A History & Guide to St Philip & St James Church.
A Tour of the Church
Entering the church by the south door, the visitor sees the Baptistery to the left with the font (1), which is of Caen stone. It is presumably mid-nineteenth century in date. Each of the eight faces of the base has a design of leaves and tracery. The font cover was given in 1993. Above the south door is a wooden cross made by the master carpenter at the David Lewis Centre to commemorate the silver jubilee as a priest of the then Vicar, Revd B T Young.
Moving to the west end of the church (2), note that the pillars of the north and south nave arcades are different – circular on the north side, octagonal on the south side. This is because the south aisle was not part of the original church of 1853 but was added a few years later (see the history, p.6). The south wall of the church was originally where the present south arcade of the nave stands. When the south aisle was added, the church was also extended westwards, so the last bay of the nave is also part of the extension. As a result of this sequence of events, the arches on the south side are slightly wider than those on the north, and the two sets of pillars are not exactly parallel.
It will be noticed that there are carved heads at the base of the arches. Three of those on the north side have the names of Saints Matthew, Mark and Luke on their collars. Oddly there is no St. John, though descriptions of the church in the local press in 1853 said that the heads represented the four evangelists and St. Philip – and there are two heads without collars. It is not known whether the heads on the south side were intended to represent particular saints.
At the west end of the North aisle (3) is the Hanson Library, fitted out in 199? as a memorial to Bishop Richard Hanson, a distinguished theologian who was a regular member of the parish in his later years.
The east end of the north aisle (4) was refurbished in 1930? as a Lady Chapel, with funds provided by
the family of Harriet Mary Robinson, who died in 1928. The screen behind the altar has angels holding
various musical instruments and in the central panel Saint Cecilia. In various panels are to be seen birds, flowers, frogs, an owl and fishes. The pulpit dates from the refurbishment of the chancel in the early 20th century. A small plaque inside it records that it was the gift of Thomas Chesters, The Larches, Alderley Edge, 1908. The five sided stone base has representations of the four evangelists and an inscription, ‘The gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world’.
Before entering the chancel, look up at the two heads at the base of the chancel arch. The one on the south side represents Jesus with a crown of thorns, while that on the south side is Mary grieving for her son. Now go into the chancel and look back at the corresponding heads on the east of the chancel arch. The one on the north is Jesus, this time in triumph, with Mary rejoicing after the resurrection on the south side. The significance is clear: as you pass from the nave to the altar, you pass from the crucified Christ to the risen Christ.
The chancel (6) is largely as it was refurbished in the early 20th century. New choir stalls were created with wood carving to the design of Percy Worthington in the Arts and Crafts style. Note the musical instruments on the central panels on either side. The organ screen is also by Percy Worthington. The mosaic tiled floor was also part of the refurbishment.
The reredos (7) represents the Last Supper. A fine piece of carving, it is believed to be of Tyrolean origin, though how it came to Alderley Edge in 1903 is a mystery.
This is a good point at which to begin a description of the windows, as the visitor is now beneath the East Window (A). This is the work of William Warrington, a Victorian stained glass artist who was a pupil of Pugin (though he quarrelled with him). It dates from the building of the church in 1853 and was donated by one of the original patrons. Warrington’s work can be found in many cathedrals and churches. This window represents, in four panels, the Crucifixion, Entombment, Resurrection
and Ascension of Our Lord. Adjoining it on the south side of the chancel is a smaller window (B) by Warrington, and another window (C) depicting Christ meeting Mary Magdalene at the Sepulchre on his Resurrection.
The east window of the south aisle (D) depicts the delivery of the tablets of the law to Moses and the Sermon on the Mount. This window was given by an anonymous donor in 1934 and is one of three windows in the church by Messrs Powell of Whitefriars. Their symbol, a tiny outline of a friar, can be seen in the bottom right hand corner of the window. The Ten Commandments board underneath this window echoes the theme of the Giving of the Law.
The adjoining window on the south wall of the south aisle (E) (‘Suffer the Little Children’) is also by Powell of Whitefriars and was given in 1933. Still in the South Aisle, the second window from the east, depicting St. Peter and St. Andrew (F), is by Morris and Co. The design of St. Peter is thought to be by Burne-Jones and Saint Andrew by Ford Madox Brown. A new technique was used for Saint Andrew, which was unsuccessful and accounts for the somewhat faded appearance of the head.
