Our parish history page uses text from the late Syd Hibbert’s book Come Let Us Worship. This fascinating work was published in 1993. The following information does not reflect changes and developments which have taken place since the publication of Syd’s book.
- The Parish of St Thomas
- Early History
- The Old Church
- The Rev Edmund Sibson
- The Ashton Vestments Dispute
- The Re-building of 1891-1893
- The Rev Henry Siddall
- The Present Church
- The Organ
- Stained Glass
- The Registers
- St Thomas’s Schools
- St Luke’s Church
- Life at St Thomas’s Today
Ashton-in-Makerfield, or in the Willows, as it was variously called, was the largest and most populous of the townships in the ancient Parish of Winwick, and would originally have been included in the Diocese of York.
About the beginning of the tenth century, the land between the Ribble and the Mersey was transferred to the Diocese of Lichfield then in 1541 to the new Diocese of Chester. In 1880 the Diocese of Liverpool was created out of Chester, and Ashton has been in the Diocese of Liverpool since that date. From Medieval times Ashton formed part of the Rural Deanery of Warrington, but since1865 has been in the Rural Deanery of Wigan.
In 1845 The Winwick Rectory Act was passed dividing the old Parish of Winwick into ten new Parishes-Winwick, Croft, Cultcheth, Newton-in-Makerfield Emmanuel, Newton St Peter, Newchurch, Golborne, Lowton, Ashton-in-Makerfield, and Ashton St Thomas. It was enacted that the Parish and Rectory of Ashton-in-Makerfield should comprise the whole of the township of Ashton-in-Makerfield “except that part which is called the Town End”, and that the Town End, together with the whole of the township of Haydock should form the Parish and Vicarage of St Thomas.
The Town End was defined as “all such parts of the township of Ashton-in-Makerfield as shall be to the southward of a line to be drawn as follows: beginning at a place where the boundary between the township of Ashton-in-Makerfield and the township of Haydock crosses Millfield Lane, and thence along the centre of the said lane to a certain other lane called Dock Lane, thence Eastwardly along the centre of such lane to a brook which crosses the same lane about 65 yards beyond the fourth milestone from St Helens thence crossing the same lane to the north- easterly abutment of a bridge which crosses the said brook; thence in a straight direction to a mere stone, standing in Nichol Lane near the place where a public footway enters the same lane; thence along the centre of Nichol Lane to Long Lane and thence along the centre of Long Lane to Old Bryn Lane; thence along centre of such lane to a place where Coffin Lane Brook crosses the same lane and thence following the line of the brook in an easterly direction until it reaches the boundary of the township of Ashton-in-Makerfield.”
The Parish remained as such until in 1869 the Parish of St James Haydock was formed, taking over from St. Thomas’s the whole of the Township of Haydock except that part which lies eastward of a line drawn down the centre of Kenyon’s Lane, Penny Lane and Vista Road.
The Parish boundaries were revised again on the 25th of August 1931 when parts of the Parishes of Ashton-in-Makerfield (Holy Trinity) and parts of St Thomas’s were formed into a “Consolidated Chapelry” and assigned to the Church of St. Peter’s Bryn.
In 1935 a further boundary adjustment conferred part of St. Thomas’s Parish in the Township of Haydock to the Parish of St James. The last boundary adjustment in 1980 left the Parish boundaries as follows:- beginning at the boundary between Ashton and Haydock at Millfield Lane, then along the centre of Millfield Lane to Liverpool Road, eastwardly along the centre of Liverpool Road to the M6 Motorway, northwards along the M6 to Lowbank Road, then eastwards along the centre of Lowbank Road, Cansfield Grove and Alexandra Road to Bryn Road South, north along the centre of Bryn Road South to Bryn Rd, along the centre of Bryn Road to Lockett Road and then in a north easterly direction to Old Bryn Lane, then in a south easterly direction to Coffin Lane, eastwardly across Bolton Road to Coffin Lane Brook, following the brook eastwardly to the boundary of Ashton-in-Makerfield; following the boundary south and continuing south to the East Lancashire Road, west along this road to Kilbuck Lane in Haydock, following Kilbuck Lane until it joins Millfield Lane and then back along the boundary with Ashton.
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The Parish Church of St Thomas the Apostle is at least the third, and possibly the fourth building on this site, as there was some tradition of a chapel standing there as long ago as 1483. There is no record of the origin of Ashton Chapel, which is first mentioned in 1515 when there arose a dispute between Sir Thomas Gerard of Bryn and his namesake at Ince. It was then that “Priest at Ashton Chapel” had given notice that Sir Thomas intended to make a straight ditch through Turnshea Moss so that his turf rooms might be drier. Little is known of it for a century after this, but it is recorded that Humphrey Winstanley and Alice Worsley were married in 1559 “in a chapel in the house of Sir Thomas Gerard” by Oswald Key, “Chaplain singing at Ashton Chapel”. Oswald Key appeared at the first visitation of Queen Elizabeth’s reign.When Saxton produced his map of Lancashire in 1557, Ashton Chapel was sufficiently important to be included. This first chapel was probably a small oneand may not even have been consecrated “excepting by holding devine service therein”, as it was only a chapel of ease to Winwick. As there is no evidence, we can only imagine the interior from what we know of Churches at that time. It was most likely very plain with white washed walls on which Bible stories could have been painted, the floor plain earth or flags, and everyone standing for the services, pews only being introduced on a general scale after the appearance of the reformed prayer book. The congregation probably did not join in the services very much as they would have been in Latin. The Priest’s vestments would have been much the same as today, and the altar most likely a plain stone slab on which there would have been a crucifix and candles.
At that time England was still a catholic country, but when Edward V1 became king in 1547 there were great changes, and these must have been felt in the little chapel at Ashton. When Edward died and Mary became Queen in 1553, Catholicism was restored, but five years later Elizabeth re-instated the Protestant religion. In 1562 it was noted that Sir Thomas Gerard forcibly carried to the chapel an old relative, as a too obstinate adherent of the old religion, so the new services of the Elizabethan Prayer Book was obviously used there. Half a century later, at the end of Elizabeth’s reign, the Protestant religion was firmly established, but church matters could hardly have been satisfactory in Ashton as the ministrations at the chapel were irregular. In 1590 there was “no preacher there”, and more than twenty years later “seldom a curate”. The most probable reason for this was that as it was only a chapel of ease to Winwick, there was no income except what the Rector allowed. Only from 1645, when the Minister was granted the sequestered tithes of the township, which were worth £20 a year, do we find a continuous list of curates.Then came the Civil War when the Bishops and clergy were turned out of their Churches and Chapels. Ashton suffered as all other parishes in the area. In the parliamentarian period, after the Civil War, Lancashire was divided up into nine Presbyterian “Classes”. The fourth “Classis” consisted of Warrington, Winwick, Leigh, Wigan and Prescot Parishes. A list of Ministers and Elders fit to be out of this Classis” includes the following from Winwick Parish.
Mr Charles Herle of Winwick
Mr Thomas Norman of Newton
Mr James Woods of Ashton
Others fit to be Fourth Classis include
Mr Robert Watmough of Winwick
Gilbert Eden of Winwick
John Ashton of Newton
James Pilkington of Ashton
Every living was closely scrutinised by the Parliamentary Commissioners. Every witness who could give evidence was examined, every particular enquired into, and a voluminous report sent to Parliament. Particulars of these Parliamentary Inquisitions of 1649 and 1650 are to be seen in the Lambeth Manuscripts. The Commissioners in their report represented that:-
“……………there is a chappel situated in Ashton, Fower myles 132 poles and 2 yards from the Parish Church of Winwick, and two myles from Newton chappel, and Mr. James Woodes is Minister there, a very Godly preacher, a man of very good life and conversacon, but did not keep the last fast day appoynted by Acte of Pliamt, for hee had noe orders, And hath for his sallury the Tythe of Ashton, by order from the comittee of plundered Ministers, and came in by free Ellecon of the whole Towne, which said Tythe is worth one hundred pounds and two shillings, and there is also a donatie of Nine Shillings and sixpence p. ann, paied by John Homfryson to the said Mr. Woodes. And in regard to the distinct (distance) from the Parish Church and other Chappells, we psent that it is fitt to bee made a parish, And the rest of Haydock (Excepting those howses presented to bee annexed to Newton and St Ellens) to be ioyned unto the said Parish of Ashton.”
The recommendation that Ashton be made a Parish was carried out.
The dissolution of the Commonwealth was soon followed by the fall of the Presbyterian Establishment in Lancashire, which fell almost as rapidly as it had risen. In the interval between the Restoration of the Monarchy and the passing of the Act of Uniformity, the government of the Church was very unsettled, and its services were very far from uniform. The Liturgy was restored by Royal authority, but the Presbyterians had the Kings promise of toleration in the exercise of their ministry.
The Act of Uniformity of 1662 required that “every parson, vicar or other minister whatsoever” should, before the Feast of St. Bartholomew, “openly and publicly before the congregation assembled for religious worship, declare his unfeigned assent and consent to all and everything contained in, and prescribed by, the Book of Common Prayer.” It further enacted that “no person should be capable of any benefice, or presume to consecrate or administer the Holy Sacrament, before he ordained a Priest by Episcopal ordination”. All ministers who did not comply with the requirements of the Act were deprived of their livings, and if they officiated in any Church, they were subject to fines and imprisonment.
In the Wigan area in 1662, all Nonconformist clergy were ejected from their Chapels. The Rev. James Woods was ejected from Ashton, but he continued to preach for about twelve months, taking services in a farm house, before leaving to live in Cheshire. An entry in the diary of Roger Lowe for April 1663 reads: “Mr. Woods came to take leave of every inhabitant and called upon me. I went with him and with great lamentation at his going, with advice to every family to live well.”
