100 years on: Get me to the church on time!


Vicar Margaret and children welcome Bishop of Chester

St John’s Church, Furness Vale, has been celebrating its centenary with a visit from the Bishop of Chester, a flower festival, a ‘long table’ lunch and a family service with special guest Roly Bain the clown (the Holy Fool, he calls himself).

The Bishop, Rt  Rev Peter Forster, arrived on time for the centenary celebration service.  That was more than his predecessor managed 100 years ago. The then bishop was due to open the new St John’s in March 1912, but telegraphed ahead to say his train was running three hours late and to ‘carry on without me’.

Bishop's procession, with local clergy. Margaret is on right, foreground

The 2012 Bishop of Chester was welcomed to Furness Vale by vicar the Rev Margaret Owens and youngsters in 1912 clothes, including a young boy in a bowler hat.  The church was full for the celebration service, with representatives from other local parishes.

Roly the clown commands his congregation

There was another full church for the visit of Roly Bain, the Holy Fool, who had the congregation rocking with laughter.  But behind his slapstick, there were Christian messages for the family congregation.  Roly is an ordained Anglican priest as well as a professional clown, He has performed all over the UK and many countries abroad..

Roly the clown demonstrates one of his tricks

Margaret Owens is also vicar of Disley – the two churches are a joint parish, although Furness Vale is in the civic parish of Whaley Bridge.  Margaret wrote in the welcome programme for the centenary celebrations:

A hundred years ago, the vision and generosity of those who lived and worked in Furness Vale, Newtown and Disley, led the building of St John’s, an event that brought the church right into the spiritual heart of our local community. Since then, countless people have worshipped and served here.

“Originally a tin tabernacle church was proposed, but the people of Furness Vale and Newtown insisted on having a building that would last, a stone church, and so the fund-raising began.  The eventual total did not quite allow for the architect’s original design to be realised.  Nevertheless, there was great excitement when the church was consecrated for worship on 23 March 1912.”

  • The final part of the centenary celebration is a concert by Chapel male voice choir in the church hall at 7.30pm on Friday 13 July.  Tickets at the door:  £5.


  • Before St John’s was built, Furness Vale was in four different parishes:  Disley, Taxal, New Mills and Glossop
  • In 1908, a public meeting  demanded ‘a good stone church’ instead of a ‘tin tabernacle’.  Local landowner Col Jodrell provided a site and a cheque for £500  (worth an estimated £47,000 today)
  • In 1910, the architect’s plans were approved, although the projected tower was never built
  • The opening service in 1912, which the then Bishop of Chester missed because of his delayed train, was taken by the vicar, Rev H W Haworth
  • Gladys McCartney was the first child to be baptised in the church in 1912.  She went on to become a Sunday School teacher.  Gladys only died in 2008, aged 96.  Her funeral service was in St John’s
  • 1922 – a new organ was installed
  • 1930 – electric lighting was installed
  • 1991 – the church and hall were redecorated by volunteers
  • 2001 – the Remembrance Garden was created for the burial of ashes
  • 2002 – Furness Vale’s Methodist chapel closed.  The Christmas Eve carol service was transferred to St John’s and has been there since
  • 2003 – lightning hit St John’s, shattering the stone cross on the apex above the east window

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