There are two contrasting stained glass windows in the north aisle. The window in the Lady Chapel (G), depicting ‘The Virgin Mother and Child and St. Peter’, is the third by Powell of Whitefriars and dates from 1935. The next window to the west (H) is clearly of a later date. It was designed by Lawrence Lee, whose best-known work is in Coventry Cathedral, and was installed in 1965 in memory of the family of Geoffrey and Marjorie Parkes. The figures are St. Michael and St George.
The figures in the west window (J) are the four evangelists. Originally the background was red, but in the 1960s, when the window had to be re-leaded, the four figures were floated on clear glass. The result is striking – and, one would guess, much more effective than the original.
Why build a ‘new church’?
The simple answer is that Alderley Edge was a new community, which had grown up with the arrival of the railway. The Manchester & Birmingham Railway opened
on 10 May 1842. At the point where it crossed the Wilmslow to Congleton turnpike, a station was built. The de Trafford family, which was the principal landowner in Chorley township, in partnership with the railway company, seized the opportunity to profit from this. The railway company offered 20 year passes to those leasing land worth £50 a year. Cotton merchants and professional men from Manchester were attracted by the possibility of commuting between the Cheshire countryside and the smoky city. Soon villas began to spring up on the Edge and in the Brook Lane area. The 1851 census for Chorley township showed an increase in population of 242 (43%) in the ten years since 1841.
The new community lay at the southern end of the parish of Wilmslow, 1½ miles from the parish church. As it grew, the need began to be felt for a church to serve as a chapel of ease (a second church within the parish). Funds were raised by public subscription. The de Traffords provided land on a site at the junction of the turnpike and the road to Chelford, but stipulated that there was not to be a burial ground.
According to the Sentence of Consecration, a group of six men took the lead in raising funds by public subscription and overseeing the building of a “New Church”. They were:
Revd William Brownlow, Rector of Wilmslow
Joseph Henry Reynell de Castro, of Wood Brook, merchant aJohn Rowson Lingard, solicitor, who probably lived at Lake Vale
Thomas Fletcher, merchant
John McKay, who lived at Springfield, carrier
Edward Westhead, merchant and small wares manufacturer
Also prominent in the establishment of the church were John Kay Farnworth, a solicitor and land agent, and Alfred Lowe of the Ryleys, who gave the chalices used at communion services to this day.
The consecration of the church took place on 12 January 1853. It was a big event and lengthy accounts appeared in the “Stockport Advertiser”, the “Macclesfield Courier” and the “Manchester Courier”. The Advertiser noted that “Nothing could have been more unpropitious than the weather … the rain, which had descended in torrents, had completely saturated the ground”. The service was attended by Lord Stanley and some 19 clergy from the surrounding parishes and from Stockport and Manchester. The Bishop of Chester, the Right Revd John Graham, presided.
“At about 3 o’clock the guests – invited by the Trustees, the Revd Brownlow and Messrs De Castro and Westhead – proceeded to the Queen’s Hotel, at Alderley, where a magnificent collation awaited them. Between 70 and 80 sat down to this elegant repast, which reflected the highest credit, not only on the hospitality of the Trustees, but on the taste and good judgment of Mr Hepworth, the proprietor, who provided it.
The original church was smaller than the building we see today, though it was soon to be enlarged. It consisted of a chancel and a nave and north aisle of four bays. Thus the west wall was where the crossing is today and there was no south aisle. There was no spire, only a small bell turret at the west end.
It soon became clear that the church was too small for the growing community. Two public meetings in 1857 led to the granting of a faculty for enlargement in 1859. The nave and north aisle were lengthened by one bay and a south aisle of five bays was added. The most striking addition, however, was the tower and spire, with a porch beneath. Thus by about 1860 the building we see at present was complete apart from the vestry (there was a smaller vestry in the present position from 1853). It seems likely, from the wording of the petition for faculty, that this enlargement had been envisaged from the first.
The architect was Joseph Stretch Crowther. Crowther was one of Manchester’s leading church architects in the second half of the 19th century and was responsible for much of the rebuilding of Manchester Cathedral in the 1890s. St Philip’s was one of his first major churches and owes much to his partnership with Henry Bowman. Bowman and Crowther collaborated in producing “Churches of the Middle Ages”, published in 1845 and described nearly 50 years later as “still one of the standard works on the subject”. It is no surprise therefore that St Philip’s is correct in its detailed reproduction of the characteristics of a 14th century church in the style known today as Decorated (at the time it was called Middle Pointed).
