THE congregation at St Martin’s, Ashton-upon-Mersey is celebrating the 300th anniversary of its ‘new’ church being built in 1714.

Don Acraman, 86, a church member for more than 50 years said:“There was a storm in 1704, it was as bad as the 1987 one.

“It destroyed the original timber church built in 1304. They rebuilt it in Lymm sandstone.”

The original 1304 rafters and door remain. A font dated 1714 is used even today.

The late Bill Spence, a former verger, told Don stories.

“He said that during Cromwell’s time, in the early 17th century, troops fired at people seeking sanctuary in the church.

“The door still contains buckshot marks. Fundraising was common even then and, in July 1781 at 11am, the congregation, paid a shilling to sit downstairs and two shillings for the balcony to hear Handel’s Messiah.

Before the Jardine organ was installed in 1857, church music was played by an orchestra on a balcony above the choir stalls.

Don recounted an amusing incident which took place when there were box pews.

“A big family used to sit on the front pew. The kids jumped up and down. The seat and floor collapsed and they ended up on top of a coffin.”

Learn more at an exhibition in Sale Library from May 2 – 30. Other events will be: * Thursday, May 8 at 7.30 - a talk by historian Alan Morrison in church. Tickets £5 from 0161 962 4110.

* Sunday, May 11 at 10.15 – service conducted by Canon John Sutton and attended by the Venerable Ian Bishop, Archdeacon of Macclesfield, who will give the sermon. All welcome.