Tour inside St Mark's Church, Worsley
Enter by the West Door
The West door is the main door to the church, but it was not always so. Up until 1899, it had been the entrance to the choir robing room, which had been situated beneath the gallery. This room was removed when an oak screen at the west end of the seating in the nave was moved back to form the present internal west door (to counter the fierce draught which was commonplace through the external door!) This allowed the use of the west door for funeral and wedding processions, although it did not come into everyday use until the 1950s
In the vestibule to the right stands the arched entrance to the bell tower, and above the west, the door can be seen in the gallery, which has been little used for many years.
The main body of the church has fixed oak bench pews for the congregation. Arcades of arches to either side direct attention eastwards to the sanctuary. The stone columns in the nave have elaborately carved foliage and flowers to their capitals. Corbels supporting arched openings take the form of carved figureheads. The nave has an oak hammer-beam roof, made of timber brought from the Earl of Ellesmere's Northampton estate by road and then by his own Bridgewater Canal. The slate for the roof was from the Delabow Quarries in Cornwall.
Whilst the South aisle was part of the original church structure, the North aisle was not added until six years later.
The font is of limestone, elaborately carved, with a bronze basin.
It bears the inscription, 'Suffer little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for of such is the Kingdom of God' (Mark 10.14)
Until recently it was plumbed into its own water supply and could be filled via the plughole!
The oak pulpit is made up from carved wooden panels of various dates and styles. At the time the church was built, London salerooms were assembling such pieces, from a variety of domestic and ecclesiastical sources. A part of the surround bears the date 1640. Three of the panels are of the same period, perhaps of Dutch origin, and although small (they have also been pieced) they are remarkably detailed and artistically ambitious, showing a grasp of depth and perspective
The panels of the pulpit depict the four Evangelists in the upper portion, whilst the lower portion represents various biblical scenes, including the Adoration of the Shepherds, the Adoration of the Magi, the Flight into Egypt, and, possibly, the Death of Jezebel
Below the handrail of the pulpit staircase is an old panel depicting the Circumcision, with a more modern addition to keep it in place
The lectern is carved in oak and depicts the figure of St. Mark. It was designed by J. Douglas and made by E. Griffiths of Chester in 1894 at a cost of £50. At the base is Mark's symbol, a carved winged lion.
The Chancel & Choir Stalls
The chancel is entered by two white Carrara marble steps, installed in 1892 for £25, replacing the original stone, and is paved in skilful mosaic, in red, blue, fawn, brown and black with fleur de lys and hawthorn sprays and borders of white trefoil and thistle sprays.
The choir stalls, designed by R. Knill Freeman of Bolton, are of oak, and the stall fronts have figures of St David and St Cecilia and panels of intricately carved foliage and shields, showing the symbols of Christ’s passion: on the north, the cross, nails, reed and sponge, spear, thirty pieces of silver, seamless robe, dice, lantern sword and stave; on the south, ladders, pincer and hammer, sacred heart, crown of thorns, whipping post and scourges. All this for £465!
The clergy stalls, which are probably by Scott, carry statues of the four Doctors of the Church - Jerome, Gregory, Augustine and Ambrose
The chancel roof is of oak, and was first painted in bright colours in 1952.
The Sanctuary and Reredos
Two more marble steps lead into the sanctuary and another two to the altar. In the sanctuary floor are several small winged lions, hawthorn leaves, sprays and red crosses, and a large pelican – a symbol of Holy Communion that is both traditional and has contemporary resonances. It stems from the legend that the mother pelican plucks blood from her breast to feed her young
St Augustine puts it slightly differently:
The pelican fervently loves her young birds. Yet when they are haughty they smite her in the face and wound her, and she smites them and slays them. And after three days she mourns for them; and then, striking herself in the side till blood runs out she sprinkles their bodies, and they come back to life. In the same way, Christ was beaten by the children of men, and yet shed his blood to give them eternal life.
The original vestry had consisted of a small clergy "robing room" built off the north side of the chancel. However, the building was replaced in 1884 with the present substantial structure which provided an organ vestry and combined choir and clergy vestry.
A complete gallery of past incumbents adorns one wall of the vestry.
The Organ Console and Organ Chamber
The organ chamber is situated at the East end of the North aisle where a 2-manual Compton extension organ (slightly enlarged in 1975) was installed in 1952 with the console in the Ellesmere Chapel
The organ had given sterling service over the years, but by the end of 2003, it was clear that the organ was in need of major overhaul or replacement. After a long quest to find a suitable replacement instrument, a redundant instrument in Tottington, Bury was acquired in 2005. This is a 3-manual Alexander Young 1905 instrument, which has been completely renovated by Messrs George Sixsmith. The opportunity has also been taken to augment the original organ by the addition of further ranks of pipes, whilst the console has been returned to its original position behind the choir stalls on the North side of the chancel
Click here to view Organ Specification.
