A CHURCH which has been at the heart of Rossendale for 500 years is set to host the Archbishop of York.

Right Rev John Sentamu, the charismatic Anglican church leader, will preach at St Nicholas, in Newchurch, on Palm Sunday.

His arrival is part of ongoing celebrations marking five centuries of worship there.

This Saturday the congregation will revive a tradition which dates back to the Middle Ages, as they set out on a trek to Whalley Abbey.

Around 30 members of the congregation will tackle the whole, or at least part, of the 16-mile hike to the landmark.

Before permission was granted for baptisms at the Valley chapel, parents used to undertake the same journey to have their babies christened.

Rev Sue Davies, the church’s rector, said: “This is all part of the celebrations for our 500th anniversary. There has been a church on this site since 1511.”

Originally the church was established by Cistercian monks as a ‘Chapel of Ease’ to St Michael’s at Clitheroe Castle, and was part of the Diocese of Chester.

The simple wooden structure was known as the Chapel of Our Saviour in Rossendale, at the time, until it was rebuilt in 1561 and rededicated to the Holy Trinity.

Earlier King Edward VI had granted the church full parish rights.

Today’s church, now in the Manchester diocese, dates back to 1824 and was consecrated two years later.

Down the years the church has always played a central role in the township’s life, appointing parochial nurses to care for the sick in the late 19th century.

Church bellringers will set the pilgrims on their way just after 9am.