St Mary’s is a lovely listed Victorian church in rural west Lancashire.
Its history is closely linked to the Hesketh family, lords of the manor of Rufford from the 15th century. Their seat, Rufford Old Hall, now owned by the National Trust, stands adjacent to the church and is itself well worth a visit.
A church has stood on this site for centuries but the foundation stone of the present building was laid in 1869 and the new church, built in the Gothic style, was re-consecrated in 1873. Various monuments from the previous buildings, including a small brass of a knight, Sir Robert Hesketh (d1541), are incorporated in the present church. The interior of the church contains several other notable historical features including the Hesketh Chapel, a Royal Coat of Arms, a splendid two tier 1763 brass chandelier (a matching one can be found in the Old Hall), and a fine Gray and Davison of London pipe organ. War memorials commemorate those who fell in the conflicts of the past. The capitals of the nave arcade columns are decorated with stiff leaf foliage and are alive with carved flora and fauna, including pheasants and squirrels. The church is rich in stained glass windows, many of which depict parables. The series of vivid jewel like Stations of the Cross around the walls are a late 20th century addition. Some regard these as the most beautiful feature of the church; others are not sure that they really fit in their Victorian context. Come and make up your own mind!
The church is near the towpath of the Rufford Branch of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. St.Mary’s Marina, with its eateries, is just across the road. Regarded by those familiar with it as something of a hidden gem, St. Mary’s church is regularly used for worship, concerts and other events. For walkers, cyclists, bargees, anglers and others who pop in, the church offers a quiet place for prayer and a building of interest and beauty.