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Photos by John Moss
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Outlying & Suburban Churches - 3


Church of St Lawrence, Denton

Saint Lawrence, a Grade II Listed Building, was once a so-called "chapel of ease", and only became a parish church in 1854. The building was originally constructed around 1531 and was dedicated to St James until the discovery of a stained glass window to St. Lawrence in the mid-nineteenth century. A commemorative plaque lies in the church grounds.

St Lawrence Church, DentonSaint Lawrence, Denton
Photo courtesy of Ian Rhodes. See more of his church photographs on the family website at www.rhodesfamily.org.uk/churches

An unusual and visually striking building, very little of the original structure actually survives, probably only the timber posts of the nave and some of the roof timbers are original - the rest is Victorian. The distinctive black and white external striping is actually painted on. Much of the stained glass dates from the 15th or early 16th century. Long known affectionately to locals as Th' Owd Peg because its wooden framework construction which is held together by joints fastened with wooden pegs - a common constructional practice in the 16th century.
The churchyard also has the grave with a stone memorial commemorating Colonel Duckenfield of Dukinfield Hall, the Civil War hero from the Tameside district. There is also a blue plaque in his honour on the front of Dukinfield Town Hall. Robert Duckenfield was a Puritan who in 1651 commanded the forces that secured the Isle of Man and in 1653 was appointed to Cromwell's Little Parliament.
Extensive restoration of the church is in progress as part of a major conservation project including repairs to the north wall of the nave and to the north transept roofs, in collaboration with English Heritage.

See also: Denton and Dukinfield

Brookfield Unitarian Church, Hyde Road, Gorton

Brookfield in another fine Grade II Listed Victorian Gothic Church, opened in 1871, built by Thomas Worthington, and commissioned by Richard Peacock of the powerful local Peacock and Beyer engineering and locomotive building firm. Known in its time as the "Unitarian Cathedral", it has a peel of eight bells in its tall steeple - all named for members of Peacock family.
Before its construction, in times of religious dissension and persecution, worshippers met secretly in an upstairs room of a house nearby at the junction of Abbey Hey Lane and Cross Lane.

Brookfield Unitarian Church, Hyde Road, Gorton
Photo courtesy of Ian Rhodes. www.rhodesfamily.org.uk/churches

Thereafter, in more tolerant times, a chapel was built in Gorton Vale which served worshippers from the surrounding districts of Denton, Reddish, Gorton, Openshaw and Levenshulme. Several memorial plaques from this now long gone chapel were transferred into the new church at Brookfield.
The massive eight bells, originally suspended on oak beams, were too much for the steeple, which was in danger of serious damage, and in the early 20th century they were re-hung on steel beams. The largest of the bells weighs just under three-quarters of a ton and the smallest one weighs about 4 hundredweight. A notable London fresco and mural painter was commissioned to do the murals.
It took some time before a final name was was chosen for the church - at one point it was thought that Brook Meadow Church would be appropriate, but it was later changed to Brookfield, the name by which it is known today. See also: Gorton

Stand Church, Whitefield

Located on Church Lane, in Whitefield (Bury), perhaps, with the local Stand Golf Course, the last vestige of the old district of Stand (since the Grammar School opposite was demolished in 2000 to make way for new housing).

Stand Church, Whitefield Sir Charles Barry - Stand Church, Whitefield.

Stand is a Commissioner's Church of 1822, the first known building to be designed by celebrated architect, Sir Charles Barry - it cost £13,729 to build. In all likelihood, it was on the strength of this building achievement that he secured the commision to design the Manchester Art Gallery in Mosley Street in Manchester city centre. Barry's accuracy in reproducing an almost perfect perpendicular gothic architecture marks Stand Church out as probably one of his best buildings. Its splendid tower dominates the hill and is a local landmark to be seen from miles around in every direction. Distinctive decorated pinnacles seem to have been placed wherever there was space to fit them. The windows are long tall lancets, and the tower has polyagonal buttresses.
Inside, it's four bay nave has slender perpendicular piers which carry the star-shaped plaster vaults - one for each two bays. Brightly coloured stained glass windows were installed around 1840. There are several monuments to local bigwigs of the period, including James Ramsbotham, and James Clegg, as well as another bust with relief figures on the base depicting Faith, Hope & Charity.

Author's Footnote:

It was a nostalgic visit back to see this church, as I had worked for several years opposite at Stand Grammar School for Boys. I was employed there as a young teacher and fondly remember Founder's Day and Christmas Carol Services in this fine church - days shared with the nearby Stand Grammar School for Girls - a rare treat indeed!! These, and numerous art lessons drawing in the adjacent graveyard, proved a welcome distraction from the many humdrum hours (and years) of teaching art to the more-or-less unwilling youth of the district.

The Holy Name of Jesus RC Church, Chorlton on Medlock

Designed by Joseph Aloysius Hansom and built between 1869-1871, the late Professor Nikolaus Pevsner, one of Britain's leading experts on art and architecture, counts this as the finest work by Hansom. His original massive design called for a spire atop the tower, but this was never built. The present octagonal top was actually by Adrian Gilbert Scott and was only completed in 1928.

The Holy Name, Oxford Road, Manchester

The fortress-like facade of the building is deliberately asymmetrical and the sides have flying buttresses, outer chapels with small windows. The interior is spacious and airy with slender piers supporting the rib-vaulted roof and high chancel. The vaulting was achieved, unusually, by using polygonal terra cotta blocks, rather than stone, which considerably reduced the weight (and the cost) of the building. The nave has four bays. Terra cotta is also used for interior cladding as is much of the ornate detailing. The apse and chancel piers have been compared in style to those at Chartres in France.
There had been plans to demolish the Holy Name to make way for the proposed School of Medicine as part of University expansion in the mid-1960s. This was then thought to be perfectly logical since most of the surrounding houses had been removed in Manchester's major slum clearances of that era, and congregations had in any case dwindled to such an extent as to make the church economically unviable. However, protests from locals and a militant campaign headed by Pevsner, (a leading and influential critic of what he described as "Manchester Corporation's scandalous treatment of its architectural heritage" ...), succeeded in saving it as a Grade II Listed Building. In the event, the Medical School was constructed a few yards south, further down Oxford Road.

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This page last updated 1 Dec 11.