All Souls', Bolton

All Souls' Church, Bolton, Lancashire

All Souls for all souls - a neighbourhood meetings and community venue

Since 2007 the CCT's Regeneration Taskforce have been working with local community leaders to transform the outstanding but unused Grade II* listed All Souls Church in Bolton, for the benefit of all who live and work locally.

All Souls Bolton - six months after opening, what's happening?

We are delighted to announce that the new All Souls Bolton is now open, revealing the results of a £4.9 million scheme which has been 10 years in the making.  This is a huge achievement for all involved, from the local community, to the main funder – the Heritage Lottery Fund – to the project team and of course the CCT and All Souls Bolton teams. 

Since its launch in December 2014, the All Souls Bolton team have been busy testing out a wide range of community engagement activities and events, promoting themselves as a place for social enterprise and welcoming all who venture through door. 

These include a ‘Grow Your Own’ Community Garden project, in partnership with Lancashire Wildlife Trust, encouraging people to grow their own food and flowers, and events for families and children such as of free play sessions, themed film showings and Lego Brick Building Club.  

On 2nd August, where those who dare were invited to abseil from the top of All Souls 118ft tower to raise money for the Bolton Hospice as part of a Heritage Open Day at the centre.  Old photographs and stories are still being collected from the community, and forming the ongoing archive capturing the heritage of All Souls and Bolton.  

Amy Llewellyn, Community Project Officer explains All Souls has “seen a huge increase in visitors since we first started these activities, and going forward we’re going to continue to build on what we find works well. The more people coming through the door, the more exciting things we’ll put on for them, in the belief that happy memories and laughter will seal the deal on the building’s new lease of life.”  

To keep up to date with the latest goings on visit the All Souls Bolton facebook page.

Award winning regeneration project

This was a truly collaborative project between The Churches Conservation Trust and the local community.  As Carole Souter, Chief Executive of the Heritage Lottery Fund, explained: “It’s a great example of how, with creative thought and strong partnerships, a much loved historic building can be reinvigorated and turned into something that serves the needs of those who live around it.”  

The team were proud and delighted when Inayat Omarji, the driving force behind the 10 year project, recieved an English Heritage ‘Heritage Angel Award’ for The Best Rescue of Any Other Type of Historic Building or Site.   The project also recieved four awards at the RICS North West awards in April for; building conservation, design through innovation, community benefit and project of the year, and recieved three nominations at the national awards in October.

This regeneration project is the most ambitious and innovative in the 46 year history of The Churches Conservation Trust.  All Souls will be a leading example of how a modern community space fit for the 21st Century can be created within a once-neglected heritage building.  With over 200 of England’s listed inner city churches are at risk, we hope that All Souls will become a national model for saving them and putting them back at the heart of their communities.

The day to day at All Souls

All Souls is open from 9am – 5pm Monday to Friday, where visitors and locals can view the fantastic interpretation, take part in community activities or simply enjoy the space with a drink from the coffee shop on the ground floor. Other floors host a mix of event and tenanted office space, with a flexible main large conference room that can also be used as a dance studio or cinema thanks to the building’s music and film license.

As well as a place for business and enterprise, All Souls will be a place for heritage learning.  There will be films exploring local history on interactive screens and a ‘history wall’ of community mementos and artefacts, and the building site itself has even been a location for teaching and promoting traditional heritage craft to members of the local community.

Visit the All Souls Bolton website and Facebook page to keep up to date of the latest news, and for more great images of All Sousl, visit the CCT regeneration tumblr page.

Creating Craft Skills for the Future

One part of the All Souls project is focused on developing traditional building skills. We have a delivered a programme of technical and non-professional training days, covering a variety of skills including glazing and masonry repair. The project has also included training for six bursary placements, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund through the National Heritage Training Groups (NHTG), in glazing, masonry and roofing trades.

This short film, produced by the Media Trust, tells the inspiring story of their experience working on the All Souls project.  

 

This is part of a wider a community engagement, training and outreach programme administered by Carefoot - which includes a series of technical days, community events and education days, details of which will be available on our events page.

