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St John the Evangelist, Kings Road, Hurst was built between 1847 and 1849 by the Whittaker family who originated from Oldham. The nave of the church is the work of Shellard.
The ecclesiastical Paris of Hurst was constituted on 25 February 1846. The land was given by the Earl of Stamford, who still owns much of the land in and around Ashton
Births, marriages and funerals began in 1849. On Monday 19 February 1849 at 11am the church was officially consecrated by Bishop James Prince Lee, the first Bishop of Manchester. Oldham Whittaker was the first Vicar’s Churchwarden from 1848 to 1850. Further information about the Whittaker family can be found separately.
The transepts, tower and south chapel (previously the Whittaker Chapel, now the Lady Chapel) were added by George Shaw in 1862, all in yellow sandstone rubble. The tower was boldly done, with octagonal top parts and a spire, set west of the south aisle and visually independent of it. The transepts have lancets to match to match Shellard’s nave and the stained glass windows are typical of Shaw.
The Lady Chapel has an unusual frieze with swirling designs and must be one of Shaw’s most ambitious and complete surviving schemes, with a forest of Dec-style dark oak furnishings. There are richly carved parclose screens, stalls complete with arm rests and canopies. A richly carved, dark oak rerodos is also in place, so the chancel must have been refurbished at the same time.
To St John’s, Oldham Whittaker gave £100 and inside fittings costing more than £800. He provided the original organ at a cost of £400. In 1861, after a bazaar in Oldham’s mill to raise money, the tower and spire were added costing £1000, and the transepts costing £2050.
Originally the building was built to accommodate 750 worshippers (500 seating) but has since been enlarged, according to the architect. The spire had a peal of eight bells but these have long since been removed due to safety issues.
In the churchyard, two Whittaker monuments lie south east of the church. An elaborate canopy with crocketed corner pinnacles is obviously by Shaw and probably dates to the 1860s. The other, late C19, is an octagonal pier with a pyramidal top with traceried panels.
The site of Hurst Cross, Hurst, has been adjusted since it was erected, to accommodate the traffic using that road junction. It roughly remains at the junction of Queen’s Road and King’s Road. It was designed by John Eaton and was erected by public subscription to commemorate the reform Act of 1868, reputedly on the site of an earlier cross. Oldham Whittaker laid the foundation stone of the present cross on Easter Monday 13 April 1868.
The original church school, now Hurst Community Centre, beside the churchyard is dated 1880. It large, gabled and of sandstone with tall windows with intersecting tracery.
The Lady Chapel displays flags of the Manchester Regiment as the Parish previously included Lady Smith Barracks, Higher Hurst; built between 1841 and 1843. All that survives now of the barracks is a section of the forbidding stone wall alongside mossley Road and the entrance with a classical gateway flanked by pedestrian entrances. The barracks have been replaces by late twentieth century housing.