Our brilliant tour of St Chad's Parish Church!


The stocks opposite Skylight!

The Rochdale rain didn't dampen our enthusiasm!

Faith, Hope & Charity Window

By Edward Burne-Jones

We love the tree next to St Chad's

We’ve all ducked under it!

The Grave of John Collier "Tim Bobbin"

Sparrow Hill Heritage

Sparrow Hill is not just our neighborhood, it’s a place steeped in heritage. Funded by National Heritage Lottery Fund, Skylight’s Youth Circus and Silver Circus have been on a journey of discovery, exploring the rich history and mystery of Skylight’s unique location. We’ve unearthed some fascinating stories and learned about the incredible figures that have shaped our community. Here are some of the highlights from our journey:

  • The Domesday Book: Did you know that Rochdale was once called Recedham? We learned that the Saxon Thane, Gamel, ruled the area and ordered the construction of St Chad’s Church. It’s believed that a church has been on the site for a thousand years!   
  • St Chad’s Church: As we approach the 830th anniversary, we delved into the treasure trove local heritage in our spectacular Parish Church. From stories of hedgehogs to Gamel the Thane and the legend of the goblins moving the stones, we were fascinated by this fantastic Church.  We discovered that the font was previously buried and learned about the church extension with double apostle pillars.  We highly recommend reading the literature provided on the St Chad’s Church link above!
  • Edward Burne Jones Window: We were in awe of the stunning window created by the famous artist Edward Burne Jones in the church. It depicts the virtues of faith, hope, and charity.
  • Tim Bobbin: A famous local figure buried at St Chad’s is the satirical artist and poet, John Collier aka “Tim Bobbin.” We were fascinated to learn about his life and work.
  • Hamlet Nicholson’s Grave: Did you know that the inventor of the compound cricket ball, Hamlet Nicholson, is buried in St Chad’s? We were surprised to learn about the connection between this local legend and our community.
  • In 1876 an outdoor ‘gymnasium’ opened in Broadfield Park – with circus skills!
  • Colin Meredith Talk: We had a fascinating talk by Colin Meredith, who helped us discover the mysteries of our town. His insights gave us a deeper understanding of the history and characters of the past.
  • Local Studies: Our visit to local studies provided an opportunity to look deeper into the stories that make Sparrow Hill unique. From the Grammar School to John Bright’s protest at St Chad’s, we were curious to discover the people and events that have shaped our neighborhood.

Using our fascinating finds, we worked with artist Kerith Ogden to create a giant pop up book for storytelling performances in our neighborhood!

Our journey of discovery has been an incredible experience. We’ve learned so much about the history and heritage of our community and we’re excited to share it with you. Join us in celebrating the legacy of Sparrow Hill and the incredible figures that have left their mark on our neighborhood by coming along to one of our story telling performances!


“A huge thank you to St Chad’s Church and Rochdale Local Studies Team for all their help and support!”

Martine Bradford, Creative Director


Giant Pop Up Book!

All our local history research was added to our Giant Pop Up History Book.  The book was made by our young people and Silver Circus who worked with Artist Kerith Ogden.  Sections of this video were filmed in St Chad’s Parish church, which has it’s very own page in the book!

The book was brought to life in story telling sessions with ‘Professors Bradford and Chapman!’

Special Circus Skills Find!

The picture below is an extra special discovery of the ‘gymnasium’ participants at Sparrow Hill. Skills included juggling india clubs and acro! From Rochdale Local Studies, we’ve learned that the gymnasium began outdoors in c 1876 in Broadfield Park moving to an indoor space on Ann Street.  In 1897 the gymnasium moved to Sparrow Hill School which is now the site of the Broadfield Hotel – a few steps, tumbles or leaps away from Skylight!  

This photograph was supplied by kind permission of Touchstones Rochdale, Rochdale Arts & Heritage Service. 

Research Trips

Take a video tour of our fascinating tour of St Chad’s church and browse our our project photographs


Our research trips


Thank you to National Lottery Players for Making this Project Possible!






We found the mouse!

The tiny details were a lot of fun to look at too.  We found the mouse carved in one of the pews. 


Pop Up Book Making

Using our research, worked with Artist Kerith Ogden to create a giant pop up book for our storytelling performances!


Making Sessions

Thank you to National Lottery Players for Making this Project Possible!






Thank you for this, the kids have learned loads and start telling me all about the various stories as soon as they step in the car!  It’s wonderful, as one of them said “I enjoy history when it’s taught like that”


Skylight Circus NW Acrobatic Artists

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