Crowther wanted the church to reproduce a medieval church built in two stages, as indeed St Philip’s was. This is why the pillars on the two sides of the nave are different and the arches on the south side are slightly wider than those on the north. Throughout the interior and exterior there are carved heads at the bases of the arches and these have been used in this guide as page decoration. Crowther settled in Alderley Edge. He built Redclyffe Grange on Woodbrook Road for himself but then moved to Endsleigh in Brook Lane.
The first Vicar, the Revd James Whitworth Consterdine
The first Vicar was the Revd James Whitworth Consterdine. From a family of Manchester cotton merchants and educated at Manchester Grammar School and Trinity College, Cambridge, Mr Consterdine was aged 26 when he was appointed. Ordained in Manchester in 1849, he had served as Curate to Canon Stowell at Christ Church, Salford. He remained at St Philip’s for 51 years, retiring in 1904. His background must have put him at ease among the ‘cottentots’ of Alderley Edge, but he does seem to have been concerned to minister to the poorer members of his parish.
For instance, in his speech on the Church Jubilee in 1903 he spoke of meetings held in a weaver’s house in Lindow (before the building of Lindow church), outlined the development of the school and praised the work of the Sunday School teachers and district visitors. He was clearly on the evangelical wing of the Victorian Church of England.
One of the first district visitors was Catherine Winkworth. Her father, Henry Winkworth, a Manchester silk manufacturer, moved to Alderley Edge in 1850. The Winkworths were friendly with Mrs Gaskell, from whose husband, William Gaskell, Catherine had received German lessons. It was while she lived in Alderley Edge that she began translating German hymns into English. In 1855 she published Lyra Germanica, a collection of 103 hymns, of which the best known is
Nun danket alle Gott – Now thank we all our God.
The parish develops
A number of important developments took place in the parish as Alderley Edge grew. In 1866 St Philip’s was made a separate parish. At this time the parish included Lindow. However in 1873 St John’s Church was built and four years later Lindow became a parish in its own right.
Only two years after the church was opened the school followed. It was also designed by Crowther, as the style of the oldest part of the building clearly shows. Although next to the church and clearly regarded by Mr Consterdine as under his wing, it was not in fact a church school and consequently eventually was handed over to Cheshire County Council. The vicarage, which stood on what is now the Community School’s nature reserve, followed.
In 1879 the Temperance and Mission Hall, later known as the Church Institute, was built in London Road. (see below)
What was St Philip’s like in the nineteenth century?
In the 1930s Mr C W Railton set down his recollections of St Philip’s in the 1860s, when he was a boy. He describes church sentiment as being of the ‘old fashioned, low church evangelical type’, which looked upon Hymns Ancient and Modern as ‘savouring of high church doctrine and ritual’. He went on:
The services were much longer than what we are accustomed to now. On Sunday mornings we had the ante-communion service, Commandments and all, in addition to the full morning service, and sometimes the Litany as well. Early 8 o’clock Communion was unknown. Once a month we had a communion service after morning prayer and sermon, and occasionally after evening service. Sermons were long, too, in those days, often forty minutes; the vicar alwayspreached in a black gown and wearing Geneva bands and he wore black kid gloves when he read the prayers. Surplices were worn much longer than they are now. I don’t think a cassock was ever thought of. Had it been, I am sure it would have met with stern disapproval. The very name smacked of Romanism. But there were good congregations in those days. People went to church as a matter of course, and generally twice a day. Omission to attend church at least once a day on Sunday was apt to stamp you as being ‘not quite respectable’.
Very few records survive for the period of the Revd Consterdine’s incumbency. There was no Church Council and so there are no minutes, though there are records, often brief and formal, of the annual vestry meetings at which churchwardens were elected. The only record of ordinary parish activity is the account books. These show that, since there was no endowment, the Vicar’s stipend was paid from pew rents. There was a separate Curate’s Fund derived from parishioners’ subscriptions. The other main source of income was the churchwardens’ rate, which paid for routine maintenance, fuel and payments to the organist and apparitor, who was responsible for church cleaning. Collections were largely for charitable purposes. These varied from year to year, but usually included the Church Missionary Society, the Church Pastoral Aid Society and Manchester hospitals. In the 1880s there was a regular grant to a church in Hulme. Another regular grant went to the Society for Promoting Christianity among the Jews! There were three services on Sundays - morning at 10.30am, afternoon at 3.00pm and evening at 6.30pm. Communion services were held on the first Sunday after morning service, the third Sunday after the evening service and the fifth Sunday at 8.30am. St Philip’s reflected the class divide in the village. Katherine Chorley in her account of Edwardian Alderley Edge, Manchester Made Them, tells us:
We – that is the residents on the hill – hardly ever went to church on Sunday evening. There was a social distinction between morning and evening service. The village people went in the evening and the various maids who were not free on Sunday morning. It was felt that the evening service was their preserve and that they would prefer to have it to themselves.
