It comes as little surprise that the oldest buildings in Greater Manchester are all churches; St Mary the Virgin in Eccles has parts built in the 13th century, the tower of St Chad, Rochdale, dates to the 1200s; and, St Leonard in Middleton has fragments of a Norman billet frieze. But Greater Manchester also has an amazing collection of Victorian and modern churches to explore. Here are a few to show off what the region has to offer.

A Comper masterpiece

St Mary’s is the only major work in the northwest by Comper and is well worth a visit. Also next door is the recently extended Rochdale Pioneers Museum in the shop where the Cooperative Movement began. Baum refers to the wild flowers which grew in the meadows where the church was built, thought to be Lemon Balm or White Mint.

St Mary in the Baum, Rochdale

Glorious stone heads

The highlight of St Mary’s is the stunning Epiphany reredos together with the number of stone heads hidden around the stonework of the building. The church is the Garrison Church of the Lancashire Fusiliers and the Regimental Colours hang in the nave.

St Mary the Virgin, Bury

Medieval stained glass

The medieval stained glass telling the story of St Helena and her search for the True Cross is unique in the north of England and amongst the best of its type in the country,

St Michael & All Angels, Ashton under Lyne

Medieval painted panels

The earliest possible mention of a church at Wigan occurs in the Domesday Survey of 1086. The recently restored painted medieval panels found in the rectory are thought to have formed the wings of a 15th century reredos and are well worth a visit on their own.

All Saints, Wigan

Centre of the community

St Mary’s stands proud at the head of the old marketplace right in the centre of the community. A church was on the site by 1190 but only the original oratory remains. The chancel remains from a 1310 church, but the rest of the present church was built between 1813 and 1817 to the design of Lewis Wyatt.

St Mary in the Marketplace, Stockport

The hidden gem

The church is tucked away behind other buildings but is well worth searching out to view the enormous Stations by Norman Adams. His huge Fourteen Stations of the Cross is one of the great ecclesiastical commissions in the country this century, and is an act of inspired patronage.

St Mary, Manchester

Gloriously modern

Built as Manchester built its new suburbs, the church stands rather like an Odeon Cinema on the main road out of town. This was the first church designed by the architect Nugent Francis Cachemaille Day. There has been a well executed modern reordering to provide a community room with a meeting room ‘floating’ above the nave.

St Nicholas, Burnage

A stunning roof

St Mary the Virgin, Eccles, has stood for at least 800 years and is attracting an ever increasing number of visitors who wish to share in a sense of history and link with the thousands of people who have found solace and comfort within its walls. The roof of the church is quite stunning and well worth a visit. It compares well with that of Manchester Cathedral and may be by the same craftsmen.

St Mary the Virgin, Eccles

One of Bodley’s best

The church rises proud from its churchyard and is one of Bodley’s best churches. The interior is stunning. Known locally as the 'Miners Cathedral' it stands as the gift of Edward Heywood. Nicholas Pevsner writing in the Buildings of England described the church as one of the greatest and most moving of all Victorian churches.

St Augustine, Pendlebury

A peaceful place

The interest here is not in particular individual buildings but in the Settlement itself. Opened in 1785, it was planned and built by its own people; with inn, shop, bakery, farm, laundry, fire engine, night watchman, inspector of weights and measures, an overseer of roads, and even its physician. The church has been reordered but the graveyard in front of it is a lovely peaceful place.

Fairfield Moravian Church, Droylsden

Greater Manchester Churches Preservation Trust

The Society aims to raise awareness of the rich variety of church buildings in Greater Manchester and raise funds make grants for repairs. The Society also arranges four visits each year to churches and chapels of interest to members and friends

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