People of St Mary's

We have chosen some people who are part of the history of St. Mary’s Church, who for one reason or another, are notable or remembered.

Johannes Specke

The Liber Correct of Whalley Abbey quotes that in May 1529 Johannes Specke was Chaplain of Capelle de Penhull (Chapel of Pendle). On April 21st 1530 he is spoken of as the chaplain of Goldshayebothe. On September 4th 1532 Dom (Dominican) Wiliielmus Salter, chaplain of the new chapel in Pendle “ “juravit obedientem” (swore obedience). The same year the chapel of the Blessed Mary of Pendle is endowed.


Edward Lapage

The Protectorate lasted from 1653 – 1658. This was the time that Oliver Cromwell, a radical puritan, ruled as Lord Protector after the execution of Charles I in 1649.

John Horrocks was the curate from 1637 -1638. Then we have a 31-year gap in our list of curates.

Robert Hartley was curate from 1669 – 1773.

In 1656 Richard Shuttleworth, under seal of the Commonwealth took an inquisition into the state of religion in the Blackburn Hundred. In it Newchurch in Pendle was described as a chapelry consisting of most of Pendle Forest containing 150 families. The minister was Mr Edward Lapage, described as an “able divine” and in receipt of £39 from the commissioners for the county.

These were troublesome times for the Church of England. Cromwell attempted to abolish the church and the prayer book was made illegal. The majority of the clergy were driven from their parishes and allowed one fifth of their income to support their wives and families. In their place were put Presbyterians, Baptists, independents and others. The commissioners of each county paid these men. It would appear that John Horrocks may have been ejected and replaced by Mr Edward Lepage, but we cannot yet prove this.

William Nabbs (or Nabs)

William Nabs was a curate at St. Mary’s between 1735 and 1767. In about 1756 after 21 years as curate he went to live at Nabs House, a plaque over the front door of Nabs House (53.84889N 2.25830W) indicates that he was married with more than one daughter.

While Wm. Nabbs was Curate he was cited in the consistory court at Chester for ‘Enormities’, which included ‘quarrelling and brawling, smiting and laying violent hands upon Edm(un)d Starkie of Gisburn in ye sd Chapell.’ He obviously remained in post and was later described as fulfilling his duties.

In 1747, despite the Act of Toleration of 1689, in this year 'six unlawful Conventicles' were presented from Newchurch chapelry that was then host to Wesleyan and Inghamite meetings at Roughlee. These were the 1st symptoms of a growing anti-evangelical mood in the district of Pendle that was to erupt into violence during 1748 and known as the Pendle Forest Riots.


Until the middle of the 18th century marriages could take place anywhere provided they were conducted before an ordained clergyman of the Church of England. This encouraged the practice of secret marriages which did not have parental consent and which were often bigamous. It also allowed couples, particularly those of wealthy background, to marry while at least one of the partners was under age.

In 1753 however, the Marriage Act declared that all marriage ceremonies must be conducted by a minister in a parish church or chapel of the Church of England to be legally binding.

William Nabs performed lots of marriages between 1734-1766, some at Nabs House. Perhaps these marriages supplemented his income valued in Archbishop Secker's survey of 1760 as £29. Either way after 1753 all marriages should have been performed in St. Mary’s Church, not Nabs House.





Wilfred Burton

Wilfred Burton was curate from 1967 to 1791 In 1778 - Wilfred Burton states to questions asked by Bishop Porteus about why the parish fell below the minimum requirement of the church that the reason he performed divine service and preached only once on Sundays was because he was required to serve at Barnoldswic. Also catechising (teaching principles of Christian dogma) only happened once a year in Newchurch, as according to Burton his parishioners did not send their children and servants to be catechised so duly as they ought.                                       

1778 - population 1,449 with 80 communicants, 257 households.                                            

1778 - Burton states - 'I reside constantly upon my Cure at a small farm I rent about half a measured mile from the chapel and have no curate'

1780 Wilfred Burton certified that land purchased by Curzon in 1724 now realised £36.10s by reinvestment in the property. He states that when he arrived in the parish (1766) the lands were let at that time for £19 15s, the buildings were ruinous and not tenantable and “no remedy against my predecessor (Nabbs) but in Chancery”. The repairs cost him £60 and upwards.