Mr Railton also recalled climbing the tower as a boy on New Year’s Eve with his brother to ring midnight on the one bell. ‘The sensation of being up there in that lonely tower with a flickering lantern and perhaps a howling wind our only companions, was deliciously weird and thrilling’, he wrote.
A proposal to establish a peal of eight bells was dropped when nearby residents objected. Instead tubular bells were installed, the remains of which are still in the tower. In the 1930s they were superseded by recorded bells.
The Early Twentieth Century: The Revd William Lang Paige Cox, Vicar 1904-12
Mr Consterdine retired in 1904 after 51 years as Vicar and was succeeded by the Revd (later Canon) William Lang Paige Cox, who was previously Vicar of Rock Ferry and Rural Dean of Birkenhead.
The year before Mr Consterdine retired, St Philip’s celebrated its golden jubilee. This provided the spur for a programme of improvements. A Jubilee Commemoration Fund was set up which raised £851 15s 0d. First came the building of a larger vestry, designed by F P Oakley and with an unusual hexagonal shape. At the same time the present reredos, thought to be of Tyrolean origin, was erected. These works were completed in 1903-4. In 1905 electric lighting was installed. The Jubilee Commemoration Fund was then followed by an Improvements Fund. With the proceeds the chancel was remodelled. This involved removing the screen, installing new choir stalls, repaving the chancel floor with mosaic tiles and providing screens for the organ chamber. All this work was designed and supervised by Percy Worthington, as was the lych gate which was built at the same time. The carving on the screen and choir stalls is a fine example of the work of the Arts and Crafts Movement.
In the same year the mission church of St James was built on Heyes Lane (see below). Finally in 1910 the Ten Commandments Board at the east end of the south aisle was erected.
The Revd George Henry Cooper, Vicar 1913-26
In 1912 Canon Paige Cox moved to Hoylake (in the following year he became Archdeacon of Chester). He was succeeded in 1913 by Revd George Henry Cooper, Vicar 1913-26. Much of the information we have about the period before the First World War comes from the minutes of the Church Council formed in 1904, but these cease in 1914. We have then little information about St Philip’s until 1920 when the Parochial Church Council was set up, as required by legislation passed in 1919. Meeting in the aftermath of war, one of the first things the newly formed council did was to approve the erection of the War Memorial at the east end of the churchyard. Designed by Percy and Hubert Worthington and erected by Masseys, the Memorial was unveiled on 29th April 1922 by Col W Bromley-Davenport, Lord Lieutenant of Cheshire. The site was then handed over by the church to the Urban District Council.
The minutes of the newly formed PCC record concerns which are often similar to those we have today. In 1922 after receiving a report of the sum required from the parish for the Diocesan Fund and the Central Fund – the equivalent of today’s Parish Share – the PCC ‘was of the opinion that ‘no increase was possible for this parish at present’. There were always items of maintenance – rewiring in 1922, restoration of the organ in 1923, regilding of the weather vane in 1924. The running of the Church Institute seems to have been a constant worry. There were, however, some issues raised which may seem surprising to us today. In 1924 a resolution ‘that candles be placed on the altar’ led to a heated discussion and a post-card vote of the electors. The result was a substantial majority in favour, which may indicate a shift in churchmanship since the evangelical days of Mr Consterdine.
The Revd (later Canon) William James Gravell, Vicar
Mr Cooper was succeeded as Vicar in 1926 by Revd William James Gravell, a graduate of St Peter’s College, Lampeter. In the years before the Second World War, the demands of routine maintenance of what was by then a building more than 75 years old continue to appear in the minutes. Perhaps most alarming, but also familiar to us today, was a report in 1932 that ‘work on the steeple had become urgent’. In the event 24 feet had to be taken down and rebuilt. The cost (£329) was met by an appeal in the local paper. Finance was clearly a problem. In 1938 the treasurer reported that in the previous two years expenditure had exceeded income by £41 and £76 respectively. A proposal in 1929 to install a microphone in the church was rejected on grounds of expense.
