About this church
Local silk and copper magnate, Charles Roe commissioned Christ Church in 1775. He abandoned plans for a smaller chapel when the evangelical curate David Simpson at nearby St Michael’s was stripped of his post because of his radical beliefs. Simpson championed the cause of the poor, organised medical care for the sick and education for children in the mills.
Christ Church is built of brick with a sweeping gallery supported by cast iron columns and box pews throughout. It was completed in 7 months and opened on Christmas Day 1775. The tower was added the following year. Christ Church is listed as Grade II* meaning it is within the 6% of protected buildings considered ‘particularly important’.
A triple decker pulpit stood centrally in the nave, elevating the preacher to the level of the gallery to command the attention of more than 1000 people. Simpson was renowned for the power of his preaching. From wealthy mill owners downstairs to poor families in the ‘free’ seats on the back row upstairs, everyone could see and be seen. This new church spoke the language of the people: prayers were in English rather Latin, women and families were welcome. Revd John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement was a friend of David Simpson’s and preached at Christ Church a dozen or so times. There was fierce debate in the Church of England but Roe and Simpson remained loyal and supported reform rather than a split.
In the care of The Churches Conservation Trust working with local volunteers of The Roe-naissance to bring the building into regular use. It was closed for worship in 1983 but is sound if chilly! Despite the lack of a water supply, toilets, a kitchen and heating, the church is open to visitors on the last Sunday of every month and at other times by appointment.
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