Welcome to Newchurch, a village at the foot of Pendle Hill.
In the old days, people knew the village as Th’ Kirk. Before the church was built the settlement was known as Goldshaw Booth, a name that still exists in the name of the Parish Council. Shaw – meaning a wood and Booth – was probably the name for a clearing used for cows. The word Gold may have come from the autumn tints of the beech trees that are quite dominant around Newchurch. It is also one of only a few villages built on the hill side.
Famous for the Pendle Witches who lived here in the 17th century, Newchurch has changed very little over the centuries. St Mary’s Church is at the centre of the village and is steeped in history. There has been a chapel of ease on this site since 1250 with a later chapel being consecrated in 1544. The tower, although restored, is the only remaining part of that building. The current church was probably built in the 17th century, however it was only completed in 1740.
The present tower of St Mary’s dates back to the times of the witches. The present bell was bought in 1830, the clock was installed in 1946. On its front, at the west side of the tower, is a unique piece of mason work known as ‘Eye of God’ which was placed in the church to ward off evil spirits and witches.
Some highlights of the village include Witches Galore shop at the centre of the village, a popular tourist destination selling spooky gifts. Look out for the witches outside, and the sign imploring visitors to “Gerrit Spent… They dont pupockits i shahds”. Further down the hill, with an entrance opposite the public toilets, is Newchurch Playing Fields and Sparable Wood, one of the Queen Elizabeth II fields registered as a Field in Trust for the Diamond Jubilee in 2012. It is home to two playgrounds, a full-size football pitch, Sparable Wood and a wetland area, creating an important community space for all ages to enjoy.
Newchurch is also home to St Mary’s CE Primary Academy, attended by around fifty pupils from the village and surrounding areas.
Each year since 1910 the ancient ceremony of Rushbearing is commemorated in August. There is a procession around the village and the new Rushbearing queen is crowned followed by a service of thanksgiving in the church.
A tradition in Pendle Forest is that a holly tree planted outside a house or farm afforded protection from witchcraft. It is curious that there is a well established specimen outside the Old Parsonage in the village.
Newchurch and surrounding areas also have a proud history. Jonas Moore, co-founder of the Greenwich Observatory, was born in the area in 1618, and the Quaker movement started in Pendle after founder George Fox climbed Pendle Hill in 1652 and had a vision of ‘great people waiting to be enlightened and gathered in’.