Churches: a new beginning and a sad end

Reporter: Geoff Wood and Dawn Eckersley
Date published: 29 October 2008

Restoration . . .

RESTORATION work has finally started on the spire of St Mary’s Church in Greenfield.

It is now swathed in scaffolding as workmen begin the task of replacing steel supports on the 110ft structure from the top down.

A £130,000 grant from English Heritage — plus £60,000 raised by the congregation — has allowed the first phase of the restoration to go ahead.

It will cost £750,000 to restore the whole church, although a possible supporter may be Rolling Stones superstar Mick Jagger, whose family had connections with the church.

Church members have welcomed the start of the work this week.

Team rector the Rev Christopher Halliday said: “This is the first stage in the restoration of the church.

“But I think the congregation are pleased that work has now started. It will take about 21 weeks to complete.

“The spire is quite a landmark and is now much more visible now the leaves have begun to fall.”

Sara Hilton, of English Heritage, said: “People care passionately about their local places of worship which are often a focus for the whole community.

“Landmarks and buildings where groups come together to worship make for key moments in their lives.”

St Mary’s church spire is particularly prominent standing below dramatic scenery around Dovestone reservoir and above Chew Brook.

The church itself was designed by well-known local architect George Shaw and opened in 1875.

...And Closure

A HOLLINWOOD church, which was said to be one of the most futuristic churches in Oldham when it opened in 1972, is up for sale.

The former St James’s Free Church in Byron Street, which held its final service recently, is on the market with estate agents Ryder and Dutton for £275,000.

Hundreds of worshippers attended the first service at the church when it replaced a 102-year-old building in Manchester Road in May, 1972.

The church was built on a drained basin of the Rochdale Canal and contained offices, a fully-fitted kitchen and billiards room, as well as the church hall itself.

The original church, in Manchester Road, was established in January, 1870, by a group of people who had been worshipping independently. The group laid the first stone in April and St James’s Church opened just six months later.

As centenary celebrations for the old building were getting under way in 1970, the new church was being constructed.

Bishop JD Burrell, who was the Northern Diocesan bishop for the Free Church of England, performed the dedication service at the new building.

The Rev David Joynes, of the near-by Beulah Baptist Church, said: “It is a lovely building and would make a great community centre for the people of Hollinwood.

“Everyone is very keen for the building to be put to good use, or demolished and the land put to good use, as it would be a great shame for the building to fall into disrepair.

“Members of the congregation at St James’s Church are joining churches near-by and several have joined us at the Beulah Baptist Church.”