Rochdale Parish Church of St Chad
and St Mary in the Baum

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⇒ View a 360º tour of St Chad's and also St Mary in the Baum.

St Chad's is the historic parish church for Rochdale. 

Situated on an eminence overlooking the busy town of Rochdale, the Parish Church of St Chad has been a geographical and spiritual focal point for at least 800 years.  In common with that other famous local enimage - the 'Roman Road' over Blackstone Edge - the origins of the Parish Church are hidden in the mist of antiquity.

The first written record of the existence of the Church is in a document of 1194 which refers to Geoffrey the Elder, Dean of Whalley, as Vicar of Rochdale.  Hence the 800th anniversary was celebrated in 1994 with a visit by Her Majesty the Queen and Prince Philip.

However, the dedication to St Chad argues that the Church may have been much earlier in foundation. Ceadda or St Chad as he became known, was born in the 7th century and educated under St Aidan in the monastery on Linidisfarne.  He is known to have made several missionary journeys on foot in the north before being consecrated Bishop of Mercia.

He died soon afterwards in 672.  It is not impossible that he founded this church in Rochdale on one of his journeys.  In the window dedicated to him in the south aisle, he is pictured preaching in Rochdale and his image is over the south porch holding the church in his hands.

St Chad is much venerated in the Diocese of Manchester; there are five other churches dedicated to him, but none is of ancient foundation except Rochdale.  However, there are two in North Lancashire - Poulton-le-Fylde and Claughton - which are.

There are no remains of a church with earlier foundation except the so-called "Saxon Wall" at the northwest boundary of the churchyard.  This consists of some 30ft of slab of local stone slotted into uprights.  It was found partly buried and re-erected in 1903. The authority for describing the wall as "Saxon" is obscure.

St Mary in the Baum

In February 2011 the Church of St Mary-in-the-Baum, Rochdale, celebrated its centenary.  This was marked on February 2nd (Festival of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary) by a candle-lit Candlemass Service conducted by the Bishop of Manchester, Rt Revd Nigel McCulloch, as part of a week of various celebratory activities.

The first St Mary-in-the-Baum Church was built in 1742 as a 'chapel-of-ease' (an overflow facility) for Rochdale Parish Church, St Chad's.  By 1909 the original church required so much repair that it was decided it would cost less to rebuild it.

The current church was consecrated on Februrary 2, 1911 by the Bishop of Manchester and is a Grade II listed building.

The architect was Sir Ninian Comper, a man well-known to those who take an interest in beautiful English churches.

The arrangement of the church is unusual, with the main aisle, choir and sanctuary along the south side of the church, and the Jesus Chapel on the north side.

The pillars which are used to separate off the Jesus Chapel are from the old church, as are its 'bottle glass' windows.

Substantial restoration of the church took place during the 1990s thanks largely to the efforts of the vicar at the time, Canon David Finney.

Baum (Rochdale dialect for 'balm') refers to the wild flowers which grew in the meadows where the church was built, variously thought to be Lemon Balm (Melissa Officinalis) or White Mint.  Apparently this was a medicinal herb with healing powers, used as an ointment or as an infusion, and is known to have been sold in the late 1700s in Rochdale by local herbalists.

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