Canon Champneys was Vicar of St James Haslingden from 1874 to 1892. He was born in 1839 at Whitechapel, London, of which parish his father, William Weldon Champneys was Rector. Weldon was the eldest son; one of his younger brothers, Basil was to become an eminent London architect responsible for designing St John’s Church, Stonefold, Newnham College, Cambridge, several Oxford Colleges and John Rylands Library, Manchester.
Weldon was educated at Charterhouse School and later at Brasenose College, Oxford. Whilst he was at Oxford, he was for two years Secretary to the Oxford University Boat Club and rowed in the winning crew in the 1861 Boat Race.
After his ordination in 1862 by Bishop Wilberforce of Oxford, he became curate at Wendover (Bucks), moved to Brixton in 1867, then to St Pancras in 1869 and finally came to Haslingden in 1874. Whilst in Haslingden, he became Rural Dean of Whalley, Proctor in Convocation and an Honorary Canon of Manchester Cathedral.
In 1872 Weldon had married Frances Sophia, eldest daughter of Henry Fielden MP of Witton Park, Blackburn. The couple had a daughter, Frances Mary. .
As previously mentioned, whilst in Haslingden, Canon Champneys was responsible for a great many improvements to the life of both the Church and the local community.
There was great public sorrow on his sudden death at his residence, Carter Place Hall on 9th May 1892. His funeral was arranged at St James and his coffin was carried the long distance from his home to the church, followed by hundreds of people. After the service, the coffin remained in the church overnight. A funeral service was held the next day at 7.00am after which the coffin was carried to Haslingden railway station, followed by a long procession. The coffin was placed in a special van attached to the 8.39am train to St Pancras, accompanied by Basil Champneys. On its arrival the coffin was placed on an open car and conveyed to Hampstead Cemetery where the concluding part of the service was read.
The parishioners of St James commemorated his life and works by installing the beautiful stained glass window in the south aisle of the church with the inscription “The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God”.
Hylton and Sylvia Craig