Wythenshawe's many Churches

*Credits: ‘WYTHENSHAWE - a History of the Townships of NORTHENDEN, NORTHEN ETCHELS & BAGULEY’; Volume 1: to 1926. Edited by W.H. Shercliff. 1974 

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The oldest Church in Wythenshawe is undoubtedly St. Wilfrids Church on Ford Lane in Northenden which is an Anglican church of late mediaeval origins which was substantially re-built in the 19th century by J. S. Crowther. The Church was designated a Grade II* listed building on 25 February 1952.  The origin of St Wilfrid's is possibly Saxon, and is mentioned in the Domesday Book as a "church (at) Norwardine: (held by) Ranulf and Bigot from Earl Hugh.” The core of the current church is 15th century. Crowther was commissioned to undertake repairs in 1872 but found that the medieval church was substantially without foundations. He therefore undertook complete rebuilding, except for the Perpendicular Tower, in 1873-6. Crowther also prepared plans for the re-building of the tower, but these were not followed through and reconstruction was undertaken instead. (MORE)

Methodism in Northenden
According to Melsom's Directory, 1887, Wesleyanism was introduced into Northenden in 1816 by James Renshaw who came from Chorlton-cum-Hardy as a joiner's apprentice and opened a small thatched cottage in the centre of the village as a preaching room and Sunday School.

Shadow Moss Mission Church
This was a National School built in 1835. In l877 the schoolroom at Shadow Moss was licensed by the Bishop of Chester to administer bap­tisms and Holy Communion. It continued to be a Mission Church of St. Wilfrid's until the building of the William Temple Church. It was used as a school until 1961 when it was closed and later demolished. This school and that of St. John's Baguley were both closed at the opening of the new Church of England School at Northenden.

St. John's Church, Brooklands
Samuel Brooks, the Manchester banker, built this church at a cost of about £6000. It was a new parish, carved out of Bowdon Parish to meet the growing population of the district inside and outside the area. Brooks was the son of William Brooks who owned a weaving mill in partnership with his friend Roger Cunliffe in Blackburn. When Samuel left school he was sent into the warehouse where he gained experience in banking.

The firm combined manufacturing with a primitive kind of issuing notes which circulated in the neighbourhood. In 1830 his father set him up in partnership with a calico printer in Manchester and entrusted him with the formation of a branch of Cunliffe's Bank. The calico printing firm of Reddish, Brooks and Co. had a warehouse in High Street where Samuel Brooks set up his bank.

In 1826, after the financial crisis of the previous year, he moved to new premises in Market Street, where he transacted business for about 20 years. It was during that time that Samuel Brooks amassed a vast fortune and became interested in land development. In 1832 he built two farms in a wild district called Jackson's Moss. He drained it, built roads over it, built gentlemen's villas and called it Whalley Range after his boyhood home. His own residence, Whalley House, was at the end of the new Chorlton Road and this became popularly known as 'Brooks' Bar'.

Samuel Brooks moved Cunliffe's Bank to King Street in 1847 and every morning he rode in on horseback from Whalley House, arriving punctually at 8.30a.m. By this time he had given up calico printing in order to devote himself to banking. In 1856 the Earl of Stamford sold him a vast area of land in Baguley, Timperley, Hale, Ashton-on-Mersey, Carrington, Partington and Sale where he carried out drainage, farming and road-building,

Brooks was a strong Churchman and attended Divine Service first at Grosvenor Street Chapel, Piccadilly and later at St Margaret's, Whalley Range which he himself built in 1849 at a cost of £6000. His estate in Cheshire was called Brooklands and it was here that he commissioned a. young architect to build a church. The young architect was Alfred Waterhouse, a disciple of the Gothic Revival, who had recently built the Manchester Assize Courts and who was later responsible for the imposing Manchester Town Hall which opened in 1877. Unfortunately Samuel Brooks died in 1864 before the church at Brooklands was completed. His was a magnificent funeral, the cortege passing along many of the roads he had built to New Bailey (now Salford) station where a special train was waiting to convey the coffin to Whalley Abbey where Samuel Brooks was laid to rest in a narrow grave covered by a cheap flagstone.

St. John's, Brooklands, fully described in Irene Collins' book ‘Chapters in Parish History. The First Hundred Years of the Church of St.John the Divine, Brooklands’, is simple in design with small transepts, no aisles, no clerestory and roofed in one span. It is built of Yorkshire stone. Two medallions of sculpture on the west wall represent the call of St. John and his writing of the things he saw at Patmos. The reredos, destroyed by fire in 1945, was considered an outstanding feature and showed Our Lord in Glory. The fire caused serious damage especially to the east window and the organ. A restoration fund was opened and in 1947 the first service was held in the new nave. The font is of Caen stone. Stained glass windows were inserted in the forty years follow­ing the building of the church, one of the most interesting being the Morris window depicting the Ascension.