Mr. Woods on leaving Ashton went to live at Thelwall, where he died in 1666. Even after his departure it appears that he still had had his followers in Ashton. Another entry in Roger Lowe’s diary for 5th February 1668 tells how he disagrees with “Standing at Gospels,” and regards “other ceremonies now in use at Ashton Chapel as mere Romish fopperies.”
On the state of things between then and the rebuilding of the chapel in 1714, there is no account, apart from the fact that in 1698 certain prominent inhabitants of Ashton petitioned the Rector of Winwick for a font to be placed in the chapel “for the public Baptism of infants.” The signatories to this petition were:
Aurther Launder, Roger Rosbotham, Peter Cook, John Hey, John Birchall, Neamiah Joanes, William Newton, John Wallis, Ralph Johnson, Peter Lowe, William Sixsmith, James Winstanley Edward Marsh, John Knowles, James Johnson, Thomas Potter, John Lowe, Edmond Winstanley, Joseph Birchall, Thomas Lowe, Thomas Lowe, Thomas Johnson, John Darbishaire, William Marsh, Edward Houghton, Mathew Lowe Edward Callon, James Chaddock, James Darbishaire, John Pendlebery, Thomas Gerard, John Birchall, John Lowe, William Hasleden, Bryon Lowe, Thomas Marsh, Raph Lowe, James Orrell, John Ashton, John Callon, James Naylor, William Johnson, James Lowe, John Layland, John Clark, Robert Naylor, Richard Hatton, William Arrowsmith, Nicholas Leech, William Whittel, Jeffrey Birchall, John Naylor, Thomas Richardson, Thomas Hasleden, James Cash.
The petitioners promised to put the chapel into good repair if their request was granted. Although there is no actual evidence, we can picture the interior of this first chapel during the many changes from the reformation in the first half of the sixteenth century until 1714 when it was rebuilt. After the reformation, the stone altar would have been replaced by a wooden table which would most likely have been brought to the centre of the Chancel and positioned length -wise east to west. In 1630 the Chancel would have been changed again when Archbishop Laud caused all the altar tables to be placed against the east wall where the medieval stone altar would have stood. The table might still have been brought forward for the Communion Service. During the Commonwealth, Cromwell changed things yet again, and the table would have been secondary to the pulpit. A small “Holy Table” would have been well forward in the Chancel with very likely a high pulpit directly behind it. In 1662 the position generally reverted to that under Laud, although it became less customary to move the Table. Some years after this, probably towards the end of the century, the Sanctuary would have appeared, divided from the rest of the Chancel by a communion rail. In the list of Curates displayed in the present Church, we have for this early period:-
1570 Oswald Key
1609 John Jannion
1645 James Woods
1663 = Madock
1668 = Atkinson
1690 Thomas Wareing
1710 John Smith
Oswald Key was officiating at Ashton Chapel at the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign (1558-1603). It is recorded that he performed a marriage in 1559 in a chapel in the house of Sir Thomas Gerard, which indicates that the public chapel was separate from the private chapel of the Gerard’s.
James Woods was a Presbyterian, who was elected “by the whole town for his scholarship and holiness of life” He was in charge at Ashton as early as August 1645. From the Winwick Registers it seems that Thomas Potter, afterwards of Culcheth was assisting in 1656. Obviously Woods was a man of good life and a good preacher, but he would not give his assent to the new Prayer Book of 1662 and was ejected from the living.
Thomas Wareing was a graduate of Christ Church Oxford taking his BA in 1685. Ashton was probably his first Curacy as he is recorded as performing several marriages at Winwick between 1686 and 1696. In 1707 he became vicar of Garstang where he died in 1772.
John Smith was known to have been in the Parish between the years 1710 and 1731. It was during this period in 1714 that the new Chapel was rebuilt.
It was not until 1714, when the chapel was rebuilt, that we have any record of the actual building. Nothing is known of the building which preceded it, although we know from the Winwick Register Book of 1696-1716 that the chapel was “much out of repair” by the end of the l7th century.
The new chapel was rebuilt on Sir William Gerard’s ground and he leased out the chapel yard. The site was conveyed in 1745 and the chapel was consecrated in 1746. The Consecration Deed, now in the Wigan Record Office at Leigh, was written on a large sheet of parchment, nearly three feet wide by two feet six inches deep. It is dated 24 September 1746 and reads:
“IN THE NAME OF GOD AMEN, WEHERAS there hath been immemorially (as ’tis said) in this place within the Manor of Ashton in the Parish of Winwick-County of Lancashire and our Diocese of Chester A CHAPEL or Aedifice used as and for a Chapel of ‘Ease subject unto and supplied with curates bt the Rector of the Parish church of Winwick aforsaid……….WE SAMUEL by divine permission Bishop of Chester……….do CONSECRATE this Chapel foe a chapel of ‘Ease……….by the name of the Chapel of SAINT THOMAS THE APOSTLE in Ashton.”
The Chapel had been rebuilt in the form of a cross, with transepts the same size as the chancel and the nave. It continued to serve the people of Ashton until 1782 when it was found to be too small to accommodate the congregation.
On 28 September 1782 a faculty was obtained to enlarge the Chapel. This was done by setting back the East wall twelve feet and erecting a gallery over the alter. The alterations were to be paid for by selling the pews to the members of the congregation “at the best price that can be had.”
The minister at this time was Rev. Edward Edwards. Two years later in 1784 he gave land and with the aid of local subscription built the vicarage, complete with stables, cowhouse, coalhouse and schoolroom. The purpose of the schoolroom is not clear. Robert Raikes of Gloucester had started the first Sunday School in 1780 and Mr Edwards may have been following his example. It may have been for the education of his own children. Another possibility is that he may have run a small school to prepare young men for university entrance.
In 1815 the Chapel was again found too small, and at a Vestry meeting held in the Chapel on Thursday 16 February, it was decided to enlarge it on the South-West, North-West and South East corners, and to build a vestry adjoining the South Wall. It was also decided to take down the old West Gallery, and replace it with a new Gallery extending the whole width of the enlarged chapel. In the middle of the new West Gallery, and at the back, a space was to be “elevated and formed into an Orchestra for the singers.” The North Gallery was to be extended and joined to the new West Gallery, and the pulpit and reading desk were to be removed and replaced near the South Wall of the Chapel. The same method of paying for the enlargements was authorised and in the Wigan Record Office there is a poster announcing a sermon to be preached on July 21st 1816 by the Rev. James John Hornby. At the foot appeared the note that the pews in Ashton Chapel were to be sold by auction at the Gerrard Arms Inn on Monday 22 July at four o’clock in the afternoon.
The interior of the old Church after the enlargements was unique. The pulpit, flanked by two huge reading desks, one for the minister, the other for the clerk, was located in the middle of the south side of the Church. The seats in the western half of the church faced towards the East, those in the Eastern half towards the West, and those in the North transept towards the South. There was no longer any chancel. The alter a Queen Anne table with a marble top, was hidden away under the huge East Gallery, and all the people in the Eastern half of the church sat with their backs to it. The pulpit was the one centre of attraction, and the congregation could by this arrangement of pews very well see and hear the preacher. They also had the dubious advantage of being able to see each other, for in the middle of the church those facing East and those facing West had only one dividing partition and book rest between them.
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The 1845 Act of Parliament, dividing the ancient Parish of Winwick, declared the Rev. Edmund Sibson, the Curate then in charge, to be the first Vicar of the Parish and Vicarage of St Thomas.. “without any fresh Presentation, Institution or induction thereto, or other form of law being had, observed or required.”
Edmund Sibson was Minister and the first Vicar of St Thomas’s for a period of thirty eight years. He was born in or near Carlisle, and was the son of the Rev. John Sibson, who held two of the very small livings in Cumberland-Lorton and Mosser and Anne, his wife. At the age of about twenty he left Cumberland and settled in Darwen where he was appointed to the mastership of a small school. In the course of a few years he entered holy orders and was ordained to the Curacy of Darwen. Whilst there he came to the notice of Rev. Geoffrey Hornby, Rector of Winwick, who in the year 1809 presented him to the living of Ashton, then a small unaugmented curacy with no settled income except the house and about ten pounds a year, to which the generosity of Mr Hornby contributed a voluntary allowance of £50.00 a year out of his own resources.
The new incumbent settled by Mr Hornby did not immediately recommend himself to the good opinion of his flock but soon came to be held in great affection, regard and esteem by his parishioners. At about the time he came to Ashton, he married Miss Betty Brandwood of Darwen.
For some time after coming to Ashton, Mr Sibson increased his income, and obtained the means of supporting his numerous charities, by acting as tutor to young gentlemen intended for the professions. But it was not only the middle and upper classes that he instructed, for very soon after his appointment to Ashton he established Sunday Schools throughout the district and eventually became trustee of the Grammar School.
In 1812, the Ashton Sunday School Committee was formed, and a school in the Townfield was opened. By 1814 there were five hundred children in Sunday School. In 1825 the Ashton Sunday School Committee bought pews in Ashton Chapel, thirteen on the south side for the girls and fourteen on the north side for the boys.
In addition to his Parish duties as Curate and his time spent in teaching, he found time to devote to the study of science and literature. His various contributions to the Transactions of the Manchester Philosophical Society showed his ability as a mathematician. He was so good a mathematician that he was engaged by his friend, George Stephenson, prior to the erection of the Britannia Tubular Bridge over the Menai Straits, to work out the calculations and supply the necessary data as to the strength etc of each tube to be used so as to ensure the safety and stability of the bridge. The same transactions show his skill and information as an antiquary, and he was well read in botany, geology and entomology. He had a theoretical knowledge of music and was a keen reader of poetry.
