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History

 

In 1657, Christiana, Countess of Devonshire, built a chapel at Peak Forest for the use of villagers and foresters.  This was the time following the Civil War (1642-1651) and Christiana was an ardent Royalist, whose favourite son had died for Charles I’s cause in 1643.

It seems likely that the chapel was dedicated to King Charles the Martyr after the restoration of Charles II to the throne in 1660. Prior to that time, it is thought that it might have been known as St. James.

 

When it was built the chapel was only about 45 feet long by 22 feet wide and furnished with benches and a pulpit, all of black oak. Three years later, in 1660 a porch was added. During the 18th century  the walls of the chapel were raised, in order that a gallery could be erected, and in 1780 the chapel was lengthened by some 15 feet at the East end. The benefactress at that time was Mrs Mary Bower, the daughter of Robert Needham of Perryfoot and when she died in 1781, she left her harpsichord to the church.  In 1835, most of the original windows were removed and replaced with larger ones in the style known as “Church Wardens Gothic” and a vestry added to the original structure. The font base stone is still visible in the grave yard, east of the present building.

In 1871 the population of Peak Forest was 562. The strength of the Victorian religious revival was such that it was decided to that a bigger church was needed. The plans for the new church were prepared by Henry Cockburn of Middleton, near Manchester, who also designed Wardlow Church.

Lord Edward Cavendish laid the foundation stone on 31st March, 1876. Much of the cost for the new building was met by the Duke of Devonshire, with an additional £200 being contributed by Samuel Needham of Rushup to pay for the chapel on the North side of the chancel.

 

The main part of the present church building was closed from 1962 - 1965 whilst money was raised to repair the roof. Services were held in the Needhams Chapel to the North of the main chancel. During the winter months, services are still held there.

 

In 2009 it was decided that a toilet and Kitchen point were essential additions to the church building and fund raising commenced.  Architects plans had been drawn up prior to this, but a visit by the Diocesan Advisory Committee with additional advisors from the English Heritage and Victorian society made it quite clear that these were not appropriate. New plans were drawn up and funds gradually came in. In April 2014 a Faculty was granted by the Diocese and work commenced in the summer of 2014 and completed by the end of the year. The original costing had been £17,500 but the final amount rose to £37,500 which was raised by the parishioners and church members.