Memorial to John WAINWRIGHT, 1723 - 1768

John Wainwright, Stockport, 1768.


St Mary's Church, Stockport.


A brass panel inside the church, and a fragment of a tombstone outside.

Inscription on the Brass Panel

In memory of John Wainwright
who was born in Stockport, sometime Organist
of this Church, who left as an heritage to
the Church at large a Tune whose sound
is gone into all lands where the praise
of our Incarnate Lord is sung. In 1757 he
resided in Manchester and became Organist
of the Collegiate Church. He was buried at
this Church January 8th 1768 aged 45 years.

Christians a-wake, salute the happy morn

"He hath put a new song in my mouth." Psalm XL.

Inscription In The Churchyard

John Wainwright, Stockport, 1768.

Lieth the Body (of)
John Wainwright
Organist of the
(Ch)urch in Manc(hester)


John WAINWRIGHT was born in Stockport in 1723. He was a talented musician. He became the Organist at Manchester Collegiate Church (it became Manchester Cathedral in 1847), played a leading part in the musical life of Manchester and surrounding area, organised and played in many concerts in theatres and concert halls.

He composed much music. His lasting legacy is a hymn tune still played in church on Christmas morning. The words of Christians, awake, salute the happy morn are based on a poem by his friend John Byrom. The tune is named Stockport, but has also been known as Walworth, Mottram, and Yorkshire.

Despite the plaque which states John was "sometime Organist of this Church", there is no evidence that he ever held the position of Organist at St Mary's. He was born close to St Mary's. His father, a carpenter, did a lot of work there. However, records indicate that St Mary's didn't have an organ at the time John lived in Stockport, although he may have later played there as a guest. The brass plaque, installed over a century later, may be based more on legend than fact. Also, there is something rather myserious about the "discovery" of a fragment of his tombstone in a garden at about the same time.

John did retain a close personal connection with Stockport, and was buried there. His sons Robert and Richard followed in his musical footsteps.

Personal Note

My paternal great grandmother (Mary Wainwright, born Heaton Norris, 1859) believed she was descended from John Wainwright. John may be my 6 x great grandfather, but research, although not absolutely conclusive, has not yet revealed a direct link.

Bearing in mind that he just may be my ancestor, I was surprised and amused to read in the Stockport Heritage Magazine that each Christmas morning Wainwright's ghost is said to rise from his grave (just outside the door of St Mary's) and enter the church to check that his music is still being played.

That story was based on someone's childhood memories. It may not be very serious, but to a person interested in family history it led to the possibility of some interesting questions ;-) Could a ghost be a reliable source of information? What would be the best interviewing technique? Also, the possibility of a ghost as an ancestor could explain the traits that some of my more eccentric relatives have inherited :-)

Carl's Cam