But Edmund Sibson was essentially a practical person and accordingly took an active part in the public business of Ashton where he employed his skill and counsel as the chairman of the Vestries and public charities. But not only did the Vicar give his attention to the public concerns of the Parish, he was equally ready with his time and assistance for all who needed his aid and counsel. For nearly forty years that he continued as Minister of Ashton, Mr Sibson kept records of all visits that he paid to the sick members of his Parish.
In appearance Mr Sibson was tall and robust, and his ruddy and healthful countenance indicated great bodily strength and a strong constitution. His motto however would seem to have been it is better to wear out than to rust out, as not many months before his death, the work of a single Sunday was noted as follows:-
“…at eight o’clock he married a couple; he then walked two miles to his school at Haydock, where he catechized the children for an hour, and afterwards returned to his church where, at ten o’clock he married another couple, and then catechized his children until the commencement of morning service. He then read the service and preached and afterwards baptised an adult. At half past two in the afternoon he again read prayers and preached, after which he baptised three children and interred two corpses, and then finished his day’s duty by again catechising the children for an hour.”
Mr. Sibson was sixty five years of age when he died on December 22nd 1847, from the results of a cold caught in attending the funeral of his friend Dr Holme of Manchester. In his obituary published in “The gentlemen magazine” for February 1848, he was described as :-
“a true son of the Church of England……at all times zealous to guard his flock against being led away from the Church by either error or unsound doctrine. He was at once loyal to his own principals, and at the same time tolerant of others.”
He is buried in the old churchyard with his wife and daughter, and his parents. His grave can still be seen in the extreme south eastern corner of the old yard.
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In 1869 the then Vicar Rev, F. Kenney, died and after a vacancy of a few months the living was offered to the Rev. W. Page Oldham, of Orford, Warrington. Up to then the services at St. Thomas’s had always been considered ‘low church’, but though Ashton had a large number of Catholics, there had never been anything like religious strife before.
On his first Sunday in the Parish, May 8th 1870, Mr Oldham read himself in at the Morning service. Later there was a Church Parade of the Lancashire Hussars and St. Thomas’s had its biggest congregation of the day. Things were normal until the sermon when Mr Oldham entered the pulpit in a white gown. Immediately there was uproar and half the congregation walked out as a protest against the introduction of ‘ritualistic practices’ in their church. The Protestant miners were adamant that the new Vicar should preach in the black gown of ‘low church’. Mr Oldham argued that only his white surplice was in accordance with the prayer book, and he was unable to understand how it could be a mark of Romanism or ritualism. Twice that day the vicar was booed as he left the church, and in the days that followed he had to be protected by the police. The landlord of the Angel inn, where Mr. Oldham was temporarily resident while the vicarage was being refurbished, was also warned that his premises would be burned down if he didn’t throw the vicar out at once.
On the following Sunday the police were in attendance, but again as the Vicar entered the pulpit wearing his surplice, a large number of worshippers left there church, and again Mr. Oldham had to have a police escort to his lodgings. During the week that followed, posters appeared in the town condemning the Vicar and his ‘ritualistic practices’. Others followed warning that ‘riotous, violent or indecent behaviour’ was punishable by a fine of £5.00 or two months imprisonment’.
On the night of June 12th the mob turned their attention on Holy Trinity where the services were considered ‘High Church’ and there was a surplice choir. They stormed the church just as evening service began. The Rector, Rev W .J. Melville, tried to calm his frightened congregation. The service was called off but some of the choir were attacked as they left the church through a private door into the Rectory garden. One of the choirboys had his surplice removed and torn to shreds. Some of the troublemakers were later punished, twenty one persons being brought before the Magistrates on June 30th. Six were fined varying amounts from £1.00 to £5.00 and the rest conditionally discharged.
On the next Sunday Mr Oldham entered the pulpit without his surplice and publicly announced that in future he would wear the black gown in deference to the wishes of the congregation, and to stop any further disturbances and perhaps bloodshed in Ashton.
This ought to be the end of the matter, but on July 16th the Rector of Holy Trinity invited the choir of St Anne’s, Warrington to his Rectory along with some friends, including Mr. Oldham. There were of course, those who objected to their Vicar associating himself with ‘high church’ which they considered Holy Trinity to be, and on his return to Ashton. Mr. Oldham was again met by a hostile crowd. Happily, however, this was the last occurrence, and Mr Oldham settled in to enjoy a normal ministry in the Parish, winning the respect of his parishioners, but only for a few months. On the evening of Sunday 30th April 1871, he died suddenly of a heart attack after taking services as usual earlier in the day.
At a Vestry meeting on Monday 30th March 1891, the Rev. H. Sidall had informed those present that he intended to rebuild St. Thomas’s Church. It was proposed to rebuild the Church of stone, and it was supposed that a good deal of the stone on the present building would be available, but it would cost something to dress it and trim off the bad parts. As the vicar understood it, the architects and builders were unable to form an estimate of what a Church under those conditions would cost. The plan, however, had been submitted to a Manchester builder, and he fixed the cost at £5,275. That was for a new building altogether, and not allowing for old material. With regards to funds, the Vicar informed the meeting that they had a little over £1,000 in the Court Chancery, and this would be handed over to them as soon as they commenced operations.There was a further legacy from Mr Samuel Stock of Blackley Hurst. The amount mentioned in Mr Stocks will was £9,000, which was in certain colliery shares in the neighbourhood, but these had depreciated so much that the amount that could be obtained from them was little over £1,000. This was a great disappointment, for the Ashton people had long been looking forward to the prospect of a new church. The Vicar said that the architect would have to reduce the cost to £5,000 and they would then have to raise £3,000. He trusted the landowners in the township would give them material help, and he also expected to receive considerable outside support. An appeal for funds was made in April 1891, and in the event, within two months subscriptions were promised to cover the whole cost. The architect selected to rebuild the Church was Mr F. H. Oldaham of John Dalton Street Manchester. The work was carried out by Mr Wm. Winnard, contractors of Wigan, and Messers France & Smith Joiners and builders of Pemberton. The original tender for the work was £4,750 but certain extras.The last services were held in the old Church on Sunday 26th July and the following day demolition of the building was commenced. It took about four months to take down the old Church and to clear away the rubbish, and it was not until December 5th 1891 that the foundation stone of the new Church could be laid. This was done by Colonel W.T. Leigh of Lyme Park, Cheshire (afterwards Lord Newton). Beneath this stone there was placed by Lady Gerard a sealed jar containing a copy of the Liverpool courier of the day, copies of the Parish Magazine with a list of subscribers to the Church building fund, a copy of the service used on the occasion, Silver and Copper Coins of the year 1891, and a document stating that the jar had been played by the Right Hon. The Lady Gerard of Garswood. The stone was thought to be on the South side of the Chancel Arch near to the lectern, but there was no inscription and there is nothing now to tell which it is.
Whilst the work of rebuilding was going on, the services were at first held in the large classroom, but this was found so very inconvenient that the building committee decided to buy an Iron Church, and the tender Mr. Lee of Manchester for one to cost £400 and to seat about 400 people was accepted. This was erected on a plot of land just outside the Churchyard and answered its purpose fairly well, although it was not nearly large enough to hold the congregation from the old Church, which would accommodate 800 and was generally well filled. This Iron Church, when its purpose was served was afterwards removed to Stubshaw Cross where it was known as the mission of St. Luke.
The new Church took eighteen months to build. It was completed in 1893 and had seating accommodation for about 500 persons, 300 less than could be accommodated in the old Church with its galleries. It was 109 feet long and 61 feet wide, with a nave of 23 feet in width, and North and South aisles each 19 feet wide. The chancel was the same width and height as the nave.
In the rebuilding, as much as possible of the old Church was made use of, and the new stone was selected of the same kind- Runcorn red sandstone. In erection, care was taken to mix the old weather beaten stones with the new, so as to emphasise the fact that it was not an entirely new Church but a restoration. This result was certainly achieved as the Church can be taken for a much older building than it is. The Tower which was purposely kept low was built to hold a peal of bells, but at first only the bell which came out of the small bell turret on the old Church was installed. This bell was inscribed “PACK AND CHAPMAN of LONDON, facet 1773” Other fittings taken from the old Church were the clock, dated May 15th 1812 and Organ installed in 1826.
There was a small side chapel on the north side of the chancel, in which all the mural tablets from the old church were placed. Opposite to this was the organ chamber which adjoined a roomy vestry about 20 feet square. In this vestry was placed the old Parish chest of 1669, a fine carved bookcase in very dark oak and the old communion table with its marble top. In the chancel the choir stalls were intended for sixteen men and eighteen boys. The chancel and altar steps were all of oak, the chancel floor being of oak blocks, while all the passages in the Church were of pitchpine block, which was warmer than stone or tiles and had the advantage of being almost silent to walk on. The windows were of a simple tracery pattern, fitted with lead lights.
The Church had many requirements for the future, but as the vicar pointed out St Thomas’s was entirely a working class parish and trade was in a very depressed state, so patience had to be exercised. Among the things the vicar wanted to see was a new pulpit, a peal of bells, oak panelling in the Chancel and wood panelling all round to the height of the pews. But the completing of his last undertaking -the beautifying of the Church he built and the panelling of the Chancel- the vicar was not to see.
On Thursday 6th July 1893 the new church was consecrated by the Lord Bishop of Liverpool, Dr. J. C. Ryle. The ceremony of consecration was fixed for 3.o’clock. To mark the event, the scholars of the Parish schools walked in procession through the main streets of the township, led by the St Thomas’ brass band. They were joined by the scholars of St Luke’s and the combined procession then returned to the church in time for the ceremony. We learn from eye witnesses that “several banners and bannerettes were conspicuous in the procession, whilst in the vicinity of the church, garlands of varied-coloured streamers stretched across the road.”
