Manchester Church History

The Collegiate Church, which was the Parish Church of Manchester, only acquired Cathedral status in 1847. Included in an account of 'Manchester as it was in 1839', there is an interesting chapter on 'Places of Worship'.
"Situated on the banks of the river Irwell, on the road leading to Strangeways, being the parish church claims precedence. Its noble appearance is prepossessing, and its antiquity makes it an object of interesting enquiry. It was built in 1422. The style of architecture is gothic, highly ornamented. The interior of the church is comfortable and capacious"

During the year 1838, there were solemnised at this church -

  • Baptisms...........................5164
  • Burials...............................1457
  • Marriages...........................2615
St Mary
" The life of St. Mary's Church was not a long one. In the time of the Domesday Book the Parish of Manchester was very large, including even Ashton-under-Lyne. When the early eighteenth century was reached there was the Collegiate Church, which later became the Cathedral, and round it a number of Chapels of Ease - Birch, Blackley, Chorlton, Denton, Didsbury, Gorton, Newton Heath, Salford and Stretford - mostly lying some miles away , and in several cases growing out of private chapels. Then, with increasing industrialisation, further Churches were needed in the town itself. St Ann's was consecrated in 1712, St Thomas's, Ardwick in 1741, an St Mary's followed in 1756. Many others followed.

These Churches lay at first in the Parish of Manchester. Owing to the increased stringency in marriage regulations introduced by Lord Hardwick's Act of 1753, and probably also to the desire of the Mother Church (Collegiate) to keep in her own hands the weddings of the whole Parish, the Marriage Register of St Mary's Church starts later than that of Baptisms and Burials.

A separate Parish of St Mary's was formed on March 29th , 1839, and an Act authorising the division of the Parish of Manchester into several parishes was passed in 1851.

Then came the time when population left the centre of town, with the result that many of the Churches were deserted. Several have been demolished, and St Mary's was the first to go. The last regular services were held on the last Sunday of 1887, and the Church was finally closed after a service on October 4th 1890, at which the last Rector, the Rev. Richard Tonge, officiated. The Parish was then united with St Ann's.

The original site of the Church was the field, the Parsonage Croft, which lay at the back of the Old Parsonage, between it and the River Irwell."

St Mary's Registers cover the following periods :-

  • Baptisms - 3 Oct 1756 to 1 April 1888
  • Marriages - 9 Nov 1806 to 28 June 1837
  • Burials - 2 Feb 1754 to 31 Jan 1871
St.Andrew, Ancoats
St.Andrew's Church is a large and handsome stone building, situated in Travis Street,Ancoats. The expenses of its erection were defrayed by the Commissioners for Building Churches and amounted to £14,000. It was consecrated October 6th 1831. The interior has lately been very much improved; it contains three galleries; in the western one, is a fine organ. The altar, and a great portion of the ground in front of it, has been raised several feet, thus forming a chorus cantorum, which is fitted up with open benches, for the accommodation of the choir. The reading desk forms a continuation of one of the choir benches, on the north side. The pulpit is situated opposite to it; between the choir seats, and immediately in front of the altar rails, is a very handsome cross, inlaid in Mosaic encaustic tiles into the stone. The choral service is performed here on Sundays; morning, at half-past ten; evening at half-past six. The incumbent is the Rev.W.W.Willock,M.A.

From, The Stranger's Guide To Manchester, 1850

St.Andrew's Free Church
St Andrew's Free Church situated in Oxford street, at the corner of Grosvenor square, is a neat stone building, in early English style of architecture, from a design by Mr.Walters. The foundation stone was laid June 25th 1844. The cost of erection was about £1700. The interior is neatly fitted up; the body of the church will hold 600, and the galleries 400. The dimensions of the interior are 80 feet by 48. There is no regular minister appointed at present.

From, The Stranger's Guide To Manchester, 1850

The Cathedral

Some pictures of Manchester Cathedral, made available by Ian Rhodes:-

The reason for marriages in the cathedral

Under the requirements of Lord Hardwicke's Act only those marriages (other than those of Quakers and Jews) celebrated in the established church were valid. The Collegiate Church of Manchester was the parish church for the parish of Manchester. Not only was the parish geographically quite large, there was an explosion in the population during the 18th and early 19th centuries. As a result there were insufficient churches.

The situation was made worse by a dispute between the warden and fellows of the Collegiate Church and the rest of the world over the ownership of the fees paid for the marriage ceremony. The warden and fellows claimed that under the charter of the Collegiate Church they were entitled to the fees. As a result if a marriage was performed with the parish of Manchester at a church other than the Collegiate Church the bride and groom had to pay two fees -- one to the priest performing the ceremony and the other to the Collegiate Church. As only a single fee was required for marriages at the Collegiate Church, almost everyone opted to get wed there.

By 1839 there were at least 27 consecrated chapels and churches within the Parish of Manchester. Of these St. George's, Hulme, St. Philip's, Salford, and St. Matthew's, Campfield, had districts assigned to them and were authorized to celebrate marriages. It was not, however, until 1847 with the creation of the See of Manchester and the rise in status of the Collegiate Church from parish church to cathedral that the controversy was finally resolved.

In short, prior to 1847 a majority, but not all of the marriages in the parish of Manchester took place in the Collegiate Church. The reason for this was not Lord Hardwicke's Act alone, it was also the financial self-interest of the warden and fellows of the Collegiate Church.