St. John's School, Brooklands had opened at Baguley on 20 Oct. 1879, with 51 children present. Many interesting entries are to be found in the School Log Book which show the difficulties of maintaining and improving school attendance at a time when children were kept away for bunching flowers, gathering rushes and nettles, potato picking and even for fetching milk and dripping from Wythenshawe on Friday afternoons.

Ringway Church
Ringway was formerly called Ringhay or Ringey from the fact that it was a lordship within a ring fence belonging to one proprietor, Tarbolton, in his book, says that it is of great antiquity and indeed an inscription found in 1515 seems to support this view. Ringey Chapel is shown on a map of 1577 by Christopher Saxton. On a later map by John Speed it was wrongly named but marked just south
of the River Bollin. On later maps it was put right as Ringey.

Sir Peter Leycester mentions it as a Chapel of Ease which was seized during the Civil War by the nonconformists. His obvious disapproval is shown in these remarks;
'Every illiterate person as the humour served him, stepped into the pulpit without Licence of Authority.'

The Vicar of Bowdon from 1690-1708 expressed his disapproval of the use of this Anglican Chapel by Dissenters. A later Vicar wrote a series of letters to the then Bishop of Chester on the subject of the Ringway Chapel. In the first letter he says that the people were rigid Presbyterians and in his third letter he mentions the old bell which bore the date 1627 and a Latin inscription. An amusing footnote explains that he was £100 in debt and goes on to say;
'I can think of no way but one whereby I can immediately pay off so great a sum and that is by marrying a young gentlewoman in this place.'

In about 1721 John Crewe of Crewe Hall inherited the Lordship of Ringway and declared his intention of restoring the chapel to the Established Church. Shortly after this, Mr. Assheton of Ashley Hall, taking matters into his own hands, went to the Chapel one Sunday evening, seized the minister, Mr. Nicholas Waterhouse, by the collar, pulled him down from the pulpit and turned him and the congregation out of the church. The following week they retook possession which they retained until a clergyman licensed by the Bishop of Chester was appointed. Mr. Waterhouse preached in a barn until Hale Chapel was completed in 1723. R. N. Dore, in his book on Hale describes Hale Chapel, where the Dissenters established themselves.

The old Ringway Chapel was pulled down about this time and was replaced by a new, plain, red-brick building. The old bell which hung in a quaint, wooden bell-cote, was later recast or superseded by a new one dated 1741. This building was demolished in 1894 and a new church was built. It was erected by Lord Egerton of Tatton and consecrated by the Bishop of Chester on 20 April 1895. It was dedicated to St. Mary and All Saints and was a memorial to Lady Egerton.

In 1863 it had been detached from Bowdon and became a District Chapelry. The records of Baptisms commenced in 1751 but those of burials at Ringway did not begin until 1821, burials before this time being at Bowdon.

Canon F. Cox, of Ringway Vicarage, Altrincham, gives us the latest information about Ringway Chapel. He says that it was declared redundant by an Order in Council in December 1970. The reason for this, he says, is the decline in population at the Ringway end of the parish due to the airport extensions, the diversion of the Altrincham-Wilmslow Road, and the construction of the new motorway (an
extension of Princess Parkway) in the middle of the parish. A new parish church in the name of All Saints, which was the original dedication of the previous Ringway churches, was then built at Hale Barns where there had been a tremendous growth of population. This church was consecrated by the Bishop of Chester in November 1967.

Heyhead Congregational Church
The Church was founded 1862 and closed in 1992 when it was then swallowed up by the remorseless growth of Manchester Airport and all that remains of it now is a tiny Memorial Garden several hundred yards from Airport Terminal Three, squeezed between a car park and the Car Rental Village.

Sunday evening cottage meeting began in June 1861 every fortnight. Its success led to a permanent building which was erected in 1862, seating 250 and costing £315. Sir James Watt, the Congregational benefactor, laid the foundation stone. Sir James was the youngest of the five sons of Mr. John Watt of Burnage. He was born in 1804 and entered the wholesale drapery business in Manchester with his brothers Samuel and John. He took the premises of 'The Bazaar' in Deansgate which had been started by Mr. Samuel Brooks and later moved to Fountain Street and finally to the palatial building standing on a site of 3000 square yards in Portland Street. S. and J. Watts' warehouse became one of the greatest repositories of fancy goods and small-wares in the kingdom.

