This week’s Monday walk, if you can call it that, features a wander round a church about seven miles from home in the next town. The Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin is situated right on the edge of Bury town centre, just a couple of minutes walk from the interchange and the main shopping centre and not far from the well known open market. Church records suggest that the first church on the site was a wood and thatch structure which was replaced in the late 16th century by a building in the Gothic style ; between 1773 and 1780 the main body of this church was demolished and rebuilt although the spire wasn’t touched.
The spire itself was replaced in 1842 but by 1870 the timbers in the rest of the church had rotted and another new building was needed. The current church was designed on a much grander scale by architect J S Crowther and was built leaving the 1842 spire in place ; construction took five years and the church was finally consecrated on February 2nd 1876. The interior features hammerbeam and tie-beam roof trusses, decorative mosaic flooring by Minton and stained glass windows by Clayton & Bell and Hardman & Company, while the tower houses eight bells, six of which date from 1722.
The nave is 84ft 6ins long, 30ft wide and 76ft 6ins high, with the windows on the north wall depicting Old Testament figures while those on the south wall depict those from the New Testament. Unfortunately most of the windows were so high up that I would have needed to use an exceptionally long step ladder to get good clear shots of them. The west wall rises in four stages to the great rose window and was inspired by Westminster Abbey, while the pulpit was given in memory of Reverend Roger Kay who re-founded Bury Grammar School in 1726 ; it’s believed that he is actually buried beneath the pulpit.
The organ was at one time situated above the west door but it was relocated to its current position when the church was rebuilt in 1876. Originally a tracker action organ electrics were eventually installed and the console was moved to the south side of the chancel where it faced east. The organ was rebuilt in 2007, keeping some of the original pipework and giving it a French sound, and the console was turned to face south.
The church is also the garrison church of the Lancashire Fusiliers. On April 25th 1915 the Lancashire Fusiliers were involved in taking West Beach at Gallipoli, for which the regiment won six VCs, and each year a service is held on the nearest Sunday to that date to commemorate those who took part in Gallipoli and subsequent battles. For anyone interested in regimental history the church has a number of colours hung on display along with memorial tablets, record books and other artefacts, with a dedicated museum in the old Fusiliers building round the corner.
I hadn’t originally intended going into the church as I was in Bury for an entirely different reason, but when I saw the ‘church open’ sign on the outside railings I thought I may as well pop in for a quick look and I’m glad I did. It’s a lovely place with many interesting features, more than I realised at the time, so it would be worth making a return visit the next time I go to Bury – and with a nice little café just across the road I can treat myself to coffee and cake as well.