By Rosemary Taylor
When Samuel Oldknow opened his mill in 1792, he employed children in the custom of his day and many of them lived on his premises at Bottoms Hall. Although he had been brought up as a Unitarian, he considered it necessary for them to attend church on Sundays, probably for moral rather than theological education. In those days Marple was part of the large parish of St.Mary's, Stockport, and had a small, black and white chapel which had been built in the 16th century. By the time Oldknow came to Marple it was beyond repair and was blown down in a gale in1804.
Mr. Bradshaw-Isherwood of Marple Hall and Oldknow formed a committee and raised money to build a new church on the same site at the top of the hill. This was much larger, built of stone, and had a gallery. See an exterior photograph from our archive here. It was completed in 1811 and cost £4000. £1030 was subscribed by the proprietors of seats in the old chapel and Oldknow contributed the majority of the balance, thereby claiming 305 seats for his workpeople. Five years later a peal of bells was installed from the parish church in Stockport followed by an organ in 1826. The splendid chandelier, which is now in the “new” church was given by Mr. Bradford Norbury.
Pews at the front of the nave were reserved on one side for Oldknow and on the other for the Bradshaw family from Marple Hall. They were kept warm by fireplaces one on each side. You can see a photograph of the inside here. Oldknow also donated land near the church for a house for the curate, which, in due course, became the Vicarage.
This church served Marple well until Marple became a parish in its own right in 1876, by which time the population had grown to over 4000, and a larger church was needed. Oldknow's church was found to be unsuitable to enlarge, and a completely new church was built alongside in 1880. The two churches stood side by side until 1964, by which time the old church was past repair. The nave of the old church was demolished, but the tower which still carries the bells, was refurbished. It now houses Samuel Oldknow’s memorial stone. The space which was the nave is now used for the interment of cremation ashes.