Todmorden Unitarian Church is Grade I Listed. It is a beautiful, characterful and much-loved building full of quirky features and secret places, managing to be both grand and imposing, and warm and welcoming at the same time.
Todmorden Unitarian Church, was built in 1864-9 by sons of ‘Honest’ John Fielden MP, a mill-owner and radical who was responsible for the ‘Ten Hours Act’ of 1847 that limited working hours of women and children. The Unitarian Movement originated in Todmorden and Fielden was a leading member.
John Gibson, who worked with Charles Barry on the rebuilding of the Palace of Westminster, designed the church. Among its important features are its alignment (south-west), its rose and 5-light chancel windows, the 59m, 3-stage octagonal tower and its lavish decorative scheme which survives largely intact.
Pevsner states that it “survives complete as one of the most elaborate Non-Conformist churches to adopt the style and arrangements of the Established Church during the High Gothic Revival”. Christopher Stell, a national authority on Nonconformist architecture, wrote: “as an example of High Victorian church architecture, this bears comparison with some of the best buildings of the Established Church; as representing the Nonconformist architecture of its period, it is unrivalled”.
You can download a short guide to Todmorden Church here.
Since HCT acquired the Grade I listed Todmorden Church in 1994 over £1m of restoration work has been completed, but there is much still to do. The restoration work was made possible thanks to generous grants from Historic England, the Heritage Lottery Fund, several grant giving trusts as well as many private individuals. The work has included:
- Repairs to roof, the 59m spire and the chancel
- Conservation of the stained glass, which was designed by Jean-Baptiste Capronnier (1814-1891)
- Restoring the derelict lodge
- New heating system, WCs and small kitchen.
In 2014, thanks to a generous legacy from a former bell-ringer the ring of bells was also restored.
Stoodley Pike is a 1,300-foot (400 m) hill in the south Pennines, noted for the 121 feet (37 m) Stoodley Pike Monument at its summit, which dominates the moors above Hebden Bridge and Todmorden.
HCT owns two other buildings nearby: Wainsgate Chapel which is a few miles away above Hebden Bridge, and Farfield Quaker Meeting House, which is in Addingham about 20 miiles away. You could also take in the Bronte Parsonage Museum at Haworth, which is on the way to Addingham and well worth a visit.