This raises many questions about where William Nabbs lived before he went to Nabbs House. Did he live in a curate’s house that he left abandoned when he moved to Nabs House, leading to Wilfred Burton’s complaint? Was the small farm rented to Wilfred Burton Nabs House? In either case Wilfred Burton seems to have been the poorer man and to have blamed William Nabbs for his predicament. The difference in income between Nabs (£29) a Burton (£19. 15s) is stark.

James Aitken 1745

The Aitken Memorial has many of the Aitkin family named, however one name stands out. “In memory of James Aitken, formerly of Dundee who joined the army of Prince Charles Edward during the Scotch Rebellion 1745. He eventually settled at Newchurch in Pendle where he was interred November 19th 1794”.

James must have been a young man when he came south. How or why he chose to stay is unknown but we think he was a gardener at Royal House in Burnley and later moved to a pub, now long closed, which at the time was called “The Holy Lamb” and later became “The Lamb"








Nanny Maud (Anne Maud)

Spenbrook Road from Douglas Hall down into Spenbrook is still known as “Nanny Maud”.

Anne Maude lived alone and was found dead in her house on the hill. She was buried in St. Mary Churchyard in 1791.

Local legend says that she demanded a cob of coal from the carter of every coal cart that went by.


John Rushton (1798 – 1868)

The Venerable John Rushton D.D. was the first Archdeacon of Manchester Diocese from 1843 to 1854.

He was born at Newchurch in Rossendale. His first curacy was at Langho and he was curate at St. Mary’s, Newchurch in Pendle from 1825 to 1843. He was also Vicar of Prestwich and Blackburn.

He married his wife Henrietta in 1843. His son also called John also became Vicar of Blackburn from 1877 – 1897.








N M Germon 1865 - 1870

The Rev Nicholas Medland Germon was the first Vicar of St. Mary’s. He died whilst Vicar of St. Mary’s aged 41 and is buried in the churchyard.

His father was the Rector of St. Peter’s, Manchester and High Master of The Free Manchester Grammar School from 1842 – 1859. (now Manchester Grammar School).

James Wyat built St. Peter’s Church in 1788. It stood where St. Peter’s Square is today until 1907 when, like other city churches, it closed because of the declining city centre population and consequent lack of parishioners.

J H Horrox 1870 – 1905


The Rev James Holt Horrox M. A. was Vicar of Newchurch from 1870 until he died in 1905. He was 70 years old when he died. His wife Catharine died in 1871 aged 31.

He was Vicar when the significant internal restoration took place in 1902.

This plaque on the altar reads:

“To the glory of God and in affectionate remembrance of his 32 years faithful teaching in the Sunday School by The Rev. James Holt Horrox M.A. Vicar of this parish, this altar table together with the credence table was presented by some two hundred of the teachers and scholars both past and present.

Mr John Bollard was Warden during Rev. Horrox’s incumbency. He was instrumental in raising the money both for the organ and the internal restoration. This plaque was presented to him for 40 years service as churchwarden from 1870 to 1910.

J S B Wallace 1944-51

Our Church Warden, Kathleen Wilkinson remembers Mr Wallace taking her and the other children up the tower on Ascension Day to sing “Hail the morn that sees him rise”.

Mr Wallace also wrote “A sketch of the history of the Parish of Newchurch in Pendle 1544 to 1945”. This invaluable booklet has been the basis of our research into the history of our church. Without his research of the history of St. Mary’s it would have been very difficult or even impossible to produce the historical elements of this website.

The Rev J S B Wallace was the nephew of Barnes Wallis who contributed to the Allied victory in World War 2, the Wellington, the bouncing bombs which breached the Mohne and Eder Dams, and the Tallboy and Grand Slam 'earthquake' bombs.

