays, and until 5.00 pm on weekends
There is free on-site parking
Holden Wood Antique webpage is here
Access for the original Crowtrees site of St Stephen’s at Haslingden Grane
Park at Calf Hey car park on Grane Road (there is sometimes a charge here).
Head back to the Grane Road on foot and turn right. Keep on the right hand side of the road – take care! it is a busy road, but you can walk behind the metal barrier. The Crowtrees churchyard is just a few minutes walk. When you reach the twin metal gates, open them to go in. (Remember to close them as there are sheep in the field). Head to the centre of the grassy platform to see the memorial cross that was erected when the church was removed. The gravestones below the platform make interesting reading.
Nearby, just a short drive away