Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Pits Brow and the third St Clement's Church Part 1

This is the story of Pits Brow and of course of the church which has stood here since 1866.

Now if you want to read the history of St Clements you only have to turn to  Ida Bradshaw’s excellent booklet,* which was published to celebrate “500 years of Faith, Past, Present and Future.”

The old parish church by the green had served the community since it was opened as a chapel in 1512.  

There is no doubt that this earlier place of worship fitted much better the idea of a village church.  It was half timbered with walls of wattle and daub and large irregular spaced windows.

But by the end of the 18th century was too small and feeling its age and as replaced in 1799.

By comparison the new one was less than attractive.  It was built of red brick with a tower at the western end and a rounded apse to the east.  To the casual observer it did rather resemble a rectangular box, which was not improved by the addition of two aisles on the north and south side in 1837 which just added to the impression of a building too short in length but over tall in height.

But this description does not do it justice.  There was a sense of permanence and purpose about the place.  Parishioners approached the church from the north through the graveyard and at this point the building dominated the view.  The sheer height of the building combined with the tall windows and soaring tower were as forceful a reminder of the power of religion as any great cathedral.   And well into the 20th century was still regarded by those who lived around the green with affection.

But “it was in a poor state of repair and the growth of the village made increased accommodation necessary.  Lord Egerton was approached and he offered a piece of Pigot Hey (anciently known as the Pingot) at the corner of St Clements Road and Edge Lane for a church and churchyard with a subscription of £500, on the understanding that the endowment was transferred from the old church.”**

Building on the third church began in 1860, but not without some drama which saw opposition to the new church from parishioners of the old, at least one acrimonious meeting and a six year wait from the beginning of the building till its opening in 1866.  According to Ida despite a start being made on the new church in the early 1860s when the money ran out and with “no clear cut approval of the parish [building ceased] leaving an empty shell.”

But churches are more than just buildings and in those early years there were those who worked    tirelessly achieve the new church.  One such group were the “Bazaar Ladies” who at the Easter of 1862 organised a bazaar at the Royal Exchange to raise money for the building fund.  

Here were the genteel, good and well off of Chorlton.  They included Mrs Booth from the Rectory, and “the Misses Holt of Beech House, the Misses Morton from Lime Bank, and the Misses Dean of Barlow Farm” along with a collection of married women from some of the grandest houses in the township.  It was according to one report a great success.

Likewise the subscription for the building fund came from across the community and while a few gave large sums many more made modest donations added to which more was raised on cards and at church collections.

Nevertheless the “old church was to remain the parish church until its closure in 1940 as a result of frost damage,” which meant that we had two churches serving the needs of the community.

Pictures; Pits Brow, courtesy of Digital Archives,  from the Lloyd collection

*A Short History of St Clement’s Church Chorlton cum Hardy
**Ida Bradshaw

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