St John Thornham
St John Thornham
St John Thornham

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Saint John the Evangelist
Thornham with Gravelhole

The foundation stone of our church building was laid in 1906 and the almost completed building was consecrated on the 14th of November in 1907. The north aisle and tower were completed in 1914. The building is designed by the architect R. Bennet Preston who was the Manchester Diocesan Architect at the turn of the century under the episcopacy of Edmund Knox, Bishop of Manchester 1903 - 1920. St. John's is considered to be an example of some of Preston’s finest work and is constructed with quality materials.

The building is a handsome structure, with an open graceful interior devoid of fussy detail, described by Pevsner as “spacious”, and with several features - “low aisles, simple timber roofs, and a squat West end baptistry”. The walls are constructed in coursed millstone grit with smooth sandstone dressings, the roof is slated in Westmorland green and the internal woodwork is good quality carved oak. The exterior of the building is dominated by a strong square tower at the South West corner, and is a significant local landmark. The tower once boasted a full clarion of bells but structural necessity meant they had to be removed in the early 1990's and they now reside at the church of St. Winifred in York. The setting of the building is one of sharp contrasts. Although the parish serves an area of suburban housing, between Rochdale and Middleton and the adjoining M62, the parish church stands in open countryside approached by a footpath from the main road, with vehicular access via an unmade lane.

Despite not having a church building, the parish of Thornham-with-Gravelhole was officially established on the 8th February 1896, offering its public worship at the school where it first began in 1841. Since this time it has been the responsibility and privilege of the Christian community to worship God, serve the people of the parish and maintain the fine architectural heritage bequeathed to us in the church building.

Today our church building hosts a variety of activities: school services, prayer mornings, weddings, baptisms and funerals, and of course our Sunday worship. Styles and forms of worship have changed over the years and today we offer worship accessible and relevant to all ages and which is sensitive to liturgical heritage, contemporary need and visionary demand. The church building is a well loved landmark in Thornham and many enjoy its presence whether as active members of the church or those who simply walk by or sit in its grounds to enjoy the beauty of its construction and its rural setting.

Our aim at St John's is to maintain and extend its use as a community building and place of worship; caring for both its historical interest, its architectural splendour and, as appropriate, guiding its future development.

Rev. Chris Fallone 2005 (Updated 2012)