The Opening of St. Vincent’s Church, Altrincham

Altrincham, Bowdon and Hale Guardian. Wednesday, October 4th, 1905. This is an extract from the newspaper’s report on the opening of St Vincent’s Church on October 1st 1905.

Opened by the Bishop of Shrewsbury. The congregation of St Vincent’s worshipped for the first time in the new church which they have erected in Regent – road, Altrincham, on Sunday morning, when the ceremony of formally opening and dedicating the building was performed by Dr Allen, the Bishop of Shrewsbury. To the Catholics of the district the event was full of significance, and when the service opened there were comparatively few vacant seats. The opening of the church represents the completion of an effort entered upon more than five years ago during the ministry of the Rev W.F Stanley, for the provision of a sanctuary more suited to the needs of the congregation and more worthy of their importance as an active and progressive religious community. The original chapel in New Street was built forty-eight years since, and although it has served the purpose fairly well, it was long ago felt that its inconvenient, no less than its restricted accommodation, imposed upon the members a strong obligation to build for themselves a church of a larger kind and a more dignified character. The first step towards the achievement of this object was made by the acquisition of a central site and the junction of Groby and Bentinck roads which was conveyed to the Building Committee on a yearly ground rent, and from that time onwards the efforts of the promoters of the scheme have been continuous. At the end of two or three years the committee found themselves with a fund sufficiently large to justify them in entering into a contract for the erection of a church at an estimated cost of about £6000, and first sod was cut on the 29th October, 1903. Towards the total cost the congregation have subscribed about one half, and the task of raising the remainder they are devoting themselves under the direction of the clergy, the Revs C Ryder and E D Kirby, with great determination, so that when the church is entirely freed from the incubus of debt it may formally be consecrated. Erected from the designs of Mr Edmund Kirby, FRIBA, of Liverpool, the church, which has a seating capacity for 500 people of graceful proportions in the style known as Early English Gothic. The exterior walls are of small red Ruabons bricks with terra cotta dressings. The windows have been boldly treated without mullions and they reveal considerable taste. They are filled with cathedral glass the lighting is i n every respect perfect. A fine effect has been obtained in the nave with its lofty open timbered roof and the tastefully decorated Gothic arches supported on stone capita’s, pillars and bases, which separate it from the aisles and two side chapels. The spacious chancel is in perfect harmony, and from every part a complete view is obtained of the richly decorated altar. From the chancel there are convenient means of access to the sacraties for priests and boys who have been grouped in a way that enhances the general design at the north east corner. The main entrance, which is from the south, leads into a vestibule and two doors give admissions to the church. Over the vestibule, which is chiefly constructed of oak, is the organ gallery with accommodation for quite a large choir. This is also of oak, and the entire design is extremely effective both in treatment and execution. An emergency exit had been placed near to the chancel which also opens into a conveniently arranged vestibule. Special attention has been paid to the heating and the ventilation of the building, and the well designed electric light fittings are not the least attractive of the ornamental features. Open branches of oak are provided for the use of worshippers, and it is the intention of the congregation to further equip the church.

Solemn High Mass (Coram Episcopo) was celebrated at eleven o’clock. The celebrant was the Rev W F Scanley, of Stockport, a former rector of St Vincent’s, and the deacon was the Rev C Ryder, the present rector. The Rev Father Ricksby, SJ, officiated and the deacons at the throne were the Revs Fathers Henuelly and O’Grady. The assistant celebrants were Mr E Donovan and Mr H Kelly. The Rev ED Kirby was the master of ceremonies. The Mass was sung to St Dominic, by E Terry and Murphy’s Ave Maria was sung as an offertory piece by Miss Ellis Cragg. The choir was strengthened for the occasion and the entire musical portion was effectively given under the superintendence of Mr J Howarth Ryder, the organist and choirmaster. The sermon was preached by the Bishop from the steps of the altar. He based his discourse on the text “And they shall build Me a sanctuary and I will dwell in the midst of them.” Alluding to the completion of the church, the Bishop said the occasion was a source of great satisfaction not only to him but to the diocese at large. It seemed but the other day that the first stone was laid and now, by the blessing of God, they were gathered to celebrate its opening and dedication. He congratulated them with all his heart. The day realized to the full the prayers, petitions and hopes of at least two generations of those belonging to the parish, and with that thought came the remembrance of the generations yet unborn to whom the church would stand not as a mere symbol of divine truth but as the very house of the living God. The text showed them very clearly what was meant by a day like that. It showed the relations of God towards His creatures and of their responsibility towards God. From the time of the setting up of the Tabernacle God had dwelt with his people. There was not merely to be one temple containing only the symbols of God’s Presence but ten thousand temples containing the real, living God, and these were the heritage of the Christian people. It was the glory of the Christian faith that Christ dwelt with them, not by His power or goodness, but in the Holy Sacraments of the altar wherever the sacrifice was to be offered. This was what made their temple so beautiful in itself – infinitely more beautiful than the Temple at Jerusalem could promise, because on their altars was the Incarnate God. The work of Christ in the Church was to create a new generation and to make a world like unto Himself.  In plain language he might say that every church was the very workshop of the Creator of the world. The world might contain sinful men, popes and bishops might be weak and simple as they had been, but the divine truth of the Christian faith was not affected by these considerations. The central truths of the Christian faith lay at the root of all they had to hope for. There was no maudlin sentiment about religion and the constant occupation of a Christian man was to grow like unto his Saviour. Let their work be not merely in taking a pleasure in the building of a better abiding place, but let them turn their thoughts to God and ask Him to help them in all truth and earnestness to walk in humility and obedience to His holy will so that by His grace He might build up the Kingdom of God within them.

Evening Service

There was a large congregation in the evening when the preacher was the Rev J Rickaby, SJ. During the service a solo was finely rendered by Mr T McConville. The Rev J Rickaby based his discourse on church building, observing that history repeated itself in that as in other matters. He spoke of the progress of church building through the time of the persecuting emperors of Rome up to the period of the early British Church before the Romans landed and afterwards, briefly referring to the reformation, and said that for many years anything like restraint had been removed from their action and that although they had not been able in many instances to build that which would in size and charac ter correspond to their old cathedral, still they had succeeded in doing wonderful work not only because of the excellence of the work but wonderful in the means by which it was done. Their number was small and their wealth was not great, but there had grown up churches doing credit to the Catholics in this country and to all concerned in raising those churches. There on that day they had every reason to feel triumphant. What he was next going to say would at first seem to damp their joy, but it had no reference to them whatever. They heard some very jealous persons say, and sometimes not without truth, that that which was not necessary was being done by building beautiful marble altars and all sorts of splendor and adornment for the church, and that which was necessary was being left undone. He would allow that in certain cases churches must wait for ornaments in order that more crying needs might be attended but there was no such reproach in Altrincham, and all who know their circumstances must admit how needful it was that they should build that church, and how excellently they had behaved in building it.

Both the above images are copies of the Altrincham, Bowdon and Hale Guardian, from October 4th 1905. Copies of the newspaper were made available by Trafford Local Studies Centre.