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A Brief History

When the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway Company purchased land in Horwich in 1884 on which to build Locomotive works, the future of Horwich was dramatically changed from the status of a “sleepy village” into a busy town.  In 1881 the population of Horwich was 3761. Just ten years later it had grown to 12850.  Such a rapid influx of people created the need for additional schools and churches. 

A church mission was established and met in a hayloft off Winter Hey Lane but this became too small and the fledgling church moved to a larger room above a bakehouse in Beatrice Street in 1888.  An inaugural service was held at the “Beatrice Street Mission” on 5th August 1888.

When a more suitable site for a new church and school was found on Richmond Street, a new combined church and school was opened for use on Wednesday 22nd January 1890. This land (where St.Catherine’s Court now stands) became the site of St.Catherine’s School, which remained there until the new St.Catherine’s School was opened on Greenstone Avenue in 2003.

This picture is of St.Catherine's School on Richmond Street in 2003 shortly before the new school on Greenstone Avenue was opened.

As the church out-grew the school building, it met for a while in a warehouse, before returning to an enlarged school building on Richmond Street in 1896. It was then decided to build an entirely separate church building on the west side of Richmond Street.  The building was designed by Richard Knill Freeman, and the foundation stone was laid in 1897.

This picture is of the laying of the foundation stone on Saturday 2nd October 1897. In the background you can see the terraced houses on Richmond Street and Rivington Pike

However it was 1902 before the church finally opened, and despite generous giving and gallant fund-raising, there was insufficient money to complete the design, so a temporary chancel was built at the east end.

This picture shows the temporary chancel built at the east end which was replaced in 1932. However the pulpit, choir stalls and lectern were all retained.

In 1910 St.Catherine’s formally became a parish church within its own parish.


This picture taken on 29th July 1928 shows the temporary wooden bell tower and the temporary chancel at the East end.

Further improvements to the building were made in 1912 when pitched pine boarded ceiling and mouldings were added, but it was not until 1932 that the temporary chancel at the east end was replaced with a new chancel, Lady Chapel, Organ Chamber and Clergy Vestry, designed by Frank Freeman, the son of Richard Knill Freeman.

Pews replaced the chairs in the nave in 1962.

However the pews were removed when the church was re-ordered in 1999, with new kitchen and toilet facilities, a partition at the halfway point and new chairs, providing much more flexible use of space.

At the time of writing (September 2016) new LED lighting is being installed throughout the church.

Our church building has changed down the decades but continues to evolve as we seek to hold on to the vision that brought it into being; to share in the good news of Jesus Christ with the local community.

Sketch of church from 1916. Note that the East end of the building was not finished until 1932, so there is a temporary chancel and wooden bell-tower.

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Below is is a taster of our history from over 100 years ago with two church magazines from the beginning of the first world war.

Church Magazine August 1914

Church Magazine September 1914