History

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One hundred and twenty five years is a long and proud history for the church, during which
time many notable events have take place and numerous parishioners have come and gone
across its lofty portals.

This guide sets out firstly to describe the construction of the church building and then to
outline some of its history. It is not intended to be fully comprehensive and the compilers
make no apology for anything or indeed anybody that has been omitted.

St Mark’s church was built in 1874-6 and designed by the local architect John Wild. The
church is set in an elevated position at the top of a hill and assumes a proud role to the east
of the surrounding town. The plan is traditional, with nave, side aisles and chancel. On the
north side a small transept forms the organ chamber and vestry while, quite unusually, the
tower and spire are located to the south of the chancel, thus maximising the impact of the
spire on the streetscape.

The architectural style is said to be late 13th century although the main features are
decorated Gothic. There are unusual clock gablets to the base of the spire adjacent to the
broaches that have the effect of lifting the clock faces by ten or more feet above their typical
location on the tower.

The church is constructed of local sandstone, with patterned slate roofs and overhanging
eaves. There is a series of valley gutters to the south side, to the base of the tower and
between the gablets to the west. The spire rises to a height of 141ft and contains a clock and
peal of eight bells.

At its time of erection, the cost was estimated to be about £10,000, defrayed solely by Col
Thomas Evans Lees Esq, of Werneth Park. The former schools, which adjoin the church, are
also of stone and were erected at a cost of £2,000: the gift of James Collinge Esq, of
Greenhill. Both of these gentlemen had extensive cotton mills in the Glodwick neighbourhood.

Internally the church consists of a lofty nave, divided from the side aisles by granite pillars
and graceful stone arches. Originally designed to seat some 700 people, subsequent
alterations and removal of pews mean that that figure has now been considerably reduced.
The chancel is fitted with carved oak seats and the floor laid with ornamental tiles. A Lady
Chapel has been formed in part of the south aisle and a nave altar provides flexibility for
various services.

When the district of Glodwick started to be more built up in the second part of the 19th
century the earliest efforts to meet the area’s spiritual needs were conducted in a first-floor
room over the top of a joiners shop. The building, known as the ‘Garret’, was situated in
Wellfold, a small street leading up to Glodwlck Lows opposite the end of Brompton Street.
This street, of course, disappeared along with many others several years ago, but the name
is still commemorated by one of the blocks of flats later built on the site. These premises
quickly became inadequate to meet an ever-increaslng need, and for a time the Mutual
School in Nugget Street was used as a temporary church.

Eventually, Colonel Thomas Lees and Mr James Collinge decided to build a new church at
the top of the hill, looking down towards Sheepwashes Brook. The land had been previously
used by the owners of the old Shakespeare Inn, which used to stand on the opposite side of
the road, as a bowllng green. It should be borne in mind that, around that time, Waterloo
Street only came halfway up the hill, the remainder of the area up to Glodwlck being just
green fields.

Two foundation stones of the church were placed at the foot of the tower, one internally and
the other externally, on Saturday afternoon of 25 April 1874 – St Mark’s Day – by Mr Elliott
Lees, son of the founder. The writing on the external stone is now not readable, but that on
the internal stone reads: “This stone was laid by Elliott Lees, son of the founder, St Marks
Day 1874.”

At the same time Miss Annie Collinge, daughter of its benefactor, laid a foundation stone for
the school building. The original plans were to build a vicarage alongside the church and
school; that idea was eventually abandoned in favour of a site overlooking Alexandra Park,
made possible by a gift of £1,000 from the founder’s sister and brother-in-law, Mr and Mrs
Knowles. That vicarage served the needs of the parish for well over 100 years before it was
replaced by the present building on Skipton Street.
Bishop Fraser of Manchester consecrated the church on 14 June 1876.

Colonel Lees, the founder of the Church, unfortunately died only three years after the
consecration. His son Elliott placed a fine stained-glass window in the west gable wall to his
father’s memory.

It is interesting to note that Mr Elllott Lees represented Oldham in Parliament from 1886 to
1892 before moving on to Birkenhead and subsequently being made a Baronet in 1897, only
a year before his own untimely death at the early age of 48 years.

In 1911, in memory and gratitude to the Lees family, it was decided to introduce the Lees
Memorial Scheme which it was hoped would finance the building of a mission and institute.
Even in those days, before our ever-spiraling inflation, that was a terrific and daunting
proposition. The former Glodwick Wesleyan School on the corner of Brompton Street was
purchased by Mr Arthur Wrigley JP, a partner in the Lees and Wrigley cotton mill at
Greenback, together with his two brothers, and presented to the church for use as an
institute, having separate rooms for each organisation.

After the end of the First World War another cotton mill owner, Mr Jesse Thorpe – a former
church warden at St. Mark’s, gave the church a plot of land in Tate Street at the back of Pearl
Mill for use as a recreation ground.

In 1952 the mission on Onchan Avenue was sold to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in order to
cater for the many displaced families from Eastern Europe who had settled in the Oldham
area.

On 20 May 1962, following the closure of Christ Church in Hamilton Street, the Bishop of
Manchester, the Rt. Rev. William Greer, led members of the church in procession to a point
on Glodwick Road where the Parish boundaries met; whereupon they joined with a similar
session from St. Mark’s and went together to worship in the latter church. To commemorate
the amalgamation of the two parishes, a chapel dedicated to Our Lady and Christ the King
was formed in the south aisle at St Mark’s. The chapel was dedicated by the Bishop of
Manchester on 17 September 1967.

By the 1970s, much of the old part of Glodwick had disappeared, with wholesale demolition of
property to the east side of Glodwick Road which was replaced by new shops and houses. A
new school stands on the site of the old Shakespeare Inn and a Health Centre was erected
between Glodwick Road and Nugget Street.

The centenary of the building of St. Mark’s was celebrated in style in 1976 with a host of
events raising money to build a new foyer, kitchen and toilet block to connect the two parish
halls (formerly the schools which had closed in 1956). Since then the building next to
Waterloo Street has been sold. For many years it was a supermarket and is now a ladies’
gym.

In 2008 the parish was fortunate to obtain a grant of £42,000 from Neighbourhood Learning in
Deprived Communities, which has enabled the refurbishment of St Mark’s House into a
learning centre for the community: indeed, what the building was originally intended for! The
St Mark’s Centre was officially opened by the Bishop of Beverley, the Rt Revd Martyn Jarrett.

Further refurbishment work has been undertaken of the hall and the kitchen and we are
currently converting the disused land at the back of what has now become St Mark’s Centre
into a Community Garden.