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St Thomas The Martyr Parish Church, Up Holland

Church Street, Up Holland, Lancashire WN8 0ND 

St Thomas the Martyr Parish Church lies in the heart of historic Up Holland, a Lancashire village that was mentioned in the Domesday Book. It is a Church of England parish church, and sits within the Wigan and West Lancashire Archdeanery of the Liverpool Diocese. Our church building is over 700 years old, having originally been a priory.

On this page you will find many interesting bits of information, whether you are looking for news of church events, services or the people involved, or purely interested in learning more about the historic building and village. There are also some links just below this paragraph relating to historical facts and frequently asked questions about the church and surrounding area.

A model of how the Priory looked in its early days is shown on the right.Up Holland Parish Church was originally a Priory, founded in 1307 as a college for a Dean and twelve secular priests, by Sir Robert de Holland (b.1270, Up Holland, d.1328, Borehamwood, Herts), secretary to Thomas Plantagenet, Earl of Lancaster. Sir Robert was married to Maud, daughter and heiress of Alan, Lord Zouche of Ashby. It was dedicated to St. Thomas the Martyr. Charges of misbehaviour led Walter de Langton, Bishop of Lichfield to convert it to a Priory with twelve monks in 1319 - the last foundation of its kind in pre-Reformation England.


In 1323, King Edward II stayed at the Priory for a fortnight during his Royal Progess in the north country.


By the Dissolution in 1536 there were only five monks and twenty-six servants with an income of around £78, so the Priory was closed, even before Henry VIII began to close the smaller monasteries. Little can be said of the remains of the monastic buildings - they were to the south of the church but did not join it except in the western range of claustral buildings. Part of the western wall is standing; it was of two storeys with a row of windows on the west. In 1546 a chamber was mentioned at the west end of the chancel, which may be that on the south face of the tower, the roof corbels of which still remain.


The Priory became influential over a large area. It would seem that the priory church at Childwall owed allegiance to that at Up Holland, and monks visited Childwall once a year to collect tithes owing. In the lists of 'Lands of the Dissolved Religious Houses' (1536-7) the following entry appears under the priory of (Up) Holland:


Chyldewall rectory:Farm of Grastan Hall in Garston and a pature called Pryors Heys in Hale, parcels of the Glebe lands of Chyldewall. Farms of the tithebarns of Garston and Agburgh, Lee Barne, Wotton Barne, Lytlr Barne of the Grene, Hale Barne, Bake Barn alias Hale Bank Barne and Wavertre Barne with the Tithes of corn belonging to them and tithes of corn in Speke, corn and hay in Thyngwall, hay in Garstan Hall and hay in Chyldewall not before mentioned.


The original plan for the Priory Church was not finished in the 14th century, a smaller tower than planned being added in the 15th century. It should be understood that the monastic chancel is what now forms the nave of the present church. The original plan was for the tower to form the centre of a crossing, and the west windows of the north and south aisles fill the top part of the arches clearly intended to lead on to the transept of that crossing. the east crossing piers of the planned transepts can be seen on the outside of the north and south aisle west walls. The north and south arcades were originally intended to carry a clerestory above. It may be that this was built and subsequently removed, the excess weight causing the arcades to lean outwards, a phenomenon which can be easily seen inside the church.


Many of the pew ends in the side aisles bear the date 1635 and the initials of the families whom they served. In 1752, the church was reordered with the addition of box pews and galleries on three sides. These were subsequently removed and the uneven floor re-laid. The plaster ceiling was added at this time, and a fine Flemish chandelier hung from the central rose. This is now in the chancel. In the following century, an organ (originally a barrel-organ) was placed in the tower arch, forward of the ringing chamber. Most of the glass is Victorian, but the second window in the south aisle contains an assemblage of medieval glass fragments which have been re-used.


Due to Civil War, it was not immediately established as a parish church until 1822, when Up Holland became a parish. Even so, there had been clergy continuously serving and living in the village since 1310.In 1882-6, a new chancel was built at the east end of the building, with a crypt beneath which forms the present vestry. An estimate was obtained from Gray and Davison to move the organ into the chancel in 1883. This work was never carried out, but there is a blank arch on the south side of the chancel which could well have been intended as an opening into an organ chamber. The structure became the building that we see today.

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