St Edmunds Church Falinge Rochdale
St Edmunds Falinge Rochdale
St Edmunds Church Falinge (or the Church of St Edmund) is located on Clement Royds Street, Falinge. St Edmunds is now redundant and was at one stage was critically endangered, and was placed among the nation’s top-10 endangered buildings. It has since been acquired by the Church Conservation Trust.The building was constructed between 1870-1873 at a cost around £28,000 (£1.84 million as of 2013), at that time a suitable parish church could have been built for around £4,000. Commissioned by Rochdale’s local industrialist banker and Freemason Albert Hudson Royds who belonged to Rochdale’s prominent Royds family of wool merchants.
The Royds were the financiers of the Rochdale Canal. After acquiring a crossroads at the highest point of Rochdale, Albert commissioned the Manchester-based practice of James Medland and Henry Taylor to design and construct. Freemasonry in Rochdale was a strong force and its members were stalwarts of the local community, the construction of the building was completed to a very high standard in 1873, with an “enormous” cost of around £25,000 (£1.64 million as of 2013). It is the only known church building in England that is overtly dedicated to Freemasonry and is therefore unique within English architecture. Because of the building’s craftsmanship, design and prevalent Masonic theme, St Edmunds Church was designated a Grade II listed building in 1985.
The church closed for worship in 2007, and in September 2010, St Edmunds heritage status was upgraded to Grade I. References to the traditions of Freemasonry are everywhere in St Edmunds, the weather-vain and lectern in particular. The interior of the church is designed around the geometric form of a cube. A hammer beam roof springs from the walls and is decorated with pomegranates, lilies and water lilies. The church also has an elaborate set of stained glass with the Masonic theme throughout. The Masonic theme climaxes in the Royds Chapel, where the window depicts Nehemia, Ezra and the Tyler or guard wielding the Tyler’s Sword. In the Solomon’s Temple scene Albert Hudson Royds himself is shown as one of the master masons. In the main body of the church, the lectern features three brass columns all with the symbolic tools of masonry engraved on the base. Many churches in Rochdale display reference to Freemasonry but none so prominently as St Edmunds. St Edmunds Church, Falinge.
The Victorian Society, the Uk’s national charity responsible for the study and protection of Victorian and Edwardian arts and architecture, identified the building as “unusual and extraordinary” The building was upgraded to a Grade I listed building by English Heritage in September 2010 largely due it being a rare example of Masonic architecture on a church, as opposed to a Masonic Lodge.
Nick Bridgland, of English Heritage said: “St Edmunds is unique as it merges the architectural style of Gothic revival with Masonic symbolism to create a building which is not only a successful parish church but also a temple to Freemasonry. The completeness of the Masonic scheme is unparalleled in England and the importance of this building is reflected in its Grade I listing”.
Art critic Nikolaus Pevsner described the building as
“Rochdale’s temple to Freemasonry, a total concept as exotic as Roslyn Chapel in Scotland”.