Barnes Neville Wallis (BNW) 1887-1979 was at the forefront of aviation progress during virtually the whole of his working life. Before World War 1, he was involved in the designing of rigid airships. Later he was responsible for the R.80, one of the most beautiful of airships ever built, and for the R.100, one of the most successful. He introduced geodesics into aircraft design and developed the swing-wing Swallow with its variable wing sweep.

Above all, he was a devoted family man who believed in many of the steadfast Victorian ideals. His articles of faith included a belief in the spiritual and intellectual qualities of the people of this Nation and of the Commonwealth.

BNW: "I can't do anything unless I am convinced it is necessary for the good of England and for the good of mankind".


Many curates, vicars and officers of St. Mary’s did long and faithful service. Two organists who did long service were:

Lawrence Hoyle Crinan

On the south wall of St Mary’s there is an impressive memorial plaque dedicated to the memory of a young medical student who died in 1876 at 20 years of age.

William Robert Riding Crinan was one of at least seven children born to James and Elizabeth Crinan and from 1851 onwards they lived at Habergham Eaves. Three of the seven children, including William, were baptised at St Mary’s. Interestingly their mother Elizabeth’s maiden name was ‘Riding’ and most of her children carried her name.

William’s father James had a brother called Lawrence Hoyle Crinan who in 1871 was living in Habergham Eaves with his brother and family, including William who was then aged 15. It would seem that William’s Uncle Lawrence remained unmarried all his life, dying in the early part of 1889 aged 69, having served as organist at St Mary’s for 30 years, some of it during the incumbency of Rev. J.H. Horrox. The census records show Lawrence as having been a Warehouseman in 1841 and 1861, a Bookkeeper in 1851 and Manager of a cotton weaving shed in 1871 and 1881.

In 1851 on census night Lawrence and his brother James were shown as visiting a widowed Aunt, Alice Howarth, in Goldshaw Booth.

Maurice Smith

The organ that preceded the current Wordsworth Organ installed in 1890 was sold at a cost of £18 to the Barley Primitive Methodist Chapel in 1901, where it was played by a fourteen year old boy, Maurice Smith.

No account of the recent history of our church would be complete without a word about this remarkable man. At the age of fifteen he became organist at Saint Mary's, a post he held for 59 years until his death in 1961. This greatly respected churchman held the history and traditions of the church at his fingertips. His working life was spent as a weaver at Spenbrook Mill, but for more than half a century he was organist, and for twenty years choirmaster, at Saint Mary’s. At one time his church choir exceeded 40 — those were the days! His music being described publicly by Rev. Frankland as “of cathedral standard.” He also ran the Girls’ Friendly Society choir, tended the Vicarage garden, and in his latter years undertook the duties of verger and sexton as well. A plaque near the choir vestry and the rose garden outside the porch preserves his memory.








Noel Harry Leaver b1889 d1951

Noel Harry Leaver was born in Austwick. He lived and worked, as an artist, in Burnley for most of his life. He was a watercolour artist of note. He painted watercolours in Africa, on the Continent and in England. He painted many cathedral and churches. He was one of the youngest ever pupils of the Royal College of Art, where he studied from the age of 16. He became a full associate (ARCA) at 21. He held teaching posts at both Halifax and Burnley Schools of Art. In the 1930s he stopped teaching to devote himself to his painting. He is buried in St. Mary’s Churchyard.


Below are some examples of his work you will find many more at


N Rowe 1961 – 1980

Local people still remember Rev. Nigel Rowe visiting them.

The Rev. Dr. Nigel Rowe was an academic who spoke Japanese.

What people may not know is that during the 2nd World War he served as a Foreign Office Civilian with the rank of Temporary Junior Administrative Officer at Bletchley Park. (TJAO was the most normal rank).






Edith Procter

Mrs Edith Procter became the Headteacher of St. Mary’s School on 7th January 1963, the year of the snow. The road was blocked and the water pipe froze, an interesting start to headship, but she was helped to walk over the snowdrifts and the walls by the son of the school cook. Edith was a member of the Church Choir for 48 years. She was also a member of the Parochial Church Council and designed the altar kneeler and the Mother’s Union Banner.

Mrs Procter wrote the history of St. Mary’s School that can be found here.

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