Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Old Stretford - Chapter III - Places of Public Worship.


Places of Public Worship.

  My recollections of the Established Church
in Stretford extend over sixty-five years.  As
a child I was taken to the Old Church (or
chapel, as it was then called) before it was
pulled down.  It was built in 1718, at a cost
of £470.  This chapel replaced a still older
one built about 1538.  Originally in the
diocese of Lichfield, it was afterwards trans-
ferred to the See of Chester.  In 1821 and
again in 1824 the chapel was enlarged;
strange to say the cost was chiefly defrayed
out of the Poor Rate, levied by the overseers.
In return a large number of free seats were
allotted to the use of the poor.  In all there
were 450 sittings.  A sun-dial stood in the
old chapel yard, and here in olden times the
parish clerk used to give out notices of sales
by auction and announce parish meetings.
  I remember sitting near the old Communion
Table and spelling out the Lord's Prayer and
the Ten Commandments, which were on
boards close to it;  also seeing the Hinde
scholars come into church in their quaint
costumes--the boys in green-tailed coats and
knee breeches, the girls in green hats and
dresses, with white linen capes.  This charity
was founded by Mrs. Hinde prior to her death
in 1724.  She was the widow of the Rev. John
Hinde, Fellow of the Collegiate Church, who
officiated at Stretford, and subscribed £100
towards building the chapel.  The income of the
charity was derived from land in Salford and
Manchester, and it was to be devoted to the
education of twenty poor children, ten from
Stretford and ten from Manchester.  In 1788
the number of the charity was increased to
fifty.  A tablet to the memory of Mrs. Hinde
may be seen in the Manchester Cathedral.
  Lady de Trafford, wife of Sit Thomas de
Trafford, was a Protestant, and used to sit
at the Old Chapel in a pew near ours, whilst
her husband went to the Roman Catholic
Church at Barton or Manchester.  In case
of mixed marriages it was often the custom
to bring up the girls in the faith of the
mother and the boys in that of the father.
One of Lady de Trafford's daughters married
the Rev. Mr. Sparling, a Protestant clergy-
  Connected with Stretford Old Chapel it is
recorded that the noted Henry Newcome
preached there in 1679, and that John Collier,
father of Tim Bobbin, was minister in 1708-9.


  Stretford Church was originally a chapel
of ease, under the parish of Manchester, and
in the early days Dr. Elsdale, Master of the Man-
chester Grammar School, held the living for
thirty-one years, residing in Manchester, and
coming down once or twice a week to visit
the sick.  When he came down to take the
services on Sundays he had either to walk
from Manchester or to come by the "swift
packet," for which the Bridgewater trustees
gave him a free pass.  He sometimes had to
preach, watch in hand, and to cut short his
sermon in order to catch the boat.  In
the interval between the services he
dined at the Angel, in a room known as the
"Parson's Parlour."  After doing this for
nineteen years he secured in 1839 the services
of the Rev. Joseph Clarke, M.A., as a locum
tenens, and that gentleman afterwards suc-
ceeded him as perpetual curate.  Subse-
quently Stretford was separated from Man-
chester and became a rectory.  Mr. Clarke
officiated at Stretford for twenty-three years.
He was a tall, gaunt, earnest man, of the
evangelical school, always wore bands, and
preached in a black gown.  When Mr. Clarke
first came to Stretford, he had by no means
a "bed of roses."  The congregation and Dr.
Elsdale had got to cross purposes, and on the
first Sunday he preached no one offered any
welcome or hospitality to the new curate or
his wife, and they had to follow Dr. Elsdale's
example, and dine alone in the "Parson's
Parlour" at the Angel.  At that time there
was a great dispute about the right of the
Overseers to lay a church rate.  The offi-
cials had been very peremptory in demanding
payment, and had injudiciously served
summonses on Mr. Braybrooke and other in-
fluential inhabitants at Old Trafford, who
joined together and sought the advice of Mr.
John Owen, a well-known Manchester
solicitor.  The case came before two magi-
strates, who decided that the rate was illegal
because Stretford was not a "parochial
chapelry."  Eventually the opinion of Dr.
Phillimore was taken, and the Overseers
appealed against the previous decision.
Before taking further action, however, they
interviewed Mr. Owen and his clients, and
allowed them to see Dr. Phillimore's opinion
as to the legality of the rate, and this was so
clear and decided that the objecting rate-
payers gave way and decided to pay the


