St John's
St John's

History of St John the Baptist Church

St John's - The Early YearsSt John’s Church is known as a Waterloo Church which is one of the names applied to over 600 churches constructed in the UK during the early to mid 19th century using funds from the Church Building Act 1818. Other names given to these churches include Commissioner’s Churches and Million Act Churches reflecting the role of a government-appointed commission tasked with administering expenditure of £1 million granted as a token of the nation's thanks for victory at the Battle of Waterloo which ended the Napoleonic Wars in 1815.   An alternative view of this investment was that it was designed to curb the spread of non-conformist religious denominations then associated with radical political views. With populations in industrial areas growing rapidly, politicians believed that the Established Church offered a way to stem the tide of dissent.  Waterloo Churches were to be built “with a view to accommodating the greatest number of persons at the smallest expense within the compass of an ordinary voice, one half of the number to be free seats for the poor.”

At this time Burscough was part of the Ancient Parish of Ormskirk (it was not until 1849 that Burscough became a separate Parish) and for the inhabitants of the growing township Ormskirk Parish Church was their nearest Anglican Church.  While there had been previous attempts to erect an Anglican Church in Burscough in 1822, it was not until 1829 after the second Parliamentary grant of £500,000 of 1824, that the construction of the new Church then known as St John’s at Lathom began using stone quarried from Parbold and transported to the site by local farmers.  Land for the church had been given by Lord Skelmersdale and the architect was Daniel Stewart.

The church cost £3461 9s 11d (£3461.50) and when consecrated by John Bird, Bishop of Chester in September 1832 it was as a chapel of ease belonging to Ormskirk Parish Church. 

The Church has one bell which was cast by William Dobson in Norfolk in 1831.  A number of years ago it was removed for safety reasons and is now in store.

Owing to the increasing congregation the west balcony had been added by 1835 and the side balconies in 1857.  Initially musicians played stringed instruments to accompany the choir on the west balcony but in 1859 they were replaced by an organ.  This was later moved to the position of the present organ which was manufactured by Rushworth and Draper and installed in the 1920s.  This instrument had initially to be powered by hand using large bellows sited where the music group is currently located.

Church members paid an annual rental for the sole use of their pew.  Some pews were free but were located at the back of the church.  The income from pew rents paid the minister’s salary and the general upkeep of the church.  The pew rent system continued until 1947.

St John's c1915The chancel was completed in June 1889 when the present pews were installed, the flat ceiling removed and the present internal roof timbers introduced.  Prior to this there was a small chancel with two side vestries which had been built as part of the original church.

Rev. William Wannop died in 1890 after serving 50 years as minister and the oak reredos was erected in his memory.

The East WindowThe magnificent east window was installed in 1920 as a memorial to the men of Burscough and Lathom who died as a result of the First World War.  There are 47 lights (panes of glass) in the tracery section of the window and 47 faces in the stained glass.  The window is a representation of the Te Deum Laudamus a Latin canticle which in English version forms part of the 1662 Morning Prayer Service within the Church of England.  In his design the glass artist H. G. Hiller of Liverpool shows how the Heavenly Hosts are continually giving praise to the Lord.  The Window is dominated by the figure of the risen Christ surrounded by angels, prophets, three of the Twelve Disciples, various saints and martyrs together with service people from the First World War.

In 1932 the original vestry was extended to its present size to celebrate the church centenary.

In the 1980s a number of alterations were made to the rear of the church to improve the entrance and provide a meeting area, kitchen and toilet.

Extensive repairs to both the outside and inside of the church together with considerable internal reordering took place between 1998 and 2001.

A colour booklet explaining the different features of The Memorial East Window and including information about the servicemen listed on the Church War Memorial Tablet is available from the Parish Office:  01704 897852.

Vicars of St John the Baptist Church

Name From To
Rev. John Bowman 1832 1840
Rev. William Wannop 1840 1890
Rev. Benjamin Stewart Darbyshire 1890 1892
Rev. John Hooley Ella Bailey 1892 1895
Rev. James Barnes Brearley 1895 1898
Rev. Charles.David Russell 1898 1913
Rev. Travers Strathmore Stoney 1913 1919
Rev. Canon William Robert Johnson 1919 1934
Rev. Herbert Flenley 1934 1947
Rev. Frederick Arthur Gadd 1947 1952
Rev. Robert James Smith 1952 1960
Rev. Arthur Rivers 1960 1979
Rev. Philip Howard Miller 1980 1985
Rev. Desmond Neil Cosslett 1986 1987
Rev. Brian Robinson 1988 1995
Rev. Neil Robert Short 1996 2007
Rev. James Richard Jones 2008 2015
Rev. Simon Glynn 2016