The original church, built in 1835 in the reign of William IV was a simple rectangular building. The chancel was added in August 1894, along with a new chamber to house the organ. The choir vestry at the south-east corner was added in November 1902 to commemorate the coronation of Edward VII and the tower was built in 1904.
When you enter the church itself, your eyes will be drawn to the beautiful and unusual east window which was installed to celebrate the church’s centenary in 1935. The central panel is a copy of Holman Hunt’s ‘Light of the World.’ To the right, you will see the Virgin Mary and to the left, St. John the Evangelist – holding a goblet containing a serpent or dragon. This refers to the legend, which tells how he took the poisoned cup and made it pure.
On the wall to the left of the altar is a plaque in memory of Colonel John Hargreaves, whose idea it was to build a church here and he became its first benefactor. The first Vicar of St. John’s was Colonel Hargreaves’ son-in-law, the Rev. William Thursby M.A. A plaque on the wall to the right of the altar commemorates the latter’s elder daughter.
William Thursby was incumbent for 34 years, from 1935 to 1869, during which time not only did he take no stipend, but also paid for maintenance of the structure. When leaving the “living” he wrote a letter saying that now it was the turn of the congregation to pay their own way – if they still wanted a church!
When William Thursby died in 1884, aged 89, his son, Colonel (later Sir) John Hardy Thursby offered to extend the church by adding a chancel in memory of his father. The new chancel would accommodate the choir and the organ which had stood in the west gallery since it was installed there when the church was built. In 1894 the old pipe organ was rebuilt in the chancel by Drivers of Burnley, and the pipe fronts you can still see are part of the original instrument.
The present Makin organ was installed on the 29th June 2008 (this replaced the Johannus Electronic Organ which was installed in November 1986). The former organ chamber located behind the siting of the current organ has been converted into useful offices – the upper space is a print-room and the lower space serving as a Parish Office / Vicar’s Vestry. It seems the church has always enjoyed music since two memorials dedicated to the memory of former choirmasters are to be seen within the church; one to Henry Stanworth on the south wall and a “St. Cecilia Window” to James Simpson in the north wall. (St. Cecilia is, of course, the patron saint of musicians.)
Like many people, you may feel the bare interior walls are somewhat unusual. They were stripped of plaster in 1930 to avoid the risk of dry rot – which many church buildings in this area suffer from due to the damp climate which was so perfect for the cotton-mills of old. Around the building you can see evidence of supports which show where the north and south galleries ran along the walls until they were removed in 1897.
The original lighting of the church would have been with candles and oil lamps. These were first replaced by gas, the fittings for which can still be seen on the beams in the body of the church (the Nave). Electricity replaced gas in 1939 and the present light fittings were installed in 1981. They came from St. John’s Church in the Gannow area of Burnley, which closed in the same year.
The brass pulpit was presented in 1897 by the women of the parish in thanksgiving for Queen Victoria’s sixty year reign – her Diamond Jubilee. The font, dated 1901, is yet another of the many gifts from the Thursby family. Over the door leading to the Choir Vestry and the level-entry to the church, hang three Flanders crosses – memorials to soldiers of Worsthorne who gave their lives in the First World War.
The church has been most fortunate over the years in having other generous friends, who have donated many of the furnishings; Communion Rail, Processional Cross, carpeting, a very fine (and heavy) Bishop’s Chair, a Litany desk, the Book of Remembrance and its display cabinet, embroidered kneelers (hassocks) and pew liners. These pew cushions were embroidered by some of the women of the church (and one man) between 1980 and the Church’s 150th anniversary in 1985. The designs represent church organisations and village industries. Recently a new set of hand-carved collection plates were purchased for us as part of the legacy of the late Henry Latham RIP.
In 2010 the threat of spreading dry rot and damage caused by leaks in several parts of the roof led to a parish-wide Appeal to fund repairs to the roof and a partial re-slating over the Chancel-area and close to the Tower at the west-end of the church. The response from local people and friends of St. John’s was very encouraging – and the building has been repaired, a new and improved heating system installed, and various other general maintenance issues resolved. The latest project is improving the pathway leading up to the church and around to the south side, and a new hand-rail up the steep steps into the church at the main entrance.
You may well notice how well-kept the church grounds are. This is due to the constant hard-labour of a dedicated maintenance team of volunteers led by Barbara Wharton and Marc Bamber, Warden and Deputy-Warden respectively. So many people down the years have worked to maintain and improve this beautiful place of worship so that an oasis of tranquillity and prayerfulness is at the heart of this lovely village of Worsthorne – for those who live here and for friends and visitors. Thanks be to God for their efforts and dedication.