Published on April 6th, 2021 | by All Things Warrington
Holy Trinity Church
Established 1709 – the Georgian gem in Warrington’s town centre.
The Market Gate area of Warrington has undergone many changes over the years but throughout them all there has been one constant: Holy Trinity Church. In 2014 All Things Warrington took a look inside the centuries-old church and discovered visual and aural delights galore. It also discovered how the church owes a debt of gratitude to the old ‘George Inn‘ that used to stand behind it…
From the widening of Bridge Street in the early 1900s to the opening of Golden Square shopping centre in 1983, changes to the centre of Warrington have come thick and fast.
Thankfully, Holy Trinity Church with its distinctive Georgian architecture and commanding bell and clock tower has been there to provide a calm, reassuring influence throughout.
Designed by James Gibbs, the architect responsible for the town hall (or possibly one of Gibbs’ associates as the architect was unwell at the time), the church was built in 1758 to replace a smaller ‘chapel of ease’ that had stood on the site since 1709 to take the pressure off the nearby St Elphins Parish Church.
Originally known as Trinity Chapel, its rebuilding and expansion in 1758 eventually led to it becoming an independent church in its own right. Traces of the old Trinity Chapel can still be seen today with its original communion table, now over 300 years old, still in regular use.
The church owes its existence to Peter Legh of Lyme, Didsley (second Baron of Newton) who personally funded the building of the 1709 Chapel.
Although Legh had inherited property and land throughout Lancashire, his special interest in Warrington is assumed to have originated from his marriage to second cousin Frances Legh of nearby Bruche.
Indeed, around the time Trinity Chapel was built, he also constructed a schoolhouse behind the church where pupils from the famous Bluecoat Charity School were educated.
Legh led an eventful life and Holy Trinity might never have been built if, in 1694 and 1696, he had been found guilty of high treason after being tried for his alleged involvement in the ‘Lancashire Plot’ – a conspiracy by a group of Lancashire gentlemen to restore a catholic monarchy. Legh was acquitted on both occasions and his subsequent patronage of the decidedly Anglican Holy Trinity church suggests the verdicts were correct.
When he died in 1743, Legh was buried at Winwick. Without doubt, Holy Trinity Church remains one of his most endearing legacies.
A towering presence
The church’s distinctive cast iron tower, designed by Borough Surveyor W. P. Coxon, wasn’t added until 1862 and is owned by the town, not the church. At the time of its erection the sandstone-finished church had been without a tower for a number of years after its previous tower had blown down in a hurricane! As well as hosting the town’s clock, the tower is also home to Warrington’s old curfew bell.
The bell, which dates from 1637, used to stand on top of the old court house in Golden Square and played a major role in the town’s everyday life.
In addition to signalling Warrington’s 8pm curfew for over 200 years, it also sounded the time market traders could commence and end trading with anyone caught bartering goods outside the allotted time liable to a hefty fine.
Highlights of the church’s interior, which was designated a Grade II listed building in December 1949, include a beautiful three-panelled stained glass window, a first world war memorial by Edward Carter Preston from 1920, a candelabra presented to the church in 1801 from the House of Commons and a servery/coffee bar that provides a peaceful place for town centre shoppers to take time out and reflect.
Other highlights that deserve a special mention are the occasional free-of-charge 45 minute Saturday lunchtime recitals the church hosts on behalf of WACIDOM (Warrington Arts Council Initiative for the Development of Music).
Over the years a number of top musicians have performed at these recitals including Warrington’s world renowned pianist and composer Stephen Hough CBE who was brought up in Thelwall.
I was lucky enough to catch one such performance in 2014 during which I was given special permission by the musicians (Soprano Charlotte Hoather and Pianist Russell Lomas) to film a short segment of their concert – see the video at the top of this page.
The video also shows elements of the church’s interior so be sure to check it out to see Holy Trinity in all its glory.
Note due to maintenance work at Holy Trinity, WACIDOM’s concerts are currently taking place at Bold Street Methodist Chapel. For further information visit http://musicinwarrington.org.uk
For whom the bell tolls – part 1
In addition to housing the town’s curfew bell, Holy Trinity’s tower was also home to another, smaller bell dating from 1706. It is not known how the smaller bell came to be located in the church’s tower or when it was removed, but it was used, claimed William Beamont, to call worshippers to weekday prayers. As these prayers often coincided with the time the baker opposite closed his oven, an oft spoken rhyme about town was:
“Hark to the bell, by whose diurnal din
The pies are baked, and pious folk turn in”
For whom the bell tolls – part 2
One of the most noted characters of old Holy Trinity was its blind organist Thomas Hall. When Hall died in 1837 a memorial tombstone complete with the following poetic and fitting epitaph was erected for him in the Parish churchyard:-
“Sacred to the memory of THOMAS HALL, late ORGANIST of HOLY TRINITY in this Town, who died June 19, 1839, aged 36 years:
Just like an Organ robb’d of Pipes and Breath,
Its Keys and Stops all useless made by Death,
In dust quite motionless its ruins laid.
Although ’twas built by more than mortal aid;
Yet when new Tuned this Instrument shall raise
To God its Builder endless songs of praise.”