It started out as a village celebration. This year marks 140 years since St Luke’s Church in Winmarleigh was consecrated in 1876.
To mark the occasion, a few parishioners and villagers intrigued by the architecture and beautiful design of the Grade II listed church, the pinnacle of this tiny hamlet, near Garstang, decided to do ‘a little research’ into its humble origins.
Little did they realise they were about to unearth their little village’s rather big history.
And next week, as the community comes together for the annual harvest celebrations, the doors will be wide open to the church’s fascinating past and the story of the first and the last Lord Winmarleigh.
This week I ventured to the beautiful rural church, which sits in the centre of Church Lane, to meet with Rev Gillian and Brenda Brodie, one of the small team, behind the big history project.
Brenda says: “It started out with a couple of us just wanting to celebrate the 140 year anniversary and make something of it.
“We thought it would be nice to present a little bit of the church’s history and useful for some of our villagers to learn a bit about the consecration.
“What unfolded was just this fascinating tale and remarkable history of Lord Winmarleigh and how he came to build this wonderful church, the school and Winmarleigh Hall.
“The investment he made in the village and its tenants is just incredible.”
The foundations for the church were laid in 1875, the consecration service was held the following year on February 19, 1876.
One the groups’ many finds was copies of the original order of service.
Earlier this year, the villagers held a special service, including prayers and hymns from the programme, followed by a Jacob’s Join.
It was the start of a series of celebratory events which culminate in the two-day harvest festival, on September 10 and 11, which will give visitors a chance to explore more about Colonel John Wilson-Patten and the church’s extraordinary heritage.
But who was Lord Winmarleigh?
John Wilson-Patten was a British Conservative politician, born in 1802.
First elected to Parliament as an MP for Lancashire in 1830
In 1832, the Eton and Magdalen College educated colonel, was re-elected as representative for the newly created constituency of North Lancashire, a seat he held for 42 years.
Wilson-Patten was a great supporter of industrial and labour reform and took an active part in helping to relieve the Lancashire cotton famine of 1861 to 1865.
It was in 1874, on his retirement from the House of Commons, he was raised to the peerage as Baron Winmarleigh, of Winmarleigh
He built the family home Winmarleigh Hall in 1871, it was designed and built by renowned Lancaster architects Paley and Austin, who also drew up the plans for St Luke’s.
To discover more the research team joined forces with local historian Paul Smith, who has considerable knowledge about Lord Winmarleigh and Winmarleigh Hall.
Brenda adds: “What we have tried to capture and want to share with people is the spirit of the man, John Wilson-Patten.
“This was a man who achieved so many great things but was a great philanthropist. We would never have known the degree of his generosity.
“He was held in very high esteem by families in the village. And he was not a young man when he came here, he was in his 70s, yet was so committed in creating a hub, a place of real community and that has lived on through the generations.
“The great sadness is in his family story, Lord Winmarleigh had six children, four daughters and two sons. He outlived both his sons as well as his only grandson John Alfred Wilson-Patten, who died aged 22 in 1889. He is the only member of the family buried here in Winmarleigh, as to why we don’t quite know.
“Lord Winmarleigh lived to be 92 but with no heir, the title became extinct.”
As well as the story of Lord Winmarleigh, the group has unravelled a wealth of information on the design of the church and the fine extensive stencil decoration by Shrigley and Hunt, and the installation of a Willis organ amongst other features.
There will be extensive displays in the church detailing and explaining the history and all the features ,as well as a talks together with local records, refreshments and stalls.
The group are also are inviting anyone with any further knowledge of the church or Lord Winmarleigh to get in touch.
n For more information or tickets for the supper (costing £7) please contact, Brenda Brodie, 01524 791455 or Val Whittaker, 01524 791440, Irene Connick, 01524 792037