The clergy present at the ceremony were the Rt. Rev J. C. Ryle, archdeacon Taylor, Rev H. Siddall (vicar of St Thomas’), J. Hurley (Curate), W. J. Melville (Rector of Downall Green), Canon Fergie (Ince), E. A. Dury (St Catherine’s Wigan), Richardson (Golbourne), Carson (Wargrave), Carleton (Warrington), Pigott (Warrington), Berridge (Lowton St Mary’s), Phillips, Smith, Gibbin (a former curate of St Thomas’), Williams and Johnstone.
Having received the petition from the incumbent and Churchwardens, asking him to consecrate the new church, the Bishop signified his assent. Walking in procession from the Altar to the West end of the church and backwards the prescribed consecration was gone through. The Chancellor of the Diocese read the deed of consecration, after which followed the usual service at evening prayer. The lessons read were from 1 Kings Ch.8, v22-30, and Hebrews 10v19-25,. The old Hundredth Psalm-“All people that on Earth do dwell” and the “Churches one Foundation” were the hymns sung, and at the conclusion of the Consecration service the Bishop preached a sermon based on the text “o come let us worship” from psalm 95, verse 6. He drew attention to the fact that the book of Psalms was perhaps the best known book in the Bible. He dealt with the subject of worship in different lights and defined the word as meaning united prayer and praise, which he said was requisite for spiritual life. During the service the choir sang an Anthem, and an offertory was taken on behalf of the building fund.
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Henry Siddall, third son of George Siddall of Matlock, was educated privately and at Oakham Grammar School. He entered Clare College Cambridge, and graduated in 1862.
His first appointment was as Mathematics Mater at King William’s College, Isle of Man. He was ordained Deacon in 1863 and Priest the following year, by the Bishop of Ripon, and licensed to the curacy of Tong, near Leeds. He was then appointed Mathematics Master at Warrington Grammar School, and was curate of Orford from 1866 to 1869. He was inducted to the Benefices of St. Anne’s, Warrington in 1869, and two years later was appointed Vicar of St. Thomas’s Ashton. He was also chaplain of the 2nd Volunteer Battalion Warrington, for twenty one years, and held the V.D decoration. He married Margaret Emily Gardner, daughter of the Rev. T. Gardner, Rector of St. Anne’s, Stanley, Liverpool, and they had five sons and two daughters.
The outstanding events of his ministry at St Thomas’s were the rebuilding of the Church; the building of the mission church of St Luke’s, Stubshaw Cross; the enlargement of St Thomas’s day Schools, and the building of the Schools at Stubshaw Cross, and the infant School of St Thomas’s; the re-modelling, and afterwards the re-building of the organ in 1905; the extension of the churchyard and the providing of new burial ground in Heath Lane. His last undertaking was the beautifying of the Church and the panelling of the chancel, which sadly he did not live to see completed.
He took considerable interest in local affairs, being a member of the old local board, chairman of the Technical Education Committee, a Trustee of the Linen and Woollen Stock Charities, and the first co-operative Governor of the Grammar School, and from 1901 Chairman of the Governors.
He died on All Saints day, November 1st 1907. Since undergoing a major operation in May 1906, he had never been free from pain, but it was a mark of his strong character that he never gave in the suffering and never ceased from working. On the Sunday evening previous to his death, he had preached to a large congregation with unusual vigour. On the Monday he was very weak and tired but he went into Church to see the progress of the work he had put in hand. On the Tuesday he seemed stronger but during the day he was taken ill, and it was soon obvious that the end was near.
With the simple but dignified ceremonial of our Church, he was laid to rest almost beneath the shadow of the church he had built.
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Now that the original graveyard has been cleared and relaid as a garden of Rest, there is a striking view to be obtained of St. Thomas’s church from the southwest on Warrington Road. Framed in the centre of the garden is the imposing War memorial to the memory of the men of the parish who died in two World Wars.
The entrance of the Church is by two doorways in the tower, one on the North (Heath Road) and one on the South (churchyard) side. A fine feature of the tower is the clock, dated May 15th 1812 and taken from the old church. The tower also houses a small bell which replaced the one taken from the old Church. There is too a recorded peal of bells, erected by public subscription in April 1948, in memory of the men of the Parish who gave their lives in the 1939-1945 War.
Inside the Church is a well proportioned building, with a Chancel and a Nave of three bays. The Architect had instructions to place only two pillars on either side between the Nave and the Aisles , though in most Churches there are four in the same length. This condition of course necessitated unusually wide arches, wider in fact, most probably, than in most other churches in England, but the advantage is quite apparent on entering the Church, as the chancel can be seen from the most distant corners of the Aisles. The lofty Nave is surmounted by a clerestory and has aisles of equal length to North and South. The pews of pitchpine were put in when the Church was rebuilt, with matching stalls at the back of each aisle, one on the North side for the Clerk and one on the Southside for the two Churchwardens. The Wardens Staves were the gift of a former Vicar, Rev. A. Pelham Burton, in 1931.
On either side of the entrance doors to the Nave are bookcases for Hymn and Prayer Books, donated in 1963 by the families of Miss M. J. Turton and Thomas Hickson.
At the back of the North Aisle is the Memorial Corner. An oak case contains the Book of Remembrance, in which are inscribed the names of all those who’s ashes are interred in the Garden of Rest. This bookcase was given by Mr. and Mrs. Abel Ogden and Anne in memory of Judith, 15th September 1961. On a shelf above the bookcase is an exquisite King Charles 11 prayer book, given to the church by Mrs. Freda Foster, and displayed in a case made by Frank Hardy. Here also, was to be found the original “Parish Chest” made and carved in 1699 to hold the Parish Registers-a link with an even older building demolished in 1714. Most regrettably, this chest was stolen from the church on November 26th 1992. St. Thomas’s had lost a piece of its heritage.
On the North Wall is a board containing the names of the clergy of St. Thomas’s, beginning in 1570:-
1570 Oswald Key
1609 John Janion
1645 James Woods
1663 = Maddock
1668 = Atkinson
1690 Thomas Wareing
1710 John Smith
1736 Henry Pierce
– Barton Shuttleworth
1742 Richard Bevan
1779 Edward Edwards
1796 Giles Chippendall
1804 John Woodrow
1809 Edmund Sibson
1848 Edward Pigot
1857 Frederick Kenny
1870 William Page Oldham
1871 Henry Siddall
1908 William Pollock Hill
1916 John Manifold Courtenay
1919 Arthur Pelham Burton
1931 Robert Owen Shone
1945 Frank Harcourt Millward
1960 Henry Stirrup Davies
1966 Fred Finney
1987 Derek Walton Percival
The earlier ones were all curates of Winwick, but records do not indicate whether their ministry was wholly or only partly in Ashton.
At the front of the North Aisle is the Lady Chapel where the Holy Communion is celebrated on Thursdays, and where, appropriately, the Mothers Union Banner is kept.
The Altar Cross was given in memory of Hugh Jarvis by his wife and children; and the service book for the administration of Holy Communion was presented in memory of Ernest Hargreaves by his wife and family, 1984. A new set of Altar frontals has been given by Mrs. A Bullough, in memory of her parents, Harriet and Herbert Pilling, and the first of these was used for Easter Celebrations in 1991. They are kept in a cabinet in the Vestry specially made for them by Donald Slinn.
On the north side of the Chancel Arch is the carved oak pulpit, erected in 1908, in the memory of the Rev. Siddall.
On the South side of the Chancel Arch, where the old pulpit originally stood, is the Lectern, presented by C. H. Astle, Churchwarden, at Christmas 1897. The Bible was a gift of Mrs D. W. Cummins a former headmistress of St. Thomas’s infant school, in memory of her Husband.
Between the Lectern and the door leading into the vestry stands the Font, which was originally at the back of Church and was moved to its present position in 1963. The Font itself is of stone and has an octagonal wooden cover given by Mr. W. Litherland in memory of his wife. The mural is in memory of Maggie Mather, given by her Husband and children.
To the East of the Nave, and on a higher level, is the Chancel, on either side of which are the oak Prayer Desks and Choir stalls, given in memory of Jane Elizabeth Naylor by her Husband, and dedicated on Sunday 18th May 1947 replacing the pitchpine stalls which had been put in when the Church was rebuilt.
On a higher level again is the Sanctuary, separated from the Chancel by the oak Communion rail, dedicated on Sunday 27th November in memory of Arthur Rimmer, a former Organist and Choirmaster. Beyond this is the High Altar, the focal point of the Church. The Altar is furnished with coloured frontals, changed according to the seasons of the Church’s year.
The Sanctuary is panelled in oak. The Easter Vestry Minutes of 1908 state that “a vote of thanks was recorded as follows:-to the family of the late vicar, Rev. Henry Siddall, who generously gave the Reredos in oak to the memory of his son, the late Rev. Henry Siddall, and as a thanks offering for his own partial recovery; to Mr Williams Valiant who generously gave the side panelling on the North and South sides of the Rerodos under the East window in memory of his late wife; to Mr. William. Clark, Mr. P. Clark and Mrs. Stuart who generously gave the oak panelling on the North side of the Chancel above the Communion Rails in memory of their Father, the late Mr. C. P. Clark; Mr F. H. Oldham (architect of the Church) who together with his late wife gave the panelling on the South side of the Sanctuary in memory of the late Rev. W. Page Oldham, Vicar 1870-1871; to the men’s bible class who generously subscribed for the panelling below the Communion Rails; to Mr. Molyneux and the day school staff for raising the cost of the pitchpine boarding round the Nave; and to the many generous donors who subscribed to the beautifying and cleaning of the Church.”