An official ground breaking event to mark the beginning of the works on All Souls took place on Tuesday 24th September 2013.  This was attended by the project stakeholders, representatives from the local authority and the surrounding community.  CCT chair Loyd Grossman, was joined by the Mayor of Bolton and Chair of North West Committee of the HLF, Tiffany Hunt in giving their support on the day.

As part of the event, children from two of the local schools attended to be presented with the old banners from the church.  They will be used to inspire a design project of a new banner, which on opening will be returned to the centre with the old banners.  The occasion was also made special by readings from the Gujarati Writers' Guild, who translated into English poems written especially for the occasion.

The event provided an opportunity for everyone to find out more about the project, see the plans, and learn about how the community can become involved in the interpretation and activity programme for the project.  A range of heritage, community and interpretation activities will be taking place during the construction period and we’ll be updating this web page and the CCT pages with more details soon. 

Other activity

There is much activity on a variety of other fronts with the All Souls Board embarking on the development of new branding materials and a website for the project.  This is going to be done alongside the local community so there's a logo and website that really reflects the spirit of both the building and the people that live around it. 

A pilot project has also begun that will start to gather local stories and turn them into short films for use in the interpretation of the building and the area.  The project will gather stories regularly to keep the interpretation updated and relevant and to keep engaging people in learning about each other and their locality.

Project background: A local vision - a place to meet, learn and share

All Souls is set to become a modern, multi-functional space for the local community and people of Bolton. It aims to be a truly ground breaking national flagship project that will turn a disused historic church into a community centre for all local people of all faiths or none.

The Trust is working with the local community, through the committee of the All Souls Community Centre (ASCCC), to create a centre of activity for the neighbourhood and wider town which will operate as a service centre and training, learning and performance space.

All Souls will also host a cutting - edge multi-media exhibition telling the stories of Boltonians both today and throughout the town’s history.

Memories of All Souls

Reaching out

A series of events were held in 2009 to give people a chance to see what lay hidden behind the doors, and to ask what they thought the building could offer them and their community. People came to share their memories and photographs, try out heritage craft skills like stonemasonry, and have a go at some of the activities and opportunities that could be on offer from this building in the future.

As well as being a fun chance to see the building used in a different way - with falcons and owls flying inside the church - there was a chance to meet neighbours, share ideas, and think about what a future All Souls might look like.

From pews to pods - multi-million pound lottery support

At the end of September 2009, The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) confirmed a grant of £3.3million for the project. This money will transform the currently redundant 19th-century building into a state-of-the-art facility providing training, education, youth activities, and health and welfare services to the local community.

 

Restoration plans include taking out the existing pews and replacing them with a community centre - made up of two ‘pods’ that will sit within the church building - "a building within a building" - which will help leave the historic fabric largely untouched.

These innovative new structures will be the first of their kind in the UK, with high-level walkways giving people a unique perspective on All Souls’ architecture and stained glass windows.

An area dedicated to the history of the building and the local area will give the town’s diverse population an opportunity to explore and understand the church and its role within the community more fully.

News from the project

Working cotton mill roots

All Souls Church is a vast Victorian church built in 1878-81 under the patronage of the Greenhalgh brothers, local mill owners with a strong evangelical faith. It was constructed at a time when the industrial population was growing.

The parish was created in 1879 to serve the mill’s workforce who lived in the terraced streets around the church.    

The church was designed by Paley and Austin, two of Lancashire’s most prolific church architects and designers of some of the period’s most impressive Gothic revival churches.

All Souls' beginnings

Equality and care for all

The large congregation, all 800 of them, were to have free seating (many churches charged a rent for their pews at this time). All pews were designed to be the same throughout, so no person was seen to be more important than the next, and all could see the east end unobstructed - unlike many similar buildings of this size there are no pillars within the space.

The Greenhalgh's also had the health and welfare of the churchgoers in mind - the windows were designed high up in the walls, so that the seating would be free from chilling draughts.

By the middle of the 20th century, the cotton industry had declined, and the congregation had shrunk so much that the church had to close. The Greenhalgh mill has long gone and the church has now been closed for 23 years - vandalised and little visited, it is in dire need of the new lease of life that this project will bring.