St Chads is the Mother Church of the Parish of Rochdale. It is an ancient and handsome gothic building with a square tower. The oldest part was built in the year 1100 on land given by Adam de Spotland in order to buy his way into God's good books. A list of past incumbents inside the church tells us that Geoffrey, Dean of Whalley, was the vicar in the year 1194.

The following is an extract from "Rochdale Past & Present, a History and Guide" by William Robertson 1876.

"The mother church of the parish is of great antiquity, and stands on a commanding eminence, the ascent to which is by a flight of 124 steps. The church was erected in the 12th century, and has undergone various changes, alterations, and renovations. The local legend is, that the site of the church was, in point of fact, the place chosen by spirits and fairies for the purpose. On several occasions, as the story relates, the materials brought together for the erection of the church, on an entirely different site, were removed from the place originally selected to the hill or eminence on which St. Chad's stands. That this removal was the work of superhuman agency, was the firm belief of our forefathers in those far-distant days; and we should be sorry to do or say anything which could in the remotest manner interfere with this time-hallowed belief, which has been handed down to us, and which, with vast numbers among us, is received with the greatest deference and respect.

The site ultimately adopted, under such supernatural pressure, led, of course, to the formation of the celebrated church steps; to ascend which is always considered a necessary piece of work to be performed by all visitors to our good old town. To come to Rochdale and not mount the steps is considered a breach of good manners, as well as a serious deprivation of a very agreeable exercise. The steps, in fact, are among our most cherished possessions; and they form a most important thoroughfare, with which it would be very unwise to intermeddle to the great prejudice of the inhabitants."
A later Vicar, Samuel Dunster, built what is now the old Vicarage, in 1726.It is now the home of the Rochdale Business Bureau.

A new cemetery was added to the old burial ground in 1813 during the incumbency of the Revd. Thomas Drake. The new cemetery was planted with elms and intersected by gravel pathways, and as a tribute to Thomas Drake the parishioners erected an elegant monument as a tribute to their beloved vicar who died 19th September 1819 after 29 years as minister.

At the end of the Napoleonic War many men returned to their homes to find their jobs had been taken over by machinery. All over the country the working men were hungry and restless and were beginning to form groups in order to voice their objections to the Government. One such meeting took place in Manchester and William Hay, senior magistrate of the Salford Hundred, sent in the Cavelry to quell a difficult situation. This was later known as the Peterloo Massacre. The said William Hay was then appointed the Vicar of St. Chads after the death of Thomas Drake in 1819.

The whole parish was divided into 4 sections, one of which was Hundersfield. This section comprised the 5 townships of Wuerdle & Wardle, Whitworth & Brandwood, Todmorden & Walsden, Blatchinworth & Calderbrook and Wardleworth. From a Parliamentary inquisition in 1650 it appears that Hundersfield had two chapels, one at Littleborough and one at Todmorden. The commissioners recommended these should be made into parish churches. The tithes at Hundersfield were then worth £100 a year out of which Mr. Thomas Bradshaw, the minister of Littleborough, had his maintenance, and Mr. Francis Core, minister of Todmorden, "a well qualified minister, but of scandalous life and conversation", had £20 a year and a house worth 6s.8d a year.

Most of Todmorden and all of Walsden fell within the Parish of Rochdale and its Mother church of St. Chad. The chapel of St. Marys in Todmorden did not become a Parish Church in its own right until 1866, and until that time it remained a Chapel of Ease to St. Chads. This meant that the folk of Todmorden and Walsden had a choice of venue for baptisms, marriages and burials. Whilst it would have been ridiculous to carry a baby or a coffin the many miles to St. Chads in Rochdale, it was a wonderful excuse to hold their weddings there. They could visit another locality where most had never been and turn the day into something extra special. Several people would make the journey together and it was quite a common sight to see wedding parties set off with maybe 2 or 3 couples to be married together. The Wedding Party had to set off early on the Sunday morning, as they had to be in time to be married before the morning service commenced. They would be walking or maybe hitching a lift on a cart. After the ceremony the party would adjourn to a public house for a rest and refreshment before attempting the long journey back. The return journey would be broken by a stop at "Old Tom's" under Blackstone Edge for dinner and then be home by evening.