In 1987, when our late Vicar, Rev. D. W. Percival, arrived, the Altar had been brought forward away from the East Wall to the centre of the Sanctuary. This left an unsightly gap in the panelling where the altar had stood. Four new panels were made and carved by Donald Slinn to match exactly the existing panels, and the work was completed at the beginning of Advent 1992. The new panelling was dedicated by Bishop J. Roxburgh at the opening of our Centenary Celebrations on Sunday 7th February 1993, and they are in memory of Rev. D. W. Percival.
The Sanctuary furnishings consist of the Bishop’s chair and Desk, given by Mrs Mather in memory of her husband, a former Organist, and a Credence Table given in memory of Robert Noble Smith by his wife in 1961. These are on the North side of the Altar. On the South side is a long Prayer Desk and Sedalia, plus a small Prayer Desk which is part of a pair, the other being in the Lady Chapel. There are also in the Sanctuary two chairs from the old Church, with kneelers, one on each side of the Altar. The stands for the flower vases are in memory of Robert and Eva Westhead. The Processional Cross dedicated at the Christmas eve Eucharist in 1988, is a gift of Mr. and Mrs A Edwardson, to mark his twenty first anniversary as Warden. On the South wall of the Chancel is the memorial to Mary, Lady Gerard. It shows her as a nurse warding off death from a wounded soldier, and the inscription records her patriotic work in the Great War of 1914-1918.
Two brass plates have also been placed in the Chancel-on the North side:-
“To the Glory of God and in memory of John Rigby who died 16th July 1927, Thomas Wright Rigby who died 5 August 1928, Kate Rigby who died 17 June 1930, in gratitude for their benefactions to the Church.”
And on the South side:
“In memory of James Pilling who died 3rd December 1926, for 8 years Churchwarden of this Parish.”
In the South Aisle at the back of Church is the C.M.S corner. The C.M.S. table was presented by Mr. and Mrs. T. Smith and family in loving memory of Elizabeth and Robert Noble Smith. The cupboard is dedicated to the Glory of God and in loving memory of Thomas William and Jane Hardy from their sons and families. In this corner also there is now a small library of Christian Literature for the use of anyone interested.
In 1928 it was decided to build a new vestry for the use of the clergy, and to use the existing vestry for the choir who had previously robed in the passages around the organ. The plans were drawn by Messrs Austin and Paley of Lancaster and the work carried out by Messrs Kearsley and Gee, at a cost of between £500 and £600.
At a meeting of the PCC at St. Thomas’s Vicarage on 28th August 1928 the installation of Electric lighting in the Church was unanimously approved. In September a faculty was granted “to remove the Gas Pipes and fittings at present in the Church and to introduce in lieu thereof a system of lighting by electricity.
Until 1961, the Organ remained on the South side of the Chancel. In May 1961 it was decided to place the Organ in the side Chapel and have it rebuilt with a new foot-pedal board and new pump.
At about the same time as the organ was being moved, the vicar found in a chest, stored away, the only worthwhile ornament from the old church namely a brass chandelier, which had, for a while hung at the west end of the present Church. The brass work was so black and covered with verdigris that it needed professional treatment. Mr Daniels, an old member of St. Thomas’s offered to have it cleaned. It was then fitted electrically and hung in the side Chapel. This link with bygone days now has found a useful place in our present church.
The next important improvement was the Vestry, which had looked little better than a junk room for many years. The extra space of the old organ chamber now gave it good proportions, but the plaster was in bad condition and as a temporary measure, the old pitchpine screen was placed across the archway adjoining the Chancel. The Vicar wanted to see the vestry panelled all the way round with the robes-cupboards and other necessary cupboards as all part of one scheme. The Vestry was eventually renovated and enlarged in the following year, 1963 by the voluntary labour of the men of St. Thomas’s, and the cost was defrayed by a legacy left by Mr. and Mrs J.H Foster of Old Boston Farm. The chairs were given in memory of Mr. H. Darwell, one time warden, by his wife.
In June 1965, the Architect finally decided that the repair of the slated structure on the Tower would be expensive and only temporary, and he advised the P.C.C. to have it taken down and a flat roof fitted just below the top stonework. The cost of this work was in the region of £300. Whilst the roof was being repaired, the Vicar invited an expert to inspect the bell which had been taken down. The expert, form Loughborough Bell Foundry, informed him that the bell was worn out; it was cracked and had a small hole in it. He had three suggestions to make; a light peal of bells-cost £2,400; a tenor bell -cost £540; a smaller bell-£350. It was eventually decided on a small bell.
In 1975 rewiring of the Church was undertaken and improvement of the lighting. The work was done by Norweb at a cost of over £1000. Early 1975 also saw the cleaning of the outside stonework of the church, by Stone and Metal Renovators Ltd, of Whalley, Lancashire. The total cost was £2,509 of which St Thomas’s had to pay only £277, the rest of the cost being borne by the Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council and the greater Manchester County Council. In addition to the cleaning work, the stonework was renovated where necessary. This was at St Thomas’s expense and the cost was around £1,000. The tower and west front had been renovated in 1954 when badly perished stones had been cut out and replaced with stones to match. The whole of the Tower, including the copings, the West elevations of the North and South aisles, and buttresses, were all repointed. The work had been undertaken by E. & C. Smitton Ltd, Masons and Contractors of Liverpool at a cost of £600.
By 1980 the Church roof was causing problems. To replace it with the same Westmoreland green slate would cost somewhere in the region of £35,000. The decoration of the Church, long overdue, would require a further £12,500. The Church restoration fund stood at £5,000, so several months were spent applying for grants to help meet this enormous expense. Hardly any financial help was forthcoming, so planning permission was obtained to re-roof the Church in dark brown Redland Renown tiles, which would cost about £10,000.
The campaign to raise the necessary funds took the form of a tile sponsorship scheme, launched under the slogan ” I helped to raise the roof of St Thomas’s” The initial aim was to raise enough money to pay for the new roof and thereafter sufficient further funds to pay for the internal re-decoration of the Church. Within a month £4,300 had been raised and the appeal was continued until sufficient funds had been received. The Church was re-roofed by W. Swindell’s & Sons of St Helens, who contracted to do the job at a cost of £9,603 plus VAT, a total of £11,043. After being re-roofed, the Church was decorated.
The year 1986 saw a Public Address System installed, to make the services perfectly audible to everyone in Church, wherever they sit. There was also an induction loop system for the benefit of those with hearing aids. The cost was covered by a donation from Mr. F. Lowe (Organist), his wife and sister, in memory of their parents.
In 1988, the Organ was again renovated; the work was being undertaken by George Sixsmith and Son Ltd, of Mossley, Nr Manchester, at a cost in excess of £18,000. Parishioners were asked to “adopt an organ pipe” to defray the expense of the refurbishment. Some £12,000 was raised and the balance provided very generously by the late Ronald Bragg and his wife Barbara. Both the raise the roof scheme and the organ pipe adoption schemes were conceived and administered by Malcolm Taylor who was church warden at the time.
In 1991 the Parochial Church Council approved a plan for the Gallery at the West end of the Nave to be enclosed. A considerable amount of heat was lost through the existing opening and it was also draughty for members of the congregation seated at the back of church. Apart from these practical considerations, the work was also meant to be part of our Centenary celebrations of the Church in 1993. The design of the Gallery window, which was the work of Paul Tushingham, was kept simple and is in balance with the existing East window and the West window beyond the Gothic arched Gallery opening. The work was carried out by Cyril Catterall a local joiner and carpenter, and was completed in 1992. It was dedicated by Bishop J. Roxburgh at our opening Centenary Service on 7th September 1993, and will be known in future as the Centenary Window.
Early in 1992 the Church Architect pointed out the urgent need to restore the outside stonework. The walls were deteriorating badly and it was vital to carry out long term remedial work to halt the deterioration. The worst affected stones needed to be re-placed, the lesser affected areas “re-dressed”, and the whole repointed. This work had to be carried out by experienced stone masons working to drawings especially prepared for the purpose. No internal work needed to be done so there was no interruption of Church activities. The cost of the restoration was a staggering £70,000 (fourteen times more than it cost to Build the Church), and for this reason the work had to be phased, as funds allowed. The first phase the South wall began on 7th September. A special Evening Service was held on 8th September to launch the fund raising campaign. As the Vicar noted, our beautiful church has stood proud and firm through the momentous events of the last century. It has been a witness to times of joy and sadness, to war and peace. It has been there for all of us when we needed its comfort and encouragement. It is now up to all of us as custodians of the building to ensure that we can pass this “Rock” to those who follow us.
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The Organ at St Thomas’s was built by Bleecher and Fleetwood of Liverpool at a cost of £315. It consisted of a “Great Organ” with “Swell”, with separate stops and keys. The pedals were limited to thirteen notes, and the two parts of the Organ were connected or “coupled”. The specification was as follows:-
Scale from G.G to F. in alt.
Open Diapason Fifteenth
Stop and Diapason Sesqualtra
Twelth Pedals G.G to C.
With separate keys. Scale- Tenor F. to F in alt.
Double stop Diapason. Stop Diapason
Open Diapason. Principal.
The Organ was opened on Easter Day 26th March 1826, and was played by a Mr Roby of Wigan. Morning Service began at half past nine with the singing of the “Old Hundredth”. During the service, the usual Canticles were sung and the first Anthem which was “Here My Prayer”. The Communion Service followed and in this the responses were chanted and two further Anthems introduced, the first being “When the Son of Man”. After the Sermon which was preached by Rev. E. Sibson, there was a duet, “Thou shalt open my lips o Lord”. The service ended with the singing of the 98th Psalm.
