English Martyrs, Whalley Range - Roman Catholic
Alexandra Rd Sth,
The parish for nearly twenty years was known as St. Bede's parish. It was served by the priests of the College Staff. The College had its beginning, early in 1876, in a house in Grosvenor Square, All Saints. The Staff then consisted of three priests- Fathers Wood, Reichart and Lynch; and early in September of that year they took up their residence at 28 Alexandra Road South, known as Ebenezer Lodge, and now part of the Cenacle Convent. On October 29, St. Bede's Day, came the creation of St. Bede's Mission for the Alexandra Park district. Father Wood became Rector as well as Rector of the College. "The Oratory of St. Bede" was solemnly opened as the Chapel of the Parish on that Sunday, October 29, Bishop Vaughan preaching in the morning and his brother, Father John Vaughan, in the evening. The chapel apparently consisted of two rooms on the ground floor of Ebenezer Lodge. The Rector and Father John Vaughan undertook the work of the new parish.
In 1877, Father James Hayes was appointed Vice-Rector of the College and given charge of the new mission. The times of Sunday Masses were 8-30, 10 and 11 o'clock. On weekdays the Masses were at 7, 7-30 and 8-45. This last Mass was also the Mass for the Day Students. When Bishop Vaughan bought the Manchester Aquarium, now the St. Bede's Academic Hall, Father Rowan wrote: "The Aquarium became the parent trunk whence grew the future College." Arrangements were made for turning the Refreshment Room (behind the main Hall) into the College and parish chapel. This soon became too overcrowded, and the Aquarium itself had to be used for the Sunday services-the small room being sufficient for weekdays. In November 1882, the Aquarium became the chapel for the College and congregation.
In 1891, the Salford Grammar School was joined on to St. Bede's. The late Bishop Casartelli was made Rector of the enlarged College and also Rector of the mission. Soon afterwards, the Bishop decided that the people of the parish should have a church of their own. Fr. Rowan, one of the professors, a young priest and a scholar, was given the task of carrying out this great scheme. With little money in hand, he began to collect funds-a work which he found slow and difficult. A plot of land was bought in 1893 for 510 to be the site of the new church. This was to be built in honour of the Martyrs of England.
On May 4, 1895, the feast of the English Martyrs, the foundation stone was laid by Bishop Bilsborrow. In a little more than a year the nave and aisles were completed, and the church was opened and blessed on July 5, 1896. Cardinal Vaughan came from London to preach the first sermon.
The School was built in memory of Bishop Bilsborrow-a great friend of Catholic Education, during the year 1908. On January 11, 1909, it was opened with 133 scholars on the books. Three times that number are now attending.
In 1910, the Lady altar was erected. It was the gift of Mrs. Buckley-Taylor, one of the Hulton family. In March of the following year, St. Joseph's altar was built. This was given by the ever-generous Berthoud family. These beautiful altars are admired by everyone visiting the church.
But the great event to which Father Rowan had long looked forward was the consecration of the church. After intense preparation and much anxiety, this took place on May 4, 1922. Bishop Casartelli was also deeply interested in this event, but when the day came, he was unfortunately unable to perform the ceremony, owing to a severe attack of laryngitis. The church and high altar were consecrated by the Bishop of Clifton. The Bishop of Shrewsbury consecrated the Lady altar and Bishop Hanlon the St. Joseph altar.
In 1926, with the help of a generous legacy from the late Miss Mary Ellen Guerin, Father Rowan was able to complete the Tower, and add a spire to the church. The stones for this purpose came from a disused Presbyterian church in Ramsbottom.
Father Rowan died on February 17, 1935, the eve of his 69th birthday-deeply regretted. He had an intense love for the church and people of the parish. He rarely took a holiday, for he was never happy away from them. He lived for them, and spent himself for them. The church and schools are a lasting monument to his memory. Fr. B. McClernon was his only assistant.
Canon James Murray began his duties as parish priest on May 4, 1935. He at once took steps to erect a suitable memorial to Father Rowan. This took the form of Sanctuary decorations in mosaic, with panels of the newly canonised Saints-St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More. In 1937, the new organ was built and opened on Easter Sunday.
The first great air raid on Manchester took place on the night of December 22-23, 1940, and the church and presbytery were badly damaged. In the church, most of the stained glass was destroyed, the roof was broken in places and partially lifted. The presbytery had to be vacated. From Christmas Day until Sunday, January 19, 1941, the Sunday services were held in the Retreat House of the Cenacle Convent, kindly placed at our disposal by the Superior. Hospitality to the curates was given by the convent for three months. The parish priest was housed and cared for during that time by a generous parishioner, Dr. Redmond. For many weeks, the church was cold and draughty, since plywood had to take the place of glass. But no complaints were heard and everyone was full of gratitude that no further damage was done. The clergy took a house in Blair Road, where they remained from March until August 1941. Then they were able to return to a repaired presbytery. The necessary repairs were also carried out in the church during the summer of that year.
The last six or seven years have brought a large increase in the Catholic population of Moss Side. A new parish of Our Lady has been started by Father H. Clarke.
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.
The mosaics on either side of the High Altar were installed by Thomas Henry LINGARD (1885 - 1960), tiler and mosaicer, in 1935. His daughter, Elizabeth LINGARD married Augustine BERRELL at the church on 15 July 1939. Mr LINGARD was the maternal grandfather of the photographer, Anthony Michael BERRELL.
Copies of Original Registers
- 1947-1962 held by Lancashire Record Office RCSF 2
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