Our History

To be a growing church making a growing difference

The Original Chapel

Great Sankey was in the parish of Prescot which was then in the Diocese of Chester when the first chapel was built. A chapel has been in existence since about 1640. It was built by public subscription on land given by the Ireland family of Bewsey.

The chapel was built for Presbyterian worship and when the Lancashire Presbyterian Classes were formed in 1646, Peter Brook and William Barnes were named as lay elders of Sankey. No mention is made of the minister but Rev. Hugh Henshaw who in 1649 called himself the first minister of Sankey was ejected from his living in Cheshire under the Act of Uniformity in 1662.

It is interesting to note that in 1667 and 1669, George Fox the founder of the Society of Friends visited Sankey and held meetings in the home of the above named William Barnes.

In 1650 a parliamentary survey was made of church lands. It noted that there was a chapel at Sankey and recommended that it became a separate parish. This eventually happened in 1876! By the time Bishop Gastrell of Chester visited it in 1720 it was in a bad state of repair.

The Second Chapel

The chapel was rebuilt in 1728 and placed under episcopal government by the Atherton family of Bewsey. The Rev. Thomas Hayward was appointed curate. He was also headmaster of Boteler Grammar School in Warrington. On his death in 1757 the Rev. Edward Owen was appointed to both posts. He resigned the living at Sankey in 1767 of being appointed Rector or of Warrington.

The Third Chapel

In the mid 1760’s it became necessary to rebuild again. They certainly wanted a larger church and maybe it was once again in need of repair. Whatever the reasons it is certain that the new building was consecrated on 11th June 1769. The patronage was invested in Robert Gwillyied who had married the heiress of Richard Atherton of Bewsey. Through marriage this has passed to Lord Lilford, who is the present patron. The incumbent at the time of the consecration was Rev. Edward Edwards. In 1773 he was followed by the Rev. Edward Lloyd, who was second master at Bottler Grammar School. When he died in 1813 the connection with the Grammar School ended. It was during Lloyd’s time that the first parsonage was built.

A Time of Expansion

From the beginning of the nineteenth century we see a time of expansion rather than of rebuilding. In 1813 a new organ was installed. This was placed i the gallery. A school was built on the north side of the chapel in 1815 and enlarged in 1838. The School became one of the National Schools run by the “National Society for the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church”. The School closed in 1886 when the new Board School opened. This continues today as Sankey County Primary School.

By 1833 the existing graveyard was nearly full so it was extended by using land between the school and the chapel. This land also filled up quickly and the churchyard was extended by using land down St. Mary’s Road. This land was given to the chapel for use as a burial ground when Greystone Common was enclosed in 1867. The first burials took place in 1881. Most of this land was compulsory purchased in 1969 by the Education Authorities for use as a playing field for Penketh High-School. 

In 1821 the population of Sankey and Penketh was 1028. This rise in the population caused a lack of accommodation in the chapel. This problem was resolved in 1842 by enlarging the gallery. The tower became unsafe in 1867 and was rebuilt in its present form in 1869. 

About 1880 it became necessary to replace the old box pew seating. The vicar, Reverend E. S. Jackson (1879-1899) and wardens took the opportunity to enlarge the church by building an extension on to the east end of the church. This contained an organ chamber, chancel and vestry. The church was re-seated and re-roofed. A porch was also added. The old vicars vestry that had contained the stairs to the gallery was converted to a Baptistry. This work was completed by August 1883 and gives us the church we have today, with the exception of the choir vestry that was added in 1930. 

The parish was growing (2769 in 1901) and so a Sunday School was built in 1887 and in 1889 a mission church was built in Penketh.

Today we take electric lights for granted but until 1898 the church was lit with oil lamps. In that year they were replaced by gaslights, which in turn gave away to the electric lights in 1926.

 In 2006 it was decided to reorder the church. The church was closed for three months in 2007 and the whole of the interior was stripped out. The sanctuary area was redesigned and all the pews were removed. The whole area was carpeted, rewired and fitted with new lights and decorated. New furniture was bought including chairs to replace the pews. A tea and coffee bar was placed at the rear of the nave together with the sound management system.

Further work was carried out in 2010 that included inserting a door into the west wall of the church so that the balcony can be accessed from the church. The balcony was carpeted and the choir vestry was modernised for the use of the children.

The last 50 years have seen a great population explosion in the area and the spiritual needs of the people have had to be met. This has been accomplished by creating three new parishes. In 1978 St. Paul’s, Penketh became a separate parish and in 1982 parts of our parish went to form the parishes of St. James, Hood Manor and St. Phillips, Westbrook.


The early clergy lived in Warrington, as they were masters of the Boteler Grammar School.

The first vicarage was built about 1800 for Reverend Edward Lloyd. This was replaced at the end of the century and Reverend J. Roger Jones moved into the new vicarage when he was appointed vicar in 1900. The third vicarage was built in 1968 and the Reverend Gordon McKibbon, who had been living in Stocks Lane, moved into it. All three vicarages have been built on the same site.

The registers – The registers start in 1728.

Roy Allen – June 2011

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ST Mary's Church of England
Liverpool Road, Great Sankey,
Warrington WA5 1RE