Richard Knill Freeman

Bolton architect

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St Simon and St Jude, Great Lever, Bolton

Built 1899-1901; unlisted (turned down for listing 2010); in use as theatre

Planning for the church began in about 1890 as as the nearby churches of St Michael and St Bartholomew were full to capacity The land was donated by the Earl of Bradford in 1895. The foundation cornerstone was laid on July 12, 1896 to the left of the south door. It was consecrated in 1901. The work was personally supervised by Knill Freeman and the Bolton Chronicle of 8 November 1901 reported that both he and Frank Freeman attended the opening.

The adjoining school was also by Freeman and Church House (1905) was by William Bradley, a pupil of Freeman and a local boy who attended the day school. However the entry in the Bolton building register attributes it to Frank Freeman.

Pevsner describes it as: “Red brick and red Ruabon terracotta, the terracotta used to fine effect. Perp, with a SW tower nicely crisp but a litte undersized.”

The Building News of 28 July 1899 reported:

“Through the generosity of the late Rev Thomas Loxham MA, Rector of Great Lever, the rapidly increasing district of the neighbourhood of Rishton-lane is being provided with a new church, school and parsonage house. The foundation stone of the church was laid by the Bishop of Manchester on July 12. The site, situated at the junction of Forester Street and Rishton Lane has been given by the Earl of Bradford. The church will stand with the west front facing Rishton-lane and the tower at the south-west angle on the building will form a conspicuous landmark in the district. The church is arranged with lofty nave, with pillars and arcading of Bath stone, and side aisles, large chancel, transepts, and side chapel, vestries and organ-chamber. The chancel is well raised. The accommodation provided is for between 600 and 700. The style is Late Decorated. The school is placed behind the church fronting Forester-street and is a two-storey building on the central hall system with classrooms at each side. It will accommodate about 450, but is arranged for future extension to 650 places. A parsonage is also to be built in the vicinity. The materials throughout are red bricks, and red Ruabon terracotta with North-country green slates. The joiners’ work is to be of pitch-pine unvarnished. The contract for the building has been let to Mr William Townson of Bolton and the works are being carried out from the designs, and under the superintendence of, Mr R. Knill Freeman FRIBA, Bolton and Manchester. Mr W Harlow is the clerk of works.  

The church features briefly in the BBC series “Life on Mars”.


Building News 28 July 1899, p.116.

Bolton News article about conversion to theatre, February 2014, mentioning “the famous Bolton architect Richard Knill Freeman” (!)