The First Earl of Ellesmere's tomb stands between the sanctuary and Ellesmere Chapel. It was designed by Scott in Early English Gothic style and executed in Caen stone by J.B. Philip of London (who was also responsible for the figures around the podium of Scott’s Albert Memorial in Kensington).
The figure of the first Earl, lying in the robes and insignia of the Order of the Knights of the Garter on a slab of Devonshire marble, was carved by Matthew Noble (whose statue of the Duke of Wellington in Piccadilly, Manchester had attracted attention in 1856). The tomb was painstakingly restored in the 1950s by James Attwood
The Ellesmere Chapel
This was originally the family's private chapel, with its own small entrance door on the south wall (with a path leading to the New Hall) with pews facing inwards. The family left Worsley in 1923 - the fourth Earl sold all his interests in the area to the Bridgewater Estates Ltd for £1m and in 1928 the chapel was reordered to form a weekday chapel.
It contains many monuments, including some good quality Victorian brasses, to the four Earls of Ellesmere and their families. Some of them are interred in the vault below (accessed from the outside of the church), which was originally equipped with gas lighting whilst the rest of the church remained lit by candlelight. The granite tomb in the corner of the Chapel is a memorial to the second Earl of Ellesmere.
The chapel is separated from the chancel by a fine wrought iron screen and gate, decorated with coronets and other Ellesmere insignia.
It is believed that the screen was originally erected as part of the Memorial to the First Earl of Ellesmere, though in 1862 it stood in the position now occupied by the chapel communion rails.
The chapel was re-roofed in 1934 (having been closed for a time because of falling plaster). The ceiling was painted in a similar style to that of the chancel in 1971.
Scott acquired twelve brightly-coloured windows on his continental travels for the east window and Ellesmere chapel. They have been variously claimed to be German, Belgian or Italian, and perhaps some are English. They are certainly not part of a set, not all look in the direction you’d expect, and at least two are part of a different and inferior set, perhaps of Flemish origin. This one began life in the chancel north wall, moved to the vestry in 1884 and came to the Ellesmere Chapel in 1957
They depict a mixture of disciples and evangelists – as well as John and Matthew, who can claim to be both, there is Mark and Luke, who cannot, plus Paul. In fact, there are two Matthews. Oddly for a church dedicated to St Mark, he does not appear in the east window. The central figure is Christ, the Saviour of the World – Salvator Mundi – but in a blue and purple robe that doesn't mark him out from the others
The Chancel east window depicts John (with chalice), Peter (with keys), Salvator Mundi, Bartholomew (with butcher’s knife) and Matthew (with gospel book)
The Ellesmere Chapel east window, which is probably the finer of the two main windows, depicts James the Great (with pilgrim staff), Luke (with pen) and Paul (with the sword of the Spirit)
The Ellesmere Chapel south windows depict James the Less (with green branch), Jude (with book), Mark (with book) and Matthew (with purse)
Also in the Ellesmere Chapel are two windows (probably) by Burne Jones, executed by the firm of William Morris, depicting Fortitude and Humility. They were installed in 1906 by the brothers and sisters of Helen & Reginald Egerton
The west window, depicting Faith, Hope and Charity, was a tribute to Lord Mulgrave, Vicar of the parish from 1872-1890 .
Windows in the north aisle show St Hilda and St Werburgh [the inscription of the latter was lost after vandalism and not replaced] .
The south aisle window near the font was the gift of those baptized or confirmed at St Mark, in 1912.
All the other windows are handsomely filled with Powell's glass, a Victorian technique of casting clear glass with various devices such as the fleur de lys. Pevsner records that his bill was £209.12s.2d
The South door was the original main entrance to the church and continued to be so up to the 1950s when the West door came into use as a main entrance. The inner porch was not part of the original structure but was added in 1864 to combat the draught coming into the building.
In 1945 two bronze monumental lions which had once stood at the entrance to Worsley New Hall were donated to the Church by the 5th Earl of Ellesmere. These were positioned outside the South door, from where they were stolen some years later. Whilst one was never found, the other was recovered (painted red!) from the Bridgewater Canal, and now sits at the base of the steps from the South aisle to the Ellesmere Chapel.
The Bell Tower
The bell ringing chamber is reached by an anticlockwise stone spiral staircase of 41 steps. From here the ringers can sound out a peal from the fine and rare set of ten bells which are hung in the tower above
The clock on the West face of the tower is known as the Bridgewater Clock, and is famous because it strikes 13 at 1 o'clock. This device was invented by the Duke of Bridgewater when his workmen excused their lateness at returning to work after the dinner hour because they maintained they could not hear the clock strike once at 1 o'clock.
The clock was originally sited in Worsley Works Yard (now Worsley Green) and was presented to St Mark's Church in 1946 by the Earl of Ellesmere to mark the Church's Centenary celebrations.
The clock winding mechanism can be viewed in the bell ringing chamber.