However, a number of important improvements were made through generous gifts. An indication of a more central churchmanship was the decision to provide caps and gowns for the ladies of the choir in 1928. In 1928 a faculty was obtained for the refurbishment of the north aisle as a Lady Chapel. This was the gift of the Robinson family in memory of Mrs Oswald (Harriett Mary) Robinson. The same family gave the Virgin Mother and St Peter window in the Lady Chapel in 1935 as a memorial to Noel Oswald Robinson. This window was made by James Powell of Whitefriars. The same firm also made the two windows in the south aisle: ‘The Giving of the Law’ at the east end of this aisle was an anonymous gift, while the adjacent window, ‘Suffer little children to come unto me’, was given by Mr F A Padmore in memory of his wife.
A PCC meeting on 11 September 1939 reflected the impact of the outbreak of war. The treasurer said that he expected to be called to the Colours at short notice. Because of the blackout, it was decided that evensong should be at 3.00 pm with immediate effect. But the PCC felt it would be too expensive to arrange for protection of the stained glass against air raids. During the war, maintenance was neglected and in 1945 it was reported that the vestry was in a very dirty condition, the downspouts were rusting, plaster was falling from the ceiling of the church and it needed redecorating. A year later, however, there was a more optimistic development – the decision to refurbish St James’ Church to cater for the new council estate.
The Revd Arthur Ben Leaman, Vicar 1947-57
Canon Gravell retired in 1947, to be succeeded by the Revd Arthur Ben Leaman. Mr Leaman came to Alderley Edge from Gatley, where he had been Vicar for 11 years. He had been inspired to become a priest after meeting the Revd G A Studdert Kennedy, better known as Woodbine Willie, during the First World War. A keen gardener and craftworker and a talented pianist, he also had a fine baritone voice. A practical man, he was apt to warn people to beware of those who are so heavenly minded that they are of no earthly use. He remained at St Philip’s for 10 years, and during that time was involved in several important changes.
Finding a parish which, after the building of the council estate, was socially divided, he devoted much attention to boosting St James’s Church. Thinking that a major fundraising event would further his aim of bringing the two communities together, in 1948 he arranged a Spring Fair. Pew rents, which had been the cornerstone of the income of the parish from its beginning in 1853, were abolished between 1949 and 1952 and in 1952 an envelope system was set up. In 1954 Belmont Hall was purchased for £850 from the Methodists to provide a social club for the St James’s congregation. In the same year, after prolonged discussion, in the course of which Mr Leaman had indicated that he could not afford to remain at St Philip’s in the present vicarage, it was decided to purchase the site for the new vicarage. Mr Leaman also played an important part in the negotiations for the Woodard Corporation to take over St Hilary’s after the retirement of Miss Gliddon and Miss Adcock.
The highlight of Mr Leaman’s incumbency, however, was the Centenary Celebrations in 1953. The church was floodlit for the occasion and special services were held on successive Sundays, the first addressed by the Bishop of Chester and the second by the Bishop of Manchester. An organ recital was given by David Willcocks, organist of Worcester Cathedral (and later Director of Music at King’s College, Cambridge). The Church Choir gave three performances of ‘The Pirates of Penzance’ at the Church Institute, as well as providing special music for the commemorative services.
The Revd Keith Maltby, Vicar 1957-1969
In 1957 Mr Leaman moved to Little Bollington and was succeeded by the Revd Keith Mason Maltby. Mr Maltby, a Cambridge graduate, came to Alderley Edge from Bollington. He was a fine scholar. In 1962, the tercentenary of the 1662 Prayer Book, he published a booklet entitled “Studies in the Book of Common Prayer”. There were a number of changes to the church and its surroundings during his incumbency. In 1959 the new vicarage was completed and blessed by the Bishop of Chester. The old vicarage was then sold to Cheshire County Council and demolished. The St Michael and St George window in the north aisle, the gift of Mr Geoffrey Parkes, was installed in 1965-6. In 1966 the west window was refurbished, giving it its present appearance. The Vestry Minutes for 1967 said that as a result it ‘admitted light where gloom had formerly prevailed’. The Parish Rooms were erected in 1969 at a cost of £5408.
