Search for:

St. Mark’s Lions

What connection is there with Saint Mark’s Church in Worsley and lions?

The Winged Lion

From the cover of St. Mark’s church magazine.

The heraldic symbol of ‘Saint Mark’ or ‘Mark the Evangelist’ is a winged lion, which is also the title of the regular magazine for St. Mark’s Church in Worsley.

Saint Mark lived from 12 AD to 68 AD and his feast day is celebrated on 25th April.

The lion is the symbol of St. Mark for two reasons:

He begins his Holy Gospel by describing John the Baptist as a lion roaring in the desert (Mark 1:3).

His famous story with lions, as related to us by Severus Ebn-El-Mokafa: “Once a lion and lioness appeared to John Mark and his father Arostalis while they were traveling in Jordan.  The father was very scared and begged his son to escape, while he awaited his fate.  John Mark assured his father that Jesus Christ would save them and began to pray.  The two beasts fell dead and as a result of this miracle, the father believed in Christ.”

The Worsley Lions.

Work on Worsley New Hall started in 1839 and was completed in 1846 as the home of Lord Francis Egerton, later to become the 1st Earl of Ellesmere.  Today the grounds are the home of RHS Bridgewater.

At the hall were two bronze lions that, it is believed, stood guard on either side of the north entrance.

In 1945, just prior to the new hall being demolished the 5th Earl of Ellesmere presented the lions, along with the Bridgewater Clock, to St. Mark’s church.  The clock was installed in the tower for the centenary of the church in 1946 and the lions were originally stood outside the west door.

A local tale of the time held that when the Bridgewater Clock struck thirteen (which did and still does, at 1am and 1pm) the two lions would change places, but this might be related to the effects of a lunchtime or evening at the village public house, the Bridgewater Hotel.

During the time of Canon Colin Lamont (1947 to 1953) the lions both disappeared but were found a few weeks later in the vicarage garden shrubbery.  Later in this period one of the lions disappeared, never to return!  After this theft the remaining lion was brought inside and now stands as though guarding the Ellesmere Chapel.

The bronze lion now in the church does not have any wings.  However, it is stood on its hind legs (Rampant) and holds a Pheon (Heraldic arrow) with its front paws.  The coat of arms of the Egerton family is a lion rampant with three pheons.

Egerton Coat of Arms

There are no markings or inscriptions on the lion to indicate when or where it was made. Although its apparent association to the Egerton coat of arms suggests the pair of lions were specially commissioned.

One thing we do know is that the lion is made of bronze, so it is weighty. How it was carted off to the shrubbery and by how many is for the imagination.

Part of the lion’s tail has been broken off – possibly damaged on its visit to the shrubbery.

Mark Charnley Green Badge Bridgewater Canal Tourist Guide

If you would like Mark to give you a more detailed tour of St Mark’s Church in Worsley and the Bridgewater Canal you can contact him on 07884 121021 or


Lion photos taken by Mark Charnley with kind permission of St. Mark’s Church, Worsley

Cover image of Winged Lion magazine with kind permission of St. Mark’s Church, Worsley


Changing Scene by H. T. Milliken – Two hundred years of church and parish life in Worsley.

This book is available for sale at St. Mark’s Church.


Special thanks to Jill Rawson, authorised lay minister of St. Mark’s for her cooperation with this article.

L.S. Lowry and the Bridgewater Canal

L.S. Lowry is now one of Britain’s most recognised and most loved artists but it was not always so.

Born in 1887 to very Victorian parents he spent his whole working life as a property agent for Pall Mall Properties retiring at 65 with his pension well earnt!

For this reason, he was not (initially at least) taken seriously by the Art Critics, particularly those based in London who were wont to dub him as a “Sunday Painter” and many people on first seeing his industrial landscapes with their myriad stick-like figures still say …“My child could do that”.