The Evening Service was at three o’clock, the Preacher being the Rev. James Hornby, Rector of Winwick, and at this service no fewer than three Anthems were sung:- “My Song shall be of mercy” (Kent); Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord”; and “Sound the loud tumbrel”. The Service ended with the singing of the 150th Psalm. To supplement the Ashton Choir, six singers were engaged from Wigan and one from Newton, and each was paid six shillings for expenses. The singing Master at St Thomas’s, Mr Edmund Singleton, received £2 to share among the Ashton singers.
At a meeting held in the Vestry after the Afternoon service, voted of thanks were passed to the Rev. J.J Hornby and Rev. E. Sibson for their “very able, appropriate and impressive sermons”, and to Rev. E. Sibson “for the ability, taste and judgement displayed by him in making a drawing for the Organ front, and working drawings for the builders”.
It was also noted that at the services on this occasion, there were twenty collectors- one in the North Gallery, two in the West Gallery three in the East Gallery, ten on the ground floor, and four others who collected in the Churchyard but who were “requested not to go outside the Wall.”
The first Organist was Mr. Wm. Houghton who was bound by an agreement to attend to play the organ in all cases of Devine Service. He was to play ” soft and solemn music” and no “light airs” were to be introduced. He was also to conduct himself on all occasions as becomes an officer of the Church of England.” Following Mr. Houghton, the following have held the position at various times since:
Mr T. Jameson.
Mr Wm. Ed. Wilkinson
Mr. Chas. Mather
Mr. Wm. Hayes.
Mr. T. Cooke
Mr. A. Rimmer A.R.C.O.
Mr. R. H. Mather
Mr. R. Kay
Mr. E. Grimshaw.
Mr. F. Lowe.
Mr. E. Wilkinson.
Mr. J. Lyon.
Mr. P. Chamberlain.
Mr. E. Mathews.
Mr. P. A. Tushingham.
In 1827 a Vestry meeting decided that there should be a collection every year on Easter Sunday afternoon, after a sermon preached on that occasion, for a fund for paying the salary of an Organist. The meeting agreed “that a respectful request be made to Rev. E. Sibson to preach a sermon on Sunday afternoon, soliciting contributions in aid of the Organist’s salary, and to permit collections to be made after in the Chapel.
In 1890, after resolutions had been passed at various Vestry Meetings, it was decided to have the Organ modernised and a specification was prepared by Messrs. Wadsworth of Manchester, at an estimated cost of £70. Before work began, it was also decided to renew the bellows at a cost of £10 bringing the total to £80. The specification prepared by Messrs Wadsworth and accepted by the Vicar and Churchwardens was as follows:
The instrument was to be made into a C.C or German Scale Organ. New pedals, 29 notes to be added, compass C TO E with coupler to act on the Great Organ, viz:-Great to Pedals. A new Pedal Stop to be substituted for the open Dispassion in the Pedal viz:-Bourdon, 16ft., tone, 29 notes, C.C.C. to E., with necessary sound board trunks and action. The Organ was to be thoroughly cleaned, regulated and tuned. The Trumpet Stop, which was unfit for use, to be removed and a Viol Gamba to be put in its place. The Oboe stop was to be re-voiced, New Keys, and a Swell to great coupler to be provided. The Bellows was to be repaired, re-leathered, and the creaking now caused by defective construction to be obviated. The whole was to be done in a workman like manner for the sum of £79-10s-0d.
The alterations therefore consisted of modernising the scale, extending the pedals to 29 notes, coupling the pedals to the “Great” Organ and also coupling the Swell to the same. This added little to the size of the Organ which was practically the same instrument as before, but made it capable of much better combinations. It was noted in the Parish magazine of October 1890 that to complete the work and make the best of the Organ, the Swell ought to be extended and carried through the Great Organ.
The Organ was re-opened on Sunday October 5th 1890, by C. M. Bailey, F.R.C Organist of St Catherine’s, Wigan. At the Morning Service, which was 10.30 am, he played the Overture in D (Smart), and “The Heavens are telling (Haydn). After the Evening Service, which began at 7.00pm, Mr. Bailey gave an Organ recital, at which the following programme was chosen:
Fugue in D. Bach.
Communion in F. Grison.
Variations on “Come ye thankful people come.”C. M. Bailey.
Offertoire in F. Batiste
A large number was present at the Services but unfortunately there was no repetition of the first Organ opening when the collectors had to go into the Churchyard to collect.
Further reconstruction was carried out by Mr. Whitely in 1905 and the Organ was opened on Wednesday evening April 12th. The preacher was the Ven. Archdeacon Madden, and an Organ recital was given by Mr. Simon Peter Cooke., the programme being as follows:
Andante in G. Smart.
Fourth Organ Sonata. Mendelsshon.
Selection from the Messiah. Handel.
Barcarolle Sterndale Bennett.
Fugue in C Minor. Bach.
In Paradisium. Dubois
March “on a theme of Handel.” Guilmant.
After this reconstruction, the specification of the Organ was as follows:-
1. Open Diapasion. 8 Feet 58 Pipes.
2. Stopped Diapasion 8 Feet 58 Pipes.
3. Salcional 8 Feet 58 Pipes.
4. Flute 4 Feet 58 Pipes.
5. Principal. 4 Feet 58 Pipes.
6. Twelth 2+2/3rds 58 Pipes.
7. Fifteenth 2 Feet 58 Pipes.
8. Mixture Various 174 Pipes.
9. Clarinet. 8 Feet 58 Pipes.
10. Double Diapasion 16 Feet 58 Pipes.
11. Open Diapasion. 8 Feet 58 Pipes.
12. Dulciana 8 Feet 46 Pipes.
13. Vois Celeste 8 Feet 46 Pipes.
14. Stopped Diapasion 8 Feet 58 Pipes.
15. Principal 4 Feet 58 Pipes.
16. Fifteenth 2 Feet 58 Pipes.
17. Cymbal Various 174 Pipes.
18. Cornopean 8 Feet 58 Pipes.
19. Oboe 8 Feet. 58 Pipes.
20. Open Diapasion 16 Feet 30 Pipes.
21. Bourdon 16 Feet 30 Pipes.
22. Swell to Great
23. Swell to Pedal.
24. Great to Pedal.
25. Composition Pedals.
The number of Pipes is 1670. Of Stops, 25.
The attendance at the re-opening was not as large as was expected, but even so, between 500 and 600 were present. The Organ pipes in front were repainted and gilded free by Mr. Rigby of Bryn Street.
Until 1961 the Organ remained on the South side of the Chancel. In May of that year it was decided to place it in the side chapel and have it re-built with a new foot pedal board and new pump. The Organ was moved to the North Side of the Chancel and housed in the Lady Chapel. It was rebuilt by Charles Whitely and co ltd, of Chester at a total cost of £1,106-17s-8d, and rededicated to the Glory of God on July 8th 1962. In spite of July 8th being the first week of local holidays, the congregation attending the rededication and Thanksgiving service was very good, and there was also a fine attendance at the Organ Recital given by Mr. Ronald. Kay.
It is interesting to note that Ashton-in-Makerfield Choral Society whose founder and conductor was Arthur Rimmer, and which was founded in 1925, owed its origins to the Organ at St Thomas’s being 100 years old the following year 1926, and indeed the society’s first name was The St Thomas’s Glee club. In 1925 it had been decided to celebrate the centenary of the Organ by holding a social event in St Thomas’s Schools in 1926, at which a large number of past choristers were present. From this social gathering the senior members of the Church Choir solicited the help of friends from all denominations in the district and commenced to rehearse. All taking part became so enthusiastic that after the conclusion of the centenary of the Organ celebrations it was unanimously agreed to continue rehearsing, and various Churches in the District were visited and musical services rendered. The society continued for many years and during its lifetime brought to Ashton people some of the finest Concert artistes in the country.
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The Great East window above the high Altar was erected in 1898 to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria, and is universally admired. The window was put in by subscription, and formerly there was a brass tablet on the North wall of the Chancel which recorded the names of the subscribers:-
The East window was given in 1897, the Victoria Diamond Jubilee Year by the following donors; Four principal lights with corresponding smaller ones by J. H. A. Whitley. Esq. of Ashton; one light by Edward H. Beaman Esq. of Southport; One light by Charles T. Street Esq. of Haydock Lodge; One light by Mary Owen, Arthur Hatton, and W. Hatton. Mr and Mrs. W. Painter gave £10 towards expenses.
The general subject of the window is the redemption of man, the subjects of the seven lights from left to right being:
1. The fall and expulsion from the Garden of Eden.
2. Abraham about to offer Isaac.
3. The agony of Gethsemane.
4. The Crucifixion.
5. The Resurrection-The Risen Christ appears to Mary.
6. His appearance to Thomas-“My Lord and my God.
7. The Ascension.
The figures in the top four lights are St Peter, St Thomas, St Oswald, and St Paul. The inclusion of St Oswald, is a reminder that the Church is a daughter Church of Winwick which is dedicated to St Oswald. The ten small lights below contain the figures of the rest of the Apostles, the order from left to right being:
St James the Great
St Jam the Less
The window was competed for by a number of firms, and the successful design was submitted by A. L. Moore of London.
There are five other stained glass windows, all in the South Aisle. It appears that the subjects for all six windows were arranged in advance, and were to be in the following order from West to East:
The Presentation of Christ in the Temple.
