St Aidan's Church of England
With the advent of the railway and the progress of the Industrial Revolution, sites were offered free of cost for the erection of cotton mills, and the area became populated. Before this there was only the parish of St Francis, Feniscliffe which extended from the bridge in Pleasington Fields on one side to Hollin Bank on the other and embraced the districts of Cherry Tree, Mill Hill and Waterfall.There were two schools, both inadequate, one at Cherry Tree and the other at Bower House Fold. The school at Cherry Tree was the base for operations by the Rev J. Blackburn Brown M.A. The residents of Mill Hill and Waterfall found it practically impossible to attend evening services or meetings, particularly in winter months, as they had to travel a roundabout way across fields to reach the school.
The building of the Iron School at Bower House Fold and the erection of a beautiful church at Feniscliffe did not completely solve the problem, and a Mission Room was opened at Stakes Hall in January 1894.
Stakes Hall Mission Church, Mill Hill was consecrated on May 31st 1894. It was a substantial building of dressed stone and cost £500. Attached to the church was a clergy vestry, classroom and an institute for men. The church had accommodation for 350 persons.A report in the Blackburn Times of September 14th, 1895 states “This quickly filled, showing at once the need of a branch of the church there. So successful has this mission been that although the place for service is an old fashioned low-roofed, disused farm kitchen, it has often been crowded to excess". Two upstairs rooms were used for Sunday school classes.
The Blackburn Weekly Standard of the same date stated “The Farm House, which was rented had been previously by a poulterer for dressing fowl and had to be fumigated. Rooms adjoining the building were used by a tripe dresser and the yard behind was used by a cow-keeper". No wonder that the Blackburn Times reported “The surroundings of this Mission are not attractive and agreeable, but so resolute has the Vicar been, that not even the most disagreeable smells, the poverty of his parishioners ,the need of funds nor the miserable place for worship,combined,have deterred him from carrying out his great purpose".Part of that purpose was the building of a church and school at Mill Hill. On August 31st 1895, St Aidan's Day, John Rutherford M.P. laid the foundation stone of St Francis Mission Church Mill Hill. When the building was completed, services were held in the school, a chancel having been built at the east end of the school. The school was later known as Mill Hill C.E. School, then Norfolk Street School, and eventually took the name of St Aidan's C.E. School.
As well as the Rev Canon Blackburn Brown, other Ministers over this period were Captain Attwood of the Church Army, the Rev W. Woodall (1910) and the Rev James Sumner. In 1916, the Rev H. Moss was appointed Curate of Livesey with the care of the work at Mill Hill; this is the connection between the churches of St Andrew's and St Aidan's. In 1920, St Aidan's became a conventional district with Mr Moss as Curate-in-Charge, and, in 1926, the Parish of St Aidan's was formed with Mr Moss as the first Vicar.The Rev. Harry Moss was a character in his own right and the people rallied round him and his wife to such an extent that the foundation stone of the present church was laid on the 11th July 1931, by the first Bishop of Blackburn, the Right Rev P.M. Herbert, D.D. Fourteen months later the building was completed and consecrated on the 24th September 1932 by Bishop Herbert. St Aidan's can claim the distinction of the first church to be consecrated in the Diocese of Blackburn. In 1938 a new altar was dedicated. This is now in the Memorial Chapel (Lady Chapel).Following the death of the Rev Harry Moss, L.Th, the Rev J.H.O'Brien became the second vicar of St Aidan's on the 31st May,1947. During his vicariate, the interior of the church was considerably enhanced. In 1950, the Mothers Union banner was dedicated. In 1953, twenty one years after the dedication, many changes were made. A new High Altar with frontals and Riddell Posts, a Processional Cross, an Altar Cross and Standard and Altar candlesticks were consecrated.
A new Baptism Font was made by sculptress Josephine de Vasconcellos, F.R.B.S., originally intended for Blackburn Cathedral, was also dedicated, as were a new Prayer Desk, furnishings in the memorial Chapel and a Silver Wafer Box in memory or the Rev Harry Moss.In 1954, the Duckworth Memorial Window was installed, while in 1956, a porch at the south west corner of the church was built on what was to have been the site of a tower in the original plans. Dr W. Baddeley, Bishop of Blackburn, in the presence of Mrs Moss and her daughter dedicated this porch to the memory of the Rev H Moss. The lighting system of the church was completely re-planned in 1966 prior to the decoration of the interior. The old pulpit was replaced by an oaken one the gift of Mrs J Ormerod and the late Mrs Gillibrand. New chairs were placed in the Memorial Chapel and, in the same year, the organ was moved into the nave of the church. In 1967, Mrs Topping gave a stained glass window of "Christ the Carpenter" in memory of her parents. During the vicariate of the Rev. J. Maxwell Lucas, 1968-1972, the heating system of the church was converted to oil firing, the Memorial Plaque in memory of men who died during the two world wars was placed in position and the lighting of the Altar improved. In 1964, when the Rural Deanery of Darwen was created, St Aidan's Parish was transferred from Blackburn Deanery to the Darwen Deanery. The Rev J.H. O'Brien who was vicar of St Aidan's at the time became the first Rural Dean of Darwen.
St Aidan's Girls Friendly Society was formed in 1950 and is still going strong today.
St Aidan's Mothers Union was formed in 1948 and is still going strong today.
The church's first Rose Queen was crowned in 1933 and paraded round the parish, this tradition still continues.In 1998, the church was returned to the Blackburn Deanery from Darwen. In 2000, thanks to the generosity of a church member, a Charity Shop was opened on Mincing Lane in Blackburn which is still going strong. In 2001, a Garden of Remembrance was consecrated by the Bishop of Burnley, the Right Reverend John Goddard, and the first ashes to be interred where those of St Aidan's former Vicar, Canon James H O'Brien. In 2004, the Diocese amalgamated St Aidan's with St Francis to become “The Benefice of Blackburn St Francis with St Aidan".In 2009, Organist and Choirmaster, Mr Ernest Halliwell died; he was a benefactor to the church and, thanks to his generosity, church renovations were completed in 2011 which involved facilities for the disabled, removal of four sets of pews from the front and back of church in order to provide more space for charity events.
The congregation also erected a memorial glass panel in memory of Organist, Ernie Helliwell, between the Memorial Chapel and the Choir pews. In the midst of all the renovation work the illuminated Cross which had been a beacon for people in the Infirmary since the mid-60s was blown down in a gale and damaged the roof. When the renovation was finished, a new illuminated Cross was placed above the porch door.In 2012, St Aidan's embraced the Internet and obtained Twitter, Facebook an Email address and a listing on a "Church Near You". During 2014, the Church split with St Francis and the Diocese twinned us with St Luke's St Marks and St Phillips Benefice.VICARS OF ST AIDANSReverend Harry Moss, 1926-1947
Reverend James Henry O'Brien, 1947-1967
Reverend John Maxwell Lucas, 1968-1972
Reverend Harold Holt, 1972-1985
Reverend James Stewart McDonald, 1985-1996
Reverend Alan Fishwick, 1996-2002
Reverend David George Kennedy, 2003-2006
Reverend Philip Chew, 2008-2010
Reverend Catherine Brooks, 2013 -
Article compiled by Jeffrey Booth (Library Volunteer)Taken from St Aidan's History Book by Kath and Wynn Shepherd.
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