Well, the truth is that they could not. What appears at first to be somewhat naïve is, in fact, the very opposite. He spent 21 years at Art School in Salford and Manchester, mostly in the evenings learning how to draw and paint. His early drawings show a rare skill in draughtsmanship and it was this base in the technicalities of “Art” that enabled him to develop over the many years he was actively painting and drawing the unique style that is so familiar to us now. His genre was wide, much wider than most people realise, he was an excellent portraitist and landscape artist, he painted seascapes and he told pictorial stories in works such as “Conflict” and “The Fight”

It is not always realised that he was active over a very long time period. 70 years in fact! Those years encompassed two world wars and astonishing changes in our way of life. He saw and recorded sailing ships in Rhyll harbour, super tankers on the river Tyne and he pictured teenagers with mini skirts in the 1960s, as well as old women in traditional widows weeds (black mourning ensemble) in the 1920’s.

Lowry was a frequent visitor to the Bridgewater Canal which was a fairly short tram ride from his home in Station Road Swinton and he produced several drawings and paintings of the well known spots such as the Packet House and the Hump Backed Bridge as well as barges on the Canal. The Lowry Centre on Salford Quays owns the largest collection of his work in the world and is well worth a visit.

Royston Futter is a Green Badge Tourist Guide for the Bridgewater Canal


He gives illustrated talks on L.S. Lowry and on Industrial Heritage as well as on the Bridgewater Canal. Why not check out his tour A Right Royal Ramble.

The Lowry
Skip88, CC BY-SA 3.0 httpscreativecommons.orglicensesby-sa3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It Could Have Been ‘Ferry Cross the Irwell’ – the Irwell Connection

You may well ask, ‘what is the connection between the Irwell and the Bridgewater Canal?’ There is one physical connection and plenty of indirect connections. One of the most indirect is that the original planned course for the Bridgewater Canal would have taken the canal from Monton to continue southeast to join the Irwell necessitating a transhipment across the river into Manchester. Instead, James Brindley, a consultant engineer on the canal’s construction advised a course that it takes today crossing the Manchester Ship Canal which at that time had been the Mersey & Irwell Navigation at Barton Aqueduct in 1761. This avoided the transhipment on the water of the Irwell.

The former Mersey & Irwell Navigation (M&IN) was created in the 1730s, well before the onset of the Bridgewater Canal which was connected to the Mersey at Runcorn in 1773 via a meandering contour route from Stretford that is roughly parallel to the Mersey & Irwell.

The course of the canal is in the Irwell River Catchment from Worsley to Manchester city centre and to Stretford, beyond which it enters the Mersey Catchment. It can be a tempestuous river as shown in 2015 when Storm Eva deposited 128mm in 36 hours on the Upper Irwell. Downstream, 750 houses were flooded in Salford and 670 in the Radcliffe/Redvales area. The river Irwell should be regarded as a major river but it isn’t because it is relatively short, only 39 miles from the source in the West Pennines above Bacup to the junction with the Mersey at Irlam.

In the early 70s there was a brief moment when the profile of the Irwell could have been improved as, in the wake of the 1972 Local Government Act, the new metropolitan borough of Salford was almost given the name Irwell but opposition pointed out that the Irwell flowed through two other boroughs and also didn’t flow through Worsley, even though Worsley Brook is a tributary of the Irwell.

There are claims that the river Mersey is a rarity among rivers in not being named after the larger tributary, i.e. the Irwell, rather than the smaller Mersey from the point at which they meet. The rivers met at Irlam and the confluence is now with the Manchester Ship Canal near Irlam Locks. The Mersey possibly also had the ascendancy in the name game because it was a boundary river between historic Lancashire and Cheshire and before that between the territories of Mercia to the south and Elmet to the north. So, whether or not it should have been ‘Ferry Across the Irwell’ is a moot point but shows that the Irwell is a historically under-rated river.

The Irwell should be regarded as a major river for its significant role in the development of the world’s first industrial revolution. And the conduit, so to speak, for that role has been two canals, the Bridgewater Canal and the Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal (MBBC). The relationship, the connection, between the three waterways is currently made on the 1.6km stretch of the Irwell between the Pomona Locks on the Bridgewater Canal and the Middlewood Locks on the MBBC.