Christ’s Baptism by John
The Transfiguration of our Lord
The Road to Emmaus
In the fourth volume of the Winwick Register (1696-1716) is entered a “humble request of the inhabitants of Ashton” for a font to be placed in Ashton Chapel “for the public Baptizing of infants.” The petitioners note that the Baptisms need take place only on such Sundays or other days as either the Rector or his Curate “are wont to attend for the reading of Public Prayers of the Church” They promise “neither to desire the Rector or his Curates or endeavour to procure any other Minister to Baptize any infant Publicly on any other day or time whatsoever.” They also promised to keep a register of all such Baptisms and to pay the Clerk of Ashton Chapel an extra annual sum of twenty shillings so that his “Salerie shall be yearly fourtie shillings, which be paid by four equal payments without any manner of abatement or defaulcation upon any account whatsoever”They further promised to procure a stone font at their “own proper cost and charges.” Also, “because the said Chappel is at present much out of repaire we do likewise promise to put the same into good repaire and to make it neat and decent and constantly to keep it so” They promised to “hinder every person from making any graves or interring any corpses within the said Chappel”For the better keeping of the Register, they intended to provide a chest having two different locks and keys to it. One key was to be kept by the Churchwarden of the Ashton Quater, and the other by the Rector of Winwick. This chest was still in the Church up to November of 1992, when it was stolen. It had the following initials carved on the front:
WM IB TN IO CT 1699
Baptisms began in 1698, the first entry being that of Lydia, daughter of Henry Lowe, Ashton, who was born on August 20th and baptised the 28th. Marriages are registered from 24th December 1700 when George Whittel marries Elizabeth Robinson, to 6th March 1773, when there were two marriages celebrated-David Williamson to Ellen Layland, and John Ashurst to Ann Ibbit. Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage act of 1752 decreed that all marriages were to be solemnised in the Parish Church, so there were no more marriages at Ashton until 13th August 1845 after the Parish of St Thomas had been created out of Winwick.
The Wigan Observer of Saturday June 9th 1883 referred to the first marriage performed in 1845 between George Heath and Sarah Green:
“On Tuesday last Sarah heath, wife of George Heath, a farm labourer, died at her residence in Liverpool Rd, Ashton, aged 66 years. It is remarkable that the above couple were the first persons married at St Thomas’s Church, Ashton, after a lapse of nearly 100 years, no marriages having been celebrated there from 1753 to August 13th 1845, when the above couple were married by the Rev Edmund Sibson, then the Vicar of the Parish. Mr Deane, the Churchwarden presented them with the Bible customarily given to the first persons united in wedlock in a newly licensed Church. We need hardly add that the couple lived happily ever since and is further remarkable that this first wedding was made much of by the villagers.”
The earliest recorded burial was on the 16th October 1745. The original Registers, covering Baptisms from 1698 to 1938, Marriages from 1700 to 1753 and 1845 to 1955, and Burials from 1745 to 1974 were deposited in the Wigan Record Office a few years ago. Work has been done to have all the registers copied, so that the originals can be safely left at the record office but the Church will still have a copy on hand to answer the many queries which arise.
Seneley Green School – the forerunner of Ashton Grammar School – had been founded in 1558 and was probably the beginning of educational work in Ashton. It was not until 1812 that any further advance was made. In that year the Ashton Sunday School Committee was formed and a School opened in the Townfield. This School, with the Seneley Green School and another at Haydock, were all managed by the committee. In 1814 there were seven classes in each School, and the Seneley Green Schools and Ashton Schools were divided into upper and lower departments. So far as is known the Ashton and Haydock Schools were only used on Sundays, Seneley Green also being a day School.
In 1814 there were 500 children in Sunday School, 200 in day School and 500 in no School at all. By 1826 there were 1068 children on the books of the three Schools, with an average attendance of 404, and twenty years later it was felt that a new School was needed.
In October 1849 a meeting of subscribers to the intended new School was held in St Thomas’s vestry under the chairmanship of the vicar, Rev E Pigot. At a second meeting twenty three days later they accepted the offer made by the Vicar of a site in Heath Road. Only sixteen days later more elapsed before the Committee met again and instructed the Vicar to write to the Privy Council Committee on Education, with a view to obtaining a grant in aid for the proposed new building. On 27th December 1849 the Privy Council’s offer of furnishing plans was accepted. In May 1850 the committee of council in Education granted £250 towards the building of the new School, and in June the National Society granted £100. By November 1850, it was reported that the building was proceeding satisfactorily, the Contractors being John Pinnington and James Unsworth. The accommodation was for 200 boys, 150 girls and 50 infants. Mr and Mrs John Wilkinson were appointed as Master and Mistress, to commence duty at Midsummer 1851.
St Thomas’s Junior School was built in 1851. The builders had been paid £300 during the construction, and on completion the remainder of the cost £559-10s-0p was handed over on July 14th 1851.
The School was named St Thomas’s National School, and Ashton now had a Church School were children could be taught under Church Auspices, according to the methods of Bell and Lancaster, the pioneers of popular education. The building was in the form of St Georges Cross, the long arms from East to West, and the shorter ones North to South. The main room was divided into two almost equal parts by a wooden partition. Later, and at different times, the addition of south west and south east rooms made the shape of the school like an inverted E.
There are no records of the number who first attended the school but the Sunday School provided most of the scholars. The population in the neighbourhood of the school was chiefly dependant on hinge and nail making. Coal Mines were also present and cotton manufacture was carried on too. So, no doubt the necessity of paying “schoolpence” was a big item in the minds of the local families, especially the poorer ones. As school attendance was not compulsory at this time, it is to the credit of the Ashton parents that numbers in the school were maintained. The Committee met fairly regularly but no log book was in existence before June 1874.
At first the school had open fireplaces, as in October 1875 a load of coal was purchased for eight shillings and five pence. By 1877 there were stoves to replace them, and the Vicar Rev H Siddall, thought it necessary to get fireguards for the stoves. We know too, that the school was lit by gas, as Mr Siddall referred to his pastoral letter just after his induction, to the school as the first in Ashton to have this type of lighting.
The cost of running the school and the new one at Stubshaw Cross, which was built in 1874, was heavy, and in June 1879 the Managers, needing £500, held a three day Bazzar in the Public Hall in Bryn Street.
On November 30th 1878 the first Headmaster, Mr John Wilkinson, retired and Thomas Holbrook was appointed. With the appointment of Mr Holbrook a change was made in the organisation of the school. Formerly in separate departments under separate teachers, the school was now amalgamated and carried on as a mixed school with infants. In January 1879 the total number of children was 130. By March 28th of the same year there were 180, including more than 40 infants. In 1882 the school was again divided, this time into a Mixed School and an infant’s school, since when the infant department has remained separate. The log book entry for June 1st 1882 stated “This school which has hitherto been a Department of the Mixed School is now recognised as a separate department” The infants however still occupied part of the old building, and lack of accommodation caused anxiety, especially as the numbers increased. Structural changes were made in the old building, on April 5th 1887 the gallery being removed from the infant’s school into the “new room”, causing much inconvenience, and rendering it almost impossible to place the children in their classes, the space under the gallery being unavailable. On April 25th the infants moved into the “new school” which was an extension of the old building.
The provision of free education and the increase in population in the early part of the twentieth century caused a rapid and sustained rise in numbers and on Monday, September 7th 1903 the infants department removed to an entirely new building for infants alone, further down Heath Road. The Vicar, Rev H Siddall, gave land for this school and playground worth about £200. Mr Oldham of Manchester, who had built the Church, was asked for plans which were soon prepared and were promptly accepted, and passed by the Board of Education. The estimated cost was £1850, and the contract was taken by Mr P Pennington of Ashton. The school was begun in January 1903, and was to hold 300 children. There was one long room 90 feet by 24 feet, which was divided into four separate rooms by patent, moveable, glass partitions. Another quite separate room provided for 64 babies. In addition there was a marching corridor with wood block floor, 60 feet by 16, where the children would exercise. There were two convenient cloakrooms with fireplaces in them, and a snug teachers’ room for meals or study, HM Inspectors, on seeing the school for the first time, said it was the best school in the district. The school was completed a few shillings under the estimated price.
The first Headmistress was Miss Sarah H Armstrong who had been appointed Head of the infants Department in 1891. In the Parish Magazine for August 1903 it was announced that a meeting was held on July 14th to consider the question of holding a Bazzar in the autumn for the purpose of raising money to defray expenses incurred by the managers of the Church Schools, under the new Education System, and to assist in paying for the new Infants School. A resolution was passed “that a Bazzar be held in the new school about the beginning of November, and that those present at this meeting pledge themselves to do all they can to make it a success.” So, from November 6th to17th, the School was closed while a four days Bazzar was held to raise funds to pay off the cost. The Bazzar was a great success.
During the first World War many changes took place in the school routine and it was recorded that teachers were often absent from school, helping with the clerical work at the Recruiting Centre. In the twenties, needy children were served with dinners in the school and the teachers also distributed soup and food to families in need. In 1926 there was an outbreak of smallpox in Stubshaw Cross, so many children in school were vaccinated.
The opening of the Central School in 1925 led eventually to entire reorganisation of the junior school. At first a few children were selected to go, but numbers increased until finally in 1939 the whole of St Thomas’s children aged 11 years or older went either to the Grammar School or to the senior school afterwards called the Modern School, still later Cansfield High School. As reorganisation came complete in 1939, the schools provided for the education of children fro 5-7 in the infants School, and from 7+ to 11+ in the Junior School. This actually became effective a fortnight before war broke out. Then on September 3rd 1939 war was declared, and school routine was for a time completely disorganised.
