A medieval church at the summit of an industrial East Lancashire town.
The church of St Bartholomew, Colne, sits at the summit of the hill on which the town is built, at a height of 623 feet above sea level. It is not aligned precisely east-west, but so that the east end faces the point on the horizon where the sun rises on August 24th – St Bartholomew’s Day. Records show that the church existed in 1122 when, in the reign of Henry I, Hugh de la Val granted it to the Priory of Pontefract.
The church comprises a nave with three aisles, a chancel, two chantry chapels, a west tower and a south porch. The oldest part of the building is the north arcade which dates from the early C13. It has cylindrical columns with moulded capitals and double chamfered arches. The south arcade is Perpendicular, probably of the C15, and has the usual octagonal columns. Of this date, or perhaps a little later, are the chancel arch, the three-bay arcades to the chantry chapels, the west tower, and the south porch.
The tower stands sixty two feet high. It has angle buttresses to the west, and battlements, but no pinnacles. The west face has a door and a three light window. On all sides are bell openings. These are more elaborate than in many North Lancashire church towers. The south west corner has a stair turret. As with other late Perpendicular towers in the area shields are positioned at various places. It is likely that the upper part of the structure dates from a restoration of 1515, and the battlements were certainly restored in 1912. The tower holds eight bells, six made by Mears of Whitechapel in 1814, and two by the same firm of 1900. Inside is a very tall tower arch, of a height more often seen in eastern and southern England.
The south porch is of the Perpendicular period. The entrance arch is quite rudimentary with two chamfered mouldings and plain imposts. Above the arch is a statuary niche, presumably once holding a figure of the patron saint. At the top of the gable is an unusual sundial. It is a square block on a square column, topped by a ball finial. The style suggests the C18.
The form of the east and west windows is typical Perpendicular panel tracery (heavily restored or replaced). Those of the south nave and chapel are mainly the square-headed type, with four semi-circular lights and hood moulds above. This style lasted into the C18 in the north of England.
Extensive restoration work was carried out around 1815. It was at this time that a group in the town pressed for the old church to be pulled down and a new building erected. Their views were strongly held and they had plans for a new church prepared. The restorers were so fearful of this group’s intentions that they mounted a night-time guard until their work was complete!
The church is unusual in having two north aisles. In 1857 a new north aisle had been built, but in 1883 this was taken out and the double aisle built. The architects were Paley & Austin of Lancaster. Their work is excellent, as is usually the case with this firm, being sympathetic without slavishly copying what was already there. Most of the north side of the church is their work.
Inside the building has a great number of interesting memorials and some brasses. Probably the best of the former is a C18 piece – a large flat black obelisk in the chancel. On it is a tablet with a segmental pediment supported by consoles. Above this is a well executed portrait bust, and above that a portrait medallion. The piece commemorates Christopher and John Emmott. It is the work of Sir Robert Taylor (1714-1788), a sculptor who turned architect, better known for his work on the Bank of England.
The early C16 font was the gift of Lawrence Townley of Barnside in 1590. It has an octagonal bowl decorated with shields which show the Townley coat of arms, the instruments of the passion, IHS, and Townley’s initials. It stands on a multi-columned pier. The font bears a close resemblance to that at St Peter & St Paul’s, Bolton-by-Bowland.
The church has a good selection of stained glass. The east window of 1863 has five large figures with canopies and angels above, and is by Lavers & Barraud. Further windows are by Powell & Co, and by Jasper & Molly Kettlewell.
On the walls is a good collection of funeral hatchments, and woodwork from the Perpendicular period is also present in the chapel screens.