  In 1841 the parishioners proceeded to build
a new church at a cost of £3,200.  Sir
Thomas de Trafford gave the land and £100.
The site was a field called "The Wagstaff,"
once used for bull-baiting when that practice
was in vogue.  Lady de Trafford laid the
foundation stone of the new Parochial Church,
to be dedicated to St. Matthew on September
30, 1841, and it was consecrated by the Bishop
of Chester on October 10, 1842.  All the sub-
scribers to the building fund had pews allotted
to them, but as my father, though a con-
tributor, did not look after his interests,
our family got an indifferent one in
the extreme front, and under the pul-
pit.  It was a seat of peril, for a
book and afterwards a candlestick, fell
into our pew, fortunately without hurting
anyone.  The rector's family occupied the
adjoining square pew.  Behind them sat Mr.
James Crossley, of Ashton-on-Mersey, and
when he left, Mr., afterwards Sir, Thomas
Bazley, of Hayesleigh.  Not far away Mr.
John Frederick Foster, the well-known chair-
man of Quarter Sessions, had a pew.  His
statue is to be seen in the Assize Courts.  Just
behind him sat Mr.William Joynson, of Sale,
a very kind benevolent old gentleman, whose
sons, Richard and Walter, followed in his
steps, and are recently deceased.


In front of the Communion Table were two
gaunt double deckers, one used as a reading
desk, and the other as a pulpit.  In a box at
the front of the former sat Joseph Hampson,
the parish clerk, commonly called "Joe," and,
perhaps, the best-known man in the village.
On weekdays he was boss of a gang of men
employed by the Bridgewater Trustees to
keep the canal and its banks in order.  A
broad, stout man, he was just in his element
in an iceboat swaying about with the view of
keeping a passage open for canal boats in
frosty weather.  At church on Sundays he
was fully impressed with his own dignity.
He had a stentorian voice which sometimes
drowned that of the minister, and as the
Psalms were said, and not sung, he had full
play.  His eyes were all over the church, and
if the stove was running low, or a Sunday
scholar was misbehaving himself, "Joe"
marched from his box and poked the fire, or
cuffed the lad, regardless of all proprieties.
In later years when Mr. Hart, rector,
was about to officiate, and the was
no water in the font, "Joe" was
sent for some.  On his way back the
choir lads laughed at him, when he
at once put down the jug, and without think-
ing of the sanctity of the place, boxed their
ears.  Joseph Hampson held his position for
fifty-four years under five different ministers,
and it was said "rectors might come and
rectors might go, but Joe went on for ever."
But this was scarcely so, for he died in 1881.
The first of his family became clerk in 1750,
and the office had been, with one short
exception, in the hands of the family for 130
years.  Joseph Hampson was succeeded by
his brother William, and afterwards his niece
filled the office.
  I have in my possession a book entitled
"The Wreck of the Orion," written by Mr.
Clarke, wherein he describes his marvellous
escape in June, 1850, when the steamer,
which plied between Liverpool and Glasgow,
was wrecked off Portpatrick on the Scotch
coast.  Mr. Clarke had to swim for his life,
and was most fortunate in being picked up
by a boat when he was at the last gasp.  He
was one of the few saved.  Among the drowned
was Mr. Roby, author of the "Traditions of
Lancashire."  As a testimony of thankful-
ness and respect Mr. Clarke's congregation
presented hum with an address, accompanied
by a purse, and tea service, of the value of
£200.  This mark of esteem he valued most
  The living of Stretford is in the gift of
the Warden and Fellows of the Cathedral
Church; the endowment consists of land at
Flixton and Culcheth, and Mr. Clarke in 1840
estimated the net annual income averaged
£190 per annum.  During his tenure of office
a church and schools were erected at a cost of
£4,500, and a parsonage, costing £1,200.
When he died a chancel was erected to his
memory at a cost of £1,170.
  At Stretford Church when I attended, a
practice prevailed which has since been
abandoned.  About mid-service there was a
rustling of feet caused by the churchwardens
and sidesmen leaving their pews and assem-
bling at the church door, each with his church-
warden's silver-tipped staff in hand.  Thus
equipped they sallied forth, and called at all
the public-houses in the village, to see if the
ungodly were indulging in beer, instead of
coming to church.  Then after looking after
loiterers in the churchyard they returned to
their pews just in time for the sermon.
Rumour says that sometimes the church-
wardens themselves thought they needed re-
freshment, but into this we need not inquire
too closely.
  A curiosity of the church was old Tommy
Mellor, the apparitor, who never seemed at
home after he adopted his uniform.
  Attached to, and between the Blind Asylum
and Deaf and Dumb Institute, was a chapel,
opened in 1837, and intended mainly for the
inhabitants of the Institutions, but which
also served the churchgoers of Old Trafford.
The Rev. Thomas Buckley was chaplain to
the Institutions, and also to the Chorlton
Union Workhouse.  The chapel when opened
did not receive the Episcopal blessing, but in
time some of the congregation wished to
have it consecrated, and that Mr. Buckley
should become the incumbent.  The gentle-
men who were desirous of making the change
induced Dr. Prince Lee, the then Bishop of
Manchester, in 1857, to consecrate the church.
This caused much unpleasantness, and Dr.
Samuel Crompton, in 1862, discovered that
the consecration had taken place contrary to
the terms of the trust deed.  After a long
and angry controversy the church was re-
conveyed, and new trustees were appointed.

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