Mr Maltby was also responsible for the introduction of planned giving at St Philip’s. In 1962 a Parish Dinner at Belle Vue attended by nearly 500 people initiated the first of four Stewardship Campaigns which did a great deal to strengthen parish finances. In 1969, Mr Maltby moved to Alsager College of Education. He subsequently became a Canon Residentiary at Chester Cathedral.
The Revd Frederick Henry Brooke Leese, Vicar 1970-1982
On the departure of Mr Maltby in 1969, the Revd Fred Leese became the new Vicar. Unlike the other incumbents, Mr Leese was not a Cheshire man or even a northerner but a Londoner. One of his firstde cisions was to replace the Parish Magazine, which was losing about £250 a year, by a News Sheet distributed every month to every house in the village. A new pattern of services which provided for Parish Communion every Sunday was approved in 1970. Soon after his arrival he was also instrumental in setting up the Alderley Council of Churches after a successful venture with a Christian Aid shop. With the erection of the Parish Rooms, the Church ceased to make regular use of the Institute and a new scheme of management was drawn up to reflect this.
When the curate, Revd Ashby Owens, was appointed to his first incumbency in the Wirral it became evident that there would no longer be a stipendiary curate in Alderley Edge, so in 1976 the Curate’s house was sold. In 1975 the decision was taken to close St James’s and the site was sold. Shortly afterwards, Belmont was also sold. Finally it should be noted that it was during Mr Leese’s incumbency that the decision was taken to extend the Parish Rooms, though the work was not completed until after he had left for a living in rural Sussex.
The Revd Brian Thomas Young, Vicar 1983-2007
His successor was Revd (later Canon) Brian Young. Mr Young was a native of Bollington but came to Alderley Edge from a parish in West Cumberland. At the time of writing (2010) it does not seem appropriate to attempt a detailed account of his incumbency, but some key events may be recorded. In 1987 a Restoration Fund was launched as a result of which over £100000 was raised over a period of five years. This provided for a major refurbishment, including new lighting, the sound system, the rebuilding of the organ and the replacement of the Victorian pews. At the same time the Hanson Library was created in memory of Bishop Richard Hanson, a distinguished theologian who was a regular worshipper at St Philip’s. Canon Young built upon his predecessor’s work in promoting ecumenism through the Alderley Council of Churches. This included a series of “On Fire” events at Pentecost in the park and, most notably, a production of the Chester Miracle Plays in 1998. This was probably the biggest community event organised in Alderley Edge in recent years. In 2003 the 150th anniversary of the church was celebrated in a year-long series of events that included an Organ Marathon.
The Church Institute
The Alderley Edge Temperance and Mission Hall was opened on April 28, 1879. Erected by ublic subscription at a cost of £2300 on land given under the will of James F Kennedy, its purpose was to provide an alternative to the pub for working men. It provided a reading room and a coffee room. Of the five original trustees, J B Northcott and W W Coulborn were churchwardens of St Philip’s and John Railton was also a leading member of the congregation.
Despite these close links, the Institute was not under the control of the church, but was a separate charity. Before long it became apparent that it was not financially self-supporting. The Trustees therefore decided that it could best serve the village if associated with the Parish Church, so they granted the use of the building to the Vicar and Churchwardens, who undertook full responsibility for its maintenance.
In 1921 the PCC took over full control. The PCC minutes tell us that Mr C W Railton, who had been acting as a trustee, had for some time been anxious to hand over the building definitely to the Church. As the original trustees were dead and Mr Railton had never been legally appointed, there was nobody capable of making a legal transfer. On the Wardens’ advice, the PCC resolved to assume the ownership without any legal formalities and draw up its own regulations with regard to the use of the building. These included allowing whist drives ‘on condition that prizes were “in kind”.
And so the Institute remained until 1972 as a centre for parochial activities, as well as being used by a variety of other village organizations for meetings, socials, whist drives, jumble sales, etc. For many years Sunday School classes were held there (in 1960 the Junior Boys). There were, however, obvious disadvantages in having what was effectively the parish hall so far from the church. In the 1960s it was decided that the interests of the church would be better served by a hall in the church grounds. In 1969 the Parish Rooms were opened. Under a new Trust Deed in 1972 the Church passed over management of the Institute to a body of 12 Managing Trustees, three of them to be nominated by St Philip’s.