The schools were closed until September 27th owing to the Air Raid Precautions, and even then children under 5 were not allowed to attend. Only half of the remaining children attended school in the mornings, and the other half in the afternoons. On Feruary19th 1940 all children over 5 resumed full attendance at school as Air Raid Shelters were being constructed.
Post war years have brought many and important changes in School life. In 1951, following the 1944 Education Act, the decision had to be taken whether the school was to remain an “aided” school or become a “controlled” school.
In January 1973 it was decided to replace both the Infants and Junior schools with a one form entry Junior and Infant School on Hodnet Drive. The General area and site were inspected in March and preliminary proposals for the new building submitted in June to the local Education Authority for their consideration. By the end of October the final proposals had been agreed and submitted to the L.E.A for their approval, but these came to nothing of a ban on school replacement and improvement projects by the Department of Education and Science in 1974.
In May 1976 a revised deign was prepared and approved. Building work began in April 1977 and was completed in April 1978 at a cost of £228,320. The Architects were Gornall, Cross and Painters, and the contractors F&FS White ltd, of Newton le Willows. The school is designed on the open plan principle. Project and resource areas for both juniors and Infants have been provided, together with “home bases” in each department.
The opening of the new school is a memorial to all in the past who built and maintained the original schools. Throughout its history St Thomas’s School has been well served by the Vicars of the Parish who have inspired those around them with a sincere concern for the schools welfare. Sympathetic consideration has been shown at all tomes by the Managers. The will to help has always been there and much has been given and accomplished. Recognition must also be paid to the whole hearted way in which parents and friends of the school have rallied round and generously supported every effort for the schools good. The Teachers that have served the schools have shown a sincere and keen interest in the school’s welfare and have endeavoured to lay a sound foundation in the lives of their children. For the future may we all, parents, teachers and children, endeavour to uphold always its great traditions.
Prior to 1874 there was no provision for worship at the eastern end of the Parish. When the new school was built at Stubshaw Cross it soon became a place of worship. A regular Sunday service began to be held there, and the congregation seems to have been of a reasonable size and constancy. It is known that services in the school were taken by Henry Gibbin from 1875 to 1883, Thomas James O’Conor Fenton from 1885 to 1888, and Henry Burgh Dolland from 1888 to 1890. The rapidly expanding population however made it desirable to have a proper Mission Church.After the rebuilding of St Thomas’s, the temporary iron church erected in the churchyard had been used as a Parish Hall, but eventually it was decided that the building should be transferred to Stubshaw Cross. This did not prove an easy task because whilst it was being re-erected on its new site it suffered considerable damage in a gale. After repairs the Church was licensed on 5th December 1895 for:”the performance of Divine Service for the convenience of the inhabitants residing at a distance from the Parish Church of S Thomas……in preaching the word of God and in reading the Common Prayers and in celebrating the Holy Sacraments according to the form proscribed in the book of common prayer.”
Every Baptism celebrated in the building was to be duly registered in the Register of Baptisms belonging to the Parish Church of St Thomas. The Church was licensed by Dr Ryle, who had consecrated St Thomas’s new church only two years previously.
At first the services were taken by one of the clergy from St Thomas’s, but it was eventually decided to have a resident curate in charge. The first of these was Reginald Lane (formerly Wolkenberg) from 1896. He was followed by:-
1904 Frank Kennen
1906 Joseph Llewellyn
1908 Thomas William Griffith
1910 John Reid Stewart
1915 Walter Illingworth
1917 John Snowden Robson
1920 William Alfred Gibson
1923 Francis Dockray Binyon
1926 David Maxwell Francey
1929 William Harold Vaughan
1930 John Wilfed Garnett
1931 D. G. Thomas
1938 B.P.K Watts
1941 L.C.I Lewis
1946 Denis W B Manning
1959 Malcolm C Ridyard
1965 Geoffrey R Aizlewood
1969 Peter James
1975 Walter Jones
In addition, from 1961 to 1965, Captain Terence Crolley, Church Army Evangelist, was in the Parish and his duties were mainly at St Luke’s. From 1978 to 1989, the Parish had its first Lady Deacon, Pauline Makin, who also worked hard for St Luke’s. There is no longer a Curate in charge of St Luke’s but rather one Parish with two Churches and a shared Ministry.
For many years after its erection, the little Mission Church was cold and bare, but over the years many additions donated by generous parishioners have made it a warmer and more welcoming place. In 1916 a brass lectern was given by his family “in loving memory of Jesse Hodkinson, peoples warden of this Church, who died 10th October 1916,” and in 1918 Mr. and Mrs Westhead gave a brass altar cross.
In 1920, Borthwicks picture, “The Presence”, was bought and hung over the altar until in 1930 an oak reredos was donated by Mrs Williams of Bolton Road. The present reredos was given “To the Glory of God and in loving memory of John Barton” by his wife and family in December 1955.
To commemorate those men who gave their lives in the Great War, a Roll of Honour was dedicated in February 1921, containing seventy seven names. This is hung next to the Memorial Altar and reads as follows:
St Luke’s Mission Church Stubshaw Cross
Men who died for their country during the war of 1914-1918
James Henry Ashurst Thomas Griffiths Ernest Molyneux
James Bate Griffith Griffiths Thomas Oxby
Frederick Bate Mathew Green Thomas J Owen
George Beck James Green Jonathon Percival
William Beck William Griffiths Peter Ratcliffe
Robert Brown Alfred Grundy Samuel P Roberts
Patrick Carney Patrick Hasset John Sharples
Samuel Catterall John Harrington Thomas Stone
Nicholas Concannon Thomas E Hughes Alfred Skipworth
Harold Crosbie Ephraim Hawkins Granville A Sutton
Walter Corless Thomas Hickson Richard Somers
Charles Counnsell Thomas Edward Hughes William Shaw
Arthur Deluce Georgr Francis Johnson John Parr Sadler
William A Deluce Henry James Jennion Thomas Francis Tattum
Peter Darbyshire Lewis Ellis Jones Harry Worthington
Henry Dixon David Jones Edward Williams
Richard Evans William H Jones Thomas Victor Williams
William French John Jones Robert Williams
James French Robert Jones John Linby Williams
William H Fallon Henry H Jones James Wilson
Albert Fairhurst Joseph Whittaker Lloyd Jones
Daniel Finch Frank Kenealy John Thomas Wilkinson
Albert Finch John Light William Kenealy V.C
Richard Flasby Ernest Lloyd Harry Winstanley
John Garvin John W Lyon
The memorial records that William Kenealy was awarded the Victoria Cross. He was in the Lancashire Fusiliers and was one of six men in the Regiment awarded V.C’s “before breakfast” on the first day of the Dardanelles Campaign. A second roll of Honour was added after the Second World War, these containing twenty four names.
Wilfred Abbot Leslie Markland
James Bates William Nicholson
Cyril Boyers Arthur Oxbury
John Bryon Harold Pilling
Hugh Cuthbert Craig John Price
Harry Cunliffe James Shaw
Richard Frederick Davidson John Smith
Leslie Frost Sidney Thompson
James Hughes James Valentine
Edward Jones Leonard Whittle
William Kelly Clifford Williams
Thomas Lowe Thomas Wood
During Lent 1921 the congregation raised the money for a new Font and this was dedicated in June by the Bishop of Warrington. An alms dish was given “in memory of Mr H Calderbank, Churchwarden of St Luke’s from 1940-1957. ” For the Communion Service a wooden box for bread was the gift of those who were confirmed in 1958, and a silver chalice and paean were presented in memory of Arthur and Elizabeth Marsh by their family in December 1956. Henry Wood, a chorister for forty six years was commemorated by the gift of an Altar book on St Luke’s day 1955, from his wife. A Service Book was given at the same time by members of the Sutton Family in memory of Jane Emily Sutton, Joseph Sutton and Joseph Sutton junior, who died between 1946 and 1955. A book rest was presented in memory of Francis Tattum who was Verger from 1937-1955 and a faithful worshipper all his life.
The great set change at St Luke’s must have been the installation of electric light which was dedicated by Rev. R O. Shone, Vicar of St Thomas’s, on Sunday 6th May 1934.
The “Iron Church” has served St Luke’s end of the Parish well for a century, but it is now coming to the end of its useful life. Plans are in hand for a new Church and parishioners are busy raising the necessary funds. What cause for celebration if the new Church could be consecrated in 1995, St Luke’s centenary year.
You have read about the past history of this building (and those that preceded it) and you have seen its beauty. Perhaps you have felt that it is something more than a museum of the past. If so then St Thomas’s Church has spoken to you as it should. For this is not a relic of a dead past, it stands as part of a living present. In this place, a community of Christian people find their life and offer their worship to God. For hundreds of years, prayers have been offered on this spot and we hope you have captured some of this atmosphere.
The Church of St Thomas provides a focal point for its congregation. As such it must have something to inspire them. The standards of worship and music must be such that they set an example for others. The people of St Thomas’s try to achieve this.
This building is the House of God to which ordinary people come Sunday by Sunday to offer their worship and their prayers, and to receive the sacraments. Here week by week, worship is offered to God. Each Sunday the services of Holy Communion, Morning Prayer and Evensong are the family gatherings for all those who call themselves members of St Thomas’s Church, and also for any visitors who wish to join their prayers with those of Christian Family in this place.
Our history speaks of much faith, devotion and sacrifice. Here, for so many years, the word of God has been preached and the sacraments administered. Please pray for this Church, that this work may continue, and pray also for its clergy and people. May we today be found as faithful as those who have gone before.
Praise be to thee, O God, for all the beauty of this place, for minds that framed it and for hands that wrought it. Here, where through many generations men have found thee, grant that we too may approach the vision of thy glory; through him in whom all Christians living and departed are united, Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord.
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