Lancashire Churches

St. Thomas’ Church in Garstang

A plain Georgian church, built in 1770, and extended in 1874.

The parish church of Garstang is St Helen’s, a medieval building a couple of miles from the town centre, at the hamlet of Churchtown (Kirkland).

In the C18 a chapel of ease existed in the town, but in 1769, this building was “in a decayed condition”, and the inhabitants decided that a new one must be built. The funding for the chapel was by subscription. Each person giving £20 or more received a double seat at the front of the nave, and a bench for servants. The foundation stone was laid in 1770 by the agent of Sir Edward Walpole, lord of the manor. It was not until 1848 that the chapel was consecrated with the dedication to St Thomas.

The building that was erected comprised the present nave, tower and a small chancel. The tower as built, had a cupola, and its domed finial is now on the gable over the chancel arch. Today the tower is finished by corner pinnacles – obelisks finished with balls. The obelisk is a motif commonly found on Georgian buildings, and these were probably added c.1807 when the tower was increased in height by eight courses of stone. The tower has doors to north and south, semi-circular headed bell openings, clocks set in stone circles on three faces and quoins.

The nave has three semi-circular headed windows with keystones and impost blocks. A classical, or as Pevsner observes an “Italianate”, form. However, each window is subdivided by wooden “Y” tracery that forms two gothic lancets. A west gallery is supported on thin iron columns with foliate capitals. This probably dates from the 1830s when galleries were installed, including one on the north wall, to accommodate the increasing congregation.

In 1874 the small Georgian chancel was replaced by a new, larger one, and an organ chamber added. A large semi-circular chancel arch with a single moulding over it, then became the eastern focus of the nave. The windows of the chancel continue the round-arched theme, with a group of three forming the east window. The old box pews were replaced in the same year by the present open ones.

In 1876 the present stained glass of the east window was installed. It depicts “The Walk to Emmaus”, “The Ascension”, and “Christ Appearing to St Thomas”. No maker is noted, but the figures are surrounded by unusual decoration including a number of circles with diagonal crosses. Bull’s eye glass is used here, as it is on the very attractive doors between the nave and the entrance area.

At the west end of the nave stands a font dated 1770. It is an elegant stone baluster with a marble bowl on top. It was intended in 1770 that the tower have three clock faces. It had to wait until 1995 until it received them!