St Mark’s Church was endowed by the Egerton family who moved to Worsley following the succession of Lord Francis Egerton, (the Earl of Ellesmere) as beneficiary of the Bridgewater trust.
He described Worsley as “A God-forgotten place, its inhabitants much addicted to drink and rude sports, their morals deplorably low” and the family set about improving the village provisions.
The Church foundation stone was laid on 15 June 1844 and completed and consecrated 2 July 1846.
No expense was spared and the architect Sir George Gilbert Scott built a fine Gothic church for which glass windows needed to be acquired. The Morning Post wrote on Mon. 13 October 1851 “The Queen and the Prince Consort were greeted at the church door … and they proceeded down the main aisle. Victoria seemed very pleased by the architecture and sculpture of the church, and its rich stained-glass windows.” The visit had taken place on 10th October and the only coloured windows at that time were the main East windows, installed only a few weeks prior.
Renovations of the family house in London had connected the Egerton family to Sir Charles Barry. Barry had famously won the competition to rebuild the Palace of Westminster following the fire in 1834 for which he was knighted. For that work Barry had recruited Augustus Welby Pugin to help with the interior design. Pugin further collaborated with the lesser-known John Hardman of Birmingham, whose family business expanded to introduce ecclesiastical metal work made to Pugin’s designs and also stained glass.
Therefore, when the Egerton’s were looking for an East Window design to impress, they employed the finest architects of the time. Charles Barry visited Worsley in 1851 to discuss alterations to Worsley Old Hall and the church.
Lady Ellesmere appears to have been very involved with the design of the East window and we know this from her correspondence stating her displeasure at the finished product.
“The Window in Worsley Church is completed & I am sorry to say unsuccessful. The execution is pretty in itself but wholly unsuited to the rest in colouring. It has the effect of a gown of which the skirt is crimson, & the body pink.
Now the question is can anything be done to improve it. Who is the executor of it? Did he ever see the window?
I should be inclined to have him down to look at it; but before determining upon this, should like to know his name & address”.
Approximately a week after this communication, all three men Barry, Pugin and Hardman, visited Worsley. What exactly was discussed at this meeting and what changes were made we may never know.
The main sections of the East were probably acquired by the George Gilbert Soctt or the Earl from a church in southern Germany and the tracery glass above these main panels is that designed by A W Pugin. Why not visit for yourself and decide whether you agree with Lady Ellesmere.
The Coal, Cake and Canal walking tour run by Bridgewater Canal Guided Tours finishes with a visit to St Mark’s church for tea and cake. The perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Book now
Michele Thompson – Bridgewater Canal Tourist Guide
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