Watt became Mayor of Manchester in 1855. He was re-elected in 1856 and at the same time was an alderman for the All Saints' Ward. He was knighted on the occasion of the visit of the Queen to open the Art Treasures Exhibition in 1857. The Prince Consort was his guest at Abney Hall, Cheadle and James Watt accompanied the Prince on the drive to the opening of the Exhibition at Old Trafford. Sir James was a Liberal who took a special interest in the Abolition of the Slave Trade and other similar causes. He was a J.P. for Manchester and in 1871 he served the office of High Sheriff of Cheshire. He was an influential Congregationalist being a prominent member of the Cheshire Congre­gational Union, chairman of the Congregational Chapel Building Society and a Trustee of the Lancashire Independent College where ministers were trained. He was a member of the Reform Club, President of the Manchester Liberal Association and President of the Warehouseman and Clerks' Orphan School at Cheadle Hulme. He also served the public as a member of the Corporation of Stockport and then of Manchester. He died at his home, Abney Hall, on April 6th 1878 and his funeral was attended by a large and representative gathering.

The church at Bowdon Downs took an active interest in the Heyhead Church and from 1878 paid annual visits to help and encourage the members of the younger community. The first marriage was celebrated in 1893 when Elizabeth Hamnet married James Wright. The first Harvest Festival was held in 1897. In 1905 the schoolroom was enlarged and the church was redecorated and re-seated, no mean effort for a village church which up to this time took collections on special occasions only. Weekly offerings were introduced in 1908 and a pipe organ was installed in 1912. The church was placed under the supervision of the Cheshire Congregational Union in 1922 but Bowdon Downs continued to give financial help.

In 1947 the church received a communication from Manchester Corporation to the effect that they were going to acquire the church buildings by compulsory purchase in order to develop the airport. This was resisted by the members and, to their great relief, the project was dropped. In 1949 electric light was installed in the church and schoolroom. At this time when the Wythenshawe Estate was being developed, a new Congregational Church to be built on a site allocated by the Manchester Corporation came up for consideration but the members decided to keep the church at Heyhead. In 1952 it was honoured by the Cheshire Union of Congregational Churches holding the Autumn Assembly there on September 16th. The choir was a great asset to the church and the Sunday School or Junior Church, held at 11 a.m. each Sunday, was well attended.
* MORE on Heyhead

Baguley Congregational Church
In 1866 a small number of Baguley people met in Mr. Hollinpriest’s barn to worship God. For two years meetings were held each Sunday, with winter services in the spacious kitchen of Mr. Lowe, one of the first Trustees. In 1869, a permanent building was opened in Floats Road. On 10 October 1872 the church was established on an independent basis and a resolution was read from the Congregational Church at Bowdon supporting the independence of the new church. No deacons were appointed in the early days, but a Committee was elected which was composed of five members of the congregation and six church members.

In 1873, the church applied for membership to the Cheshire Congregational Union and in 1877 it was registered as a place of religious worship by law and licensed for solemnising marriages. The first marriage took place the same year between Thomas Turner and Jane Simson, the daughter of the then Minister, the Rev. John Simson.

Owing to the precarious financial state of the church, various ways of raising money were employed. Handbills were pasted on the back of all chapel seats to encourage the congregation to make voluntary offerings towards the expenses. Later the land adjoining the church was cultivated by some church members and the profit was given to the church. The land was later rented for market garden purposes at 1/9d per rood. At this time (1903) the church keeper, who was receiving a salary of £9 per annum, asked for an extra £3. This the church members did not agree with and he was asked to resign, but later an allowance of 10 shillings per year to buy brushes was granted!

private day school had the use of the church buildings and new Managers were appointed, two from Baguley and two from the church at Bowdon. In 1879, on the retirement of the Misses Garden who had run the school, a teacher was appointed at a salary of £60 per annum and the school was allowed the use of the Chapel as well as the schoolroom.

During the next few years, recommendations were made by the School Inspectors to improve and enlarge the accommodation, but the church had insufficient funds and on many occasions it was suggested that the school should close. A sum of £21 8s. 6d. was raised and the school remained open until further criticisms from H.M. Inspectors resulted in its closure in November 1896.

After the resignation of the Rev. John Simson in 1886, the church was served by Lay Preachers. In March 1900, Church Deacons were appointed and in 1901, a Christian Endeavour Society was formed and Band of Hope meetings were held for a number of years. The building was enlarged in 1903, and in 1919 a special building fund was started for the restoration of the roof, the inside decoration and the painting of the outside. £150 was raised and the work was carried out in 1921. The internal decoration of the church included the painting of the text 'Enter into His Courts with Praise', The Church was transfered to a new site on Floatshall Road in 1952.

* MORE on Wythenshawe's Churches in the 20th Century