St Thomas of Canterbury, Higher Broughton - Roman Catholic
Gt Cheetham St East,
This great parish began humbly in its school buildings, which were opened by Bishop Vaughan in 1879. At that time its surroundings were more or less rural-green fields, farms, and rowing-boats on the Irwell. Built largely by the coppers of poor Irish labourers, building the railway to Crumpsall, this church served a district that has since seen the growth of many parishes-St. Boniface, Lower Broughton, Prestwich, St. Sebastian's at Pendleton, St. Ann's at Crumpsall, and the Servite Priory at Kersal.
Fr. O'Doherty, the first priest, lived some distance away at Tetlow Fold, having a walk to church along a pretty lane in summer and through mud in winter. He later built additions to the school-chapel and a presbytery. To his foresight was due the advantage that when extensions were needed and a new church had to be planned the original site could be used.
A new church was solemnly opened for worship by Bishop Bilsborrow on Sunday, November 24, 1901, the new parish priest being Fr. Flavin. Fr. Flavin made his new church beautiful, with a reredos for the High Altar, stained glass windows, and a fine organ.
Tragedy struck the parish when Fr. Flavin died abroad, and when his successor, Fr. Brereton, died within a few months without having taken any active part in the parish.
An old parishioner wrote the following tribute to the young priest who held the fort during these difficult months:
"The loss of two Rectors in less than six months was very depressing, and to the Reverend Vincent H. Marshall, who came to the mission during the later days of Father Flavin's illnesses, thanks are due for the skilful way so young a priest managed the parish during a trying time."
Fr. Wookey was well known as parish priest from 1912 until his death in 1936,1 when he was followed for a short period by Fr. Leo Parker, later Bishop of Northampton. Fr. Mortimer Daly has been parish priest in recent years and has worked with great zeal to secure funds for new schools.
1 Fr. William Wookey, as his name would imply, came from S.W. England, having been born in Bristol in 1865. He was a student at Salford Catholic Grammar School, and then at Valladolid and Ushaw. He was later Rector of St. John's, Burnley, and then secretary to Bishop Bilsborrow. He was for a time Rector of Valladolid, and returned to be Administrator of the Cathedral. He became Rector of St. Augustine's in 1909 and three years later took up his last appointment at Higher Broughton.
He was frequently Master of Ceremonies at diocesan functions. The Catholic Needlework Guild was revived by him, and he was chairman of the Manchester Catholic Truth Society. He had an imposing presence and charming manner. His charity in both word and deed was very well-known and appreciated. Among the clergy he was reputed for his hospitable welcome and for his lively wit.
Taken from "Salford Diocese and its Catholic past", a survey by Charles A. Bolton, a Priest of the above Diocese. Published 1950 on the First Centenary for the Diocese of Salford.
Copies of Original Registers
- 1947-1966 held by Lancashire Record Office RCSF 2
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