We know that Holy Trinity Church dates back to at least 1094, and is often referred to in early documents as ‘the church at Bolton’. However, we also know, from the history of the church written by W J Hodgson, who was once the organist at Holy Trinity, that the parish church of Bolton-le-Sands was originally dedicated to St Michael. The 1848 Ordnance Survey map and documents relating to the rebuilding in 1813 both list the church as ‘St Michael’s’. St Michael’s Well was nearby, and these days, we have St Michael’s Grove, St. Michael’s Lane, St. Michael’s Close, St. Michael’s Crescent and St. Michael’s Place to remind us of that. It’s not very clear when or why the church became more widely known as ‘Holy Trinity’, although the recently published ‘Brief History’ (2017) refers to an inscription on the tenor bell which says ‘May this bell be sanctified by the Holy Trinity’. The small St Michael Chapel, to the left of the main altar, once the site of the organ, the site for the organ, was refurbished in 1993 and re-dedicated to St Michael.
In the fifth century a basilica near Rome was dedicated in honour of Saint Michael the Archangel on 30th September, beginning with celebrations on the eve of that day. 29th September is now kept in honour of Saint Michael and all Angels. The name Michaelmas comes from a shortening of “Michael’s Mass”, in the same style as Christmas (Christ’s Mass) and Candlemas (Candle Mass, the Mass where traditionally the candles to be used throughout the year would be blessed).
During the Middle Ages, Michaelmas was celebrated as a Holy Day of Obligation, but this tradition was abolished in the 18th century. In medieval England, Michaelmas marked the ending and beginning of the husbandman’s year the time when harvest was over, and the bailiff or reeve of the manor would be making out the accounts for the year.
Because it falls near the equinox, this holy day is associated in the northern hemisphere with the beginning of autumn and the shortening of days. It was also one of the English, Welsh, and Irish quarter days, when accounts had to be settled. On manors, it was the day when a reeve was elected from the peasants. Michaelmas ‘hiring fairs’ were held at the end of September or beginning of October.