St. Hubert’s, Dunsop Bridge lies at the entrance to the beautiful Trough of Bowland.
This small but magnificent church was built to the design of Edward Pugin, from, it is believed, the winnings of the racehorse Kettledrum in the Derby 1861 owned by Col. Towneley.
Until then the Catholics in the Hodder Valley attended Mass in the chapel of Thorneyholme Hall, then the home of the Towneley family and part of their Whitewell Estate. Col. Charles Towneley had the church and the nearby Thorneyholme R.C. primary school built on land belonging to the estate.
The church was opened on the 2nd May 1865 by Bishop Richard Roskell of Nottingham.
As you enter the church, immediately to the left is a medieval font, which was from the ancient church at Burholme, near Whitewell. To the right is a marble memorial plaque to the Towneley family beginning with Peregrine Towneley who bought the estate in the early nineteenth century.
The east and west windows were made by J.B.Capronnier of Brussels in 1865. The middle west window depicts St. Hubert as a huntsman accompanied by a stag. St. Hubert is the patron saint of hunters and the Forest of Bowland was once a Royal Hunting Forest. According to legend St. Hubert’s conversion to the Catholic faith took place on a Good Friday when, while hunting a stag, he saw a vision of a cross between its antlers and heard a voice telling him to seek instruction in the Christian faith. In 705 he became Bishop of Maestricht, later of Liege.
To the left of this window is a representation of St. Peter and to the right is one of St Paul. This is in memory of Richard Eastwood who, as the Towneley estate manager, was influential in the building of the church. In the southwest corner of the church is a memorial window to Richard Henry Towneley.
The central east window is of Our Lady and Child, to the left is a window of St Anne the mother of Our Lady and to the right a window depicting St. Veronica.
At the base of the high altar is a carving of Our Lady with, on one side St. Hubert and a stag, and on the other the figure of a bishop (possibly also St. Hubert). On the side pillars of the altar are four small carvings of a horse’s head.
The apse is richly decorated. Of particular interest, is the painting of the racehorse Kettledrum. This is on the left and below the coat of arms of the Towneley family. Below the coat of arms of the Eastwood family, on the right hand side of the apse, is a picture of a deer.
In front of the high altar is a wrought iron altar. This, together with the wrought iron lectern , candle stand, and sanctuary lamp bracket, was designed by Sheila Carter and fashioned by the late Ron Carter in 1993 at Trapp Forge, Simonstone. The altar stone was hewn at Waddington Fell. In the centre of the altar, lectern and candle stand is the head of St. Hubert’s stag with the cross between its antlers.
The two pipe manual organ, installed in 1998, was built by Mr. J. Eric Mason of Bromley Cross, Bolton.
Outside the church and overlooking the cemetery is the figure of an angel. This stands over the Towneley family vault. Mary Lady Towneley (1935 – 2001) is buried here. The grave of Bishop Roskell is opposite the lych-gate and is adjacent to the grave of Richard Eastwood.
The village of Dunsop Bridge forms part of the Duchy of Lancaster’s Whitewell Estate. Situated within the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, this area provides some of the most accessible and frequently visited designated landscape in Lancashire.
Dunsop Bridge is a working community; the village was developed to serve farming, forestry and mining (ore extraction in the hills).
Dunsop Bridge is the entrance to the famous Trough of Bowland. Lovely winding paths from here through the moors to Lancaster are popular with thousands of fell walkers. With resident ducks and grassy banks it is the perfect place to stop for a picnic or a cup of tea and a cake at the café.
At St. Hubert’s Church the painting of a horse on the ceiling above the altar is supposed to be of the 1861 Derby winner ‘Kettledrum’. Owned by the Towneley family it is said that the church was paid for with the horse’s winnings. Ordnance Survey have declared Dunsop Bridge as the official centre of the United Kingdom. The village phone box commorates this fact and was unveiled by the famous explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes on 29th June 1992.