CHRIST Church in Eccleston is celebrating its 175th Anniversary this year.

It was built in 1838, courtesy of the generosity of the same Samuel Taylor who donated land for the town's largest Victorian park - Taylor Park.

I’ve given over this week’s column to Rachel Lyon to tell you something of ”the rich tapestry that is the history of the small sandstone church in the leafy district of Eccleston.”

Rachel continues: “Christ Church is a house of worship with a story to tell that straddles the years and stretches for thousands of miles across the globe.

“This year it celebrates its 175th Anniversary. It is the oldest church in the (pre1974) Borough of St Helens and was built to serve a world unrecognisable against today’s panoply of life passing its lych-gate.

“It has a rich mix of history and heritage, born of events that mould, and the commitment of men.

“When the church opened its doors for the first time on October 10, 1838, it was to a year that saw the first telegraph sent using dots and dashes, signalling how communication was and would become possible.

“The emancipation of British slaves took place in the Bahamas, transforming for ever how human rights and equality would be considered. And Westminster Abbey had witnessed the crowning of Queen Victoria and the dawn of a new era.

“The church, a building of rock-faced red sandstone ashlar from a nearby quarry at Eccleston Hill, was raised alongside a grassy cart track, in the sprawling rural community of Eccleston that encompassed areas of Portico, Thatto Heath and Prescot within its 3,300 acres. Its population then was about 6,000 – half the present day population that occupies a more compact Eccleston.

“At that time, Eccleston had numerous farms, its own colliery at Gillars Green, which closed in 1910, 15 watchmakers, blacksmiths, wheelwrights and a foundry located at the Corn Mill Dam.

“The village also boasted several inns, including The Seven Stars, which was rebuilt in 1770 and the Griffin Inn on Church Lane. Originally The Magpie, after the village’s emblem, it underwent a name change to The Griffin Inn in homage to a man whose name continues to trip off the lips of excited children.

“Samuel Taylor, born in 1802, made his money manufacturing cotton and gave much of it away to largely fund the building of Christ Church and to provide free recreational access for all to open green space. He donated an impressive 52 and a half acres of his lands to create Taylor Park with its 12 acre lake.

“Not surprising that The Magpie gave way to the name change to The Griffin Inn, the mythical emblem on Samuel Taylor’s family crest and the same bird that tops the Christ Church steeple as a weather vane.

“Four years after Christ Church was opened it hosted the marriage of another man whose family name would ring down the ages. Thomas Seddon, Headmaster of the local Eccleston School, was wed to Jane Lindsay, a teacher at the school. Their four children included Richard John Seddon who attended his father’s school before spending six years working on farms, in factories and in the local foundry. In 1863 at the age of 18, he emigrated to Australia, moving on years later to New Zealand.

“He proved himself a successful politician and in 1893, at the age of 48, became Prime Minister of New Zealand. He held the position for 13 years – the country’s longest standing Prime Minister ever.

“A memorial to Richard John Seddon can be found in St Paul’s Cathedral, in London. It reads: “To the memory of Richard John Seddon, Prime Minister of New Zealand 1893-1906, Imperialist Statesman, Reformer, born June 22nd 1845 at St Helens, Lancashire, buried at Observatory Hill, Wellington, New Zealand.”

A simple, second memorial can be found in Christ Church, Eccleston. Above the choir pews presented to the church by Seddon’s widow Louisa in 1908, is a plaque which reads: “To the glory of God and in loving memory of Richard John Seddon…Born at Eccleston 1845.”

INSIDE THE CHURCH “The Church also contains some impressive architectural features - including an elaborately carved wooden pulpit, which was taken from the much older St Saviour’s Church in Southwark during alterations and is reputed to be the work of famous carver and sculptor, Grinling Gibbons.

CELEBRATIONS “The 21st century congregation of Christ Church, Eccleston is staging a whole programme of events to mark the 175th anniversary. The celebrations began with a sell-out spectacular concert by the world renowned Black Dyke Band at St Helens Town Hall in February.

“Other planned community events include a concert with Bleak Hill School and Riverside Harmony Choir, a Quiz Night at Greenall’s Social Club, a Victorian themed Summer Garden Party – complete with Scarecrow competition – and a special Anniversary service.

“The church created a special “Roots and Reflections” Calendar for 2013, featuring historic scenes of life in Eccleston, and a special full colour Anniversary Brochure, reflecting the Church’s special place in the community “All funds raised by the Anniversary celebrations will go to the Church’s “Building for the Future Fund” aimed at essential enhancement of the building and including installation of a crèche area, wheelchair access, a disabled toilet and other modernisation.”