St James’s Church
The Wilmslow Advertiser of 3 April 1908 ran an article headed–
ST JAMES’S MISSION HALL, ALDERLEY EDGE
It tells us that about three years previously a Church Army van had been stationed in the Heyes Lane area of the parish and attracted good congregations. “Some time before this,” it continued, “it had been the intention of the clergy to have some services in that part of the parish and the success of the Army van stimulated their ideas in that direction, considerably helped forward by the Revd Paige Cox, who immediately recognised that there should be a building there for the convenience of worshippers.” It was an early 20th century version of ‘outreach’, perhaps, occasioned by the growth of the population at that end of Heyes Lane. The houses in that part of the village were terraces, not villas. This was a mission church for the working class.
The building was completed in a very short time at a cost of £648 9s. 4d. On Tuesday, June 16th 1908, the Bishop of Chester, the Rt Revd Dr Francis Jayne, opened St James’s Mission Church. The newspaper report of the occasion notes, incidentally, that the Bishop and the Vicar were proceeding along Heyes Lane to St James’s in Mr Illingworth’s private carriage, when the horses bolted. Fortunately Police Sergeant Leigh pulled them up and the Bishop duly arrived.
We have little record of the history of St James’s over the following 40 years. According to one of the very few early parish magazines which have survived (June 1919), Communion Services were held on the last Sunday of each month, and Sunday School at 10.00 am and 2.30 pm, Miss Bratt Superintendent. The arrangement was much the same in 1930 except that there was a Children’s Service rather than Sunday School in the morning.
During the Second World War services were suspended, but a new era dawned after the end of the war. The building of the council estate led to a large increase in the population of that part of the parish. A group of younger Church members, some of them recently returned from the forces, and prominent among them Bob Bancroft, spearheaded a scheme for the renovation of St James’s and on its completion in 1949 Sunday evening services were resumed. Evensong took place every Sunday, led by Mr J D Bird, a licensed Reader, who was the mainstay of services at St James’s until its closure.
Communion was celebrated at 9.30am on the first and third Sundays. The Sunday School was again a central feature of the life of St James’s. In 1954 Belmont Hall, some 50 yards from St James’s, was purchased from the Methodist Church (which had set it up as a mission for the Heyes Lane area at almost exactly the same time as St James’s was built). It served as a hall for St James’s Social Club, which held regular events such as Harvest Suppers, whist drives, concerts, etc. It was clearly a lively and flourishing community in the 1950s and 1960s.
In 1973 the PCC decided that St James’s would not be repaired but would be kept going while Mr Bird was able to serve it. Reading between the lines, financial constraints were being balanced by pastoral sensitivity. But, according to an open letter circulated by the then Vicar, Mr Leese, there was more to it than that. He argued that to have two churches within half a mile of each other in a parish of 5000 people was divisive. Both finance and staffing at St James’s were problematic. What he felt was really unjustifiable was that having two churches led to division within his flock.
To have one church, the parish church, in which all would worship together, would, he believed, over time draw the parish together. It was nevertheless inevitable that the closure of St James’s would cause hurt to its loyal members. In 1975, with Mr Bird’s health failing, the PCC took the decision to close St James’s. The last service was held on 9 March 1975.
The Rose Queen Fete
The first Rose Queen Fete took place in 1951. It was an initiative of people from St James’s and was held in Mr Bird’s garden at Oak Bank, Brook Lane. The first Queen was Miss Pat Yoxall. The proceeds, approximately £100, were sent to Manchester Children’s Hospital at Pendlebury. This first venture was so successful that in the following year it was transferred to the Ryleys School playing field and then in 1953 to the Chorley Hall Lane playing field. Always held on the first Saturday in June, it was for many years one of the highlights of the village calendar. In later years, it was organised jointly with the Methodist Church, but by the 1980s, with changes in society, it was becoming increasingly difficult to engage the interest of younger families. The last fete took place in 1987. Throughout its history the proceeds had been donated to children’s charities – in the last ten years alone £5000.
St Philip & St James
The present Vicar, the Revd Jane Parry was inducted in April 2008. At her suggestion the PCC agreed that the name of the parish should be changed to honour the role that the Mission Church of St James had played for nearly 70 years in the twentieth century. The parish and the parish church were rededicated under the new name at a service conducted by the Bishop of Chester in September 2009