List of incumbents

In a Police Commission report of the time evidence was given to the Commission on behalf of magistrates in Lancashire, which told, of "ferocious highway robberies" around the neighbourhood of Bury, Preston and Rochdale, while he never used Blackstone Edge and Todmorden Vale roads because "people there are barbarous to an unusual degree". Wedding parties may have been lucky to arrive home in one piece.

The church was extensively repaired in 1856. The columns and arches resemble those of Canterbury Cathedral. The interior contains several monuments in honour of the various incumbents and the more distinguished parishioners, amongst whom are the Chadwicks, the Hopwoods, the Holts, the Walmesleys and the Smiths.

On December 1st. 1994 the 800 year anniversary was marked by a visit from Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.

The registers have been filmed and transcribed. Fiche sets can be purchased from the Lancashire Parish Register Society at

Baptisms, marriages and burials 1582-1700

Marriages 1701-1801

Also from the Lancashire Family History and Heraldry Society at

Baptisms November 1894-Dec 1899

The graveyard has all the stones laid flat with just a few vaults scattered around. It is well kept and most of the gravestones are easy to read. A collection of inscriptions with photographs can be seen below.


Here resteth the body of James CLEGG of Shawfield Clothier

who was buried the 3rd day of September 1691.

Here resteth the body of Ann the wife of James CLEGG of Shawfield Clothier

who departed this life the 7th day of September 1730 aged 78.

Also the body of ye said James CLEGG

who died ye 15 of August 1737 in ye 82 year of his age.

Also John CLEGG of Shawfield Clothier who departed this life April 21st


Here resteth the body of Elizabeth the wife of James OLDHAM

who departed this life April 11th 1755 in ye 24th year of her age.

Also James his son died March 16th 1755 in ye 2nd year of his age.

Also James OLDHAM of Yorkshire Street Hatmaker

who departed this life the 11th of June 1765 in the 37th year of his age.

Also of Benjamin OLDHAM of Church Lane Hatter

who departed this life Feby 17th 1834 aged 41 years.

Also of Jane his daughter

who departed this life Septr 17th 1834 aged 19years.

O may I stand before the Lamb when Earth and Seas are fled,

And hear the judge pronounce my name with Blessings on my head

Also of Samuel OLDHAM of Church Lane Druggist (his son)

who died June 14th 1843 AE 26years.


Here resteth the body of Robert HARDMAN Gunsmith

who departed this life March ye 26th 1748

also John HARDMAN his son

who departed this life August 19th 1747.


Here resteth the body of Jonathan WOOLFENDEN Hatter

who died Oct 6th 1813 in the 47th year of his age.

Samuel son of Jonathan WOOLFENDEN died March 28th 1799 aged 9 mths.

Also Henry WOOLFENDEN Hatter

who died Jany 9th 1813 in the 79th year of his age.

Also Henry the son of Joseph and Mary WOOLFNDEN Painter

who died Decr 23rd 1836 in his 2nd year.


In memory of James FLETCHER of Pinfold

who departed this life May 18th 1834 aged 72 years.

Also of Betty his wife

who departed this life the 11th day of May 1837 AE 75 yrs.


Here resteth the body of Grace the wife of James WRIGLEY

of Heights Butcher who died the 23rd of November 1673.

Also James WHITWORTH Hardwareman late of Heights

who departed this life July 24th 1759 aged 43.

Also James HOWARD of Blackwater

who departed this life the 21st of July 1788 in the 38th year of his age.

Also Ellen his daughter died aged 8 months.


Here lieth the body of Charles ROYDS Jun.

Who departed this life the Twenty fourth day of November 1788

aged 9 years 4 Months & 15 Days.