The Pomona Lock Branch joins the Bridgewater Canal to the Ship Canal and river Irwell
The Bridgewater Canal joins the Ship Canal/Irwell at Pomona Lock (2009)

It is commonly accepted that the drivers for the world’s first industrial revolution were the features that came together in Manchester, namely coal, canals and cotton. Cotton was a consumer and industrial product and it was made affordable by the proximity of coal which was brought to market by the two canals. Thus, the mines at Worsley Delph and along the Irwell Valley gave up the coal that the two canals delivered; the Bridgewater to the wharfs at Castlefield and the MBBC to the wharfs at the aptly named Upper Wharf Street in Salford.

Of course, the Bridgewater Canal Company for many years did not want connections to be made for either the M&IN or the Johnny-come-lately of the MBBC which were both seen as a threat to its business ascendancy. The connection via Pomona docks was only made in 1995 and replaced the short Hulme Locks branch canal opened in 1839 to connect the Bridgewater Canal to the M&IN. In the same year, the MBBC finally made a connection via the river Irwell at Middlewood Locks to the wider network with the construction of the Manchester & Salford Junction Canal (M&SJC) which today can still be seen joining the Rochdale canal near the Rain! Bar in city centre Manchester. It is probably not a coincidence that the canals made the connections in the decade that launched the Railway era and consequent severe competition for the canals’ trade.

The Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal joins the river Irwell (map courtesy of the Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal Society – )

It is worth reflecting a little more on the intrinsic qualities of the river Irwell, regardless of its canal connections. Cyril Bracegirdle’s book “The Dark River – the Irwell” reflected in its title both its industrial heritage and pollution with 400 mills in proximity to the river found in a survey of 1800, and its propensity to flood.

Even in 1972, Bracegirdle records, the flow of water at the Adelphi Weir in Salford was 120 million gallons and that included 32 million gallons of outflow from seven sewage works and another 14 million gallons of industrial effluent from twenty-one factories. Today it is a much cleaner river with the totemic kingfishers seen regularly along the full length and in recent years the arrival of otters. In the late 19th century, Joseph Anthony wrote,

              Whoe’er hath seen dark Irwell’s tide,

              Its sombre look and sullen glide,

              Would never deem that it, I ween,

              Had ever brighter, gayer been

It’s not perfect now but it is certainly brighter than in those dark Irwell days and is overdue a recognition for its role in canal creation and the industrial revolution.

Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal joins the Irwell at Middlewood Locks (2024)

David Barnes Green Badge Tourist Guide for the Bridgewater Canal

If you are interested in visiting the Bridgewater Canal with a guide contact David on:

07961535163 /

Photo credits:

Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal joins the Irwell at Middlewood Locks – photo by David Barnes

Bridgewater Canal – joins the Ship Canal/Irwell via Pomona Lock – photo by David Barnes

The Great Glaziers of St Mark’s Church

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 / 07786992053

Right Royal Ramble – 2024!

Book a tour

2024 dates on sale now – Ramble your way through the royal history in and around The Bridgewater Canal and Worsley

Join Green Badge Guide Royston Futter and, in your imagination, Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, The Duke of Wellington and various other Royals and Luminaries who visited Worsley New Hall and the Bridgewater Canal in their heyday.

The circular guided tour, taking in the magnificent gates shown at the 1851 Great Exhibition, St Marks Churchyard, Worsley Delph and The Bridgewater Canal starts and ends in the carpark of RHS Bridgewater so you can visit the garden and have refreshments before or after the walk.

Please see Eventbrite for available dates.

Start 2pm – tour will last approx 2 ½ hrs (Distance around 4.5miles – generally flat but moderate uphill walk back towards the gardens.)

Tour Dates:

Sunday 12th May, 16th June, 28th July (New date!) and 1st September 2024

Adults £13 plus booking fee

For children under 12 use promo code CHILD – price £6 plus fee.

Booking essential