Into the 20th Century
Into the 20th Century
1900 brought still more gifts. The Council thanked Mr. Joynson for the gift of pictures for the Parish Room. None, save one of Mr. Toft remains there (now the choir vestry). However, framed photos of Mr. Joynson, Archdeacon Gore and Mr. Brunskill hang to this day in the clergy vestry. Perhaps these were the pictures referred to. Elsewhere in the church, the Baptistry was lined with alabaster, doors and screens were installed at the north-west and south-west entrances and the south-west porch was fitted with wrought iron gates as was the vestry entrance. Cupboards were fitted for the clergy robes and the robes themselves were provided for the organist and choirboys. However, in his annual reports, Revd. Brunskill referred the congregation of St. Peter's to some strong words written to the congregation of Bowdon Parish Church by Archdeacon Gore.
'Something may be attributed to the weather, something to epidemic visitations of illness, and something to the increasing habit of getting away at "week-ends". I wish I could persuade myself that this was a full account of the matter. I am afraid it is not. Our views as a nation have changed; our views of the elements of our Holy Faith, and its foundations; our views of the Bible, of the Lord's Day, of the obligations of holy worship. We are not as our fathers were. Perhaps we are more intelligent, less superstitious; perhaps we know more. But we are not more reverent, and I sometimes wonder whether we know more of God and of the love of God and of His desire that we should come into His presence, that we should worship and fall down and kneel before the Lord our Maker.
‘It may be that the God who loves us will graciously correct whatever has been amiss in our service. You must have felt how the "Call to Prayer" has been sounding; I hope it has been heard, in our ears and in our hearts. This closing year of the century is a year of prayer. The great gift which God has given us in our Church; the gift, and the tremendous responsibility of our Empire, the burdens belonging to national greatness, which cannot be borne without God; the duty which, by the Divine behest, we owe to the world, the consequent need of earnest missionary effort; and, at this time, the constant sympathy with our soldiers and with those to whom the war has brought sorrow or bereavement [the Boer War was being fought in Southern Africa], all these considerations give a reality and an urgency to that call which, I am persuaded, the people will not resist. I believe that it is God who is calling us back to Himself, and I pray that we may hear and obey His voice.
'I shall surely not appeal in vain to you, brethren, if I ask you to set a right example in this matter by resisting every temptation and overcoming every difficulty which would hinder you from the constant and devout worship of God in the House in which He has chosen to place His Name.'
In 1901, Mr. Brunskill put to his own congregation a suggestion which has familiar ring:
‘There is, on the part of newcomers, a hesitation in identifying themselves with the church. This is a mailer in which church people might do more than they often do in extending a welcome to strangers.'
Reserved in public, the population of Hale was evidently becoming less so in private; chatty, in fact. Council Minutes note with disapproval that: 'The National Telephone Company had been running a large number of wires over the church ground and workmen were entering the grounds to run the wires’.
In 1900, to have your own telephone must have been one of the status symbols.
The following year marked the tenth anniversary of the Dedication of the church. The fact that Mr. Brunskill was finding difficulty in visiting all of his parish and that he now had the services of a Reader, Mr. J.R. Statham suggests a growing and thriving congregation.
The prayer desks and choir stalls were dedicated in 1903. Mr. Joynson had obtained a site for the parish building. (The original one, in Appleton Road, failed to get planning permission.) An appeal for the funds raised £500. Mr. Joynson gave a further £250. When the fund reached £1,750 he promised to give a further £250. His insistence that people should work for his gifts rather than simply receive them provided an invigorating incentive to the parish to work together and, no doubt, a sense of achievement which an outright gift would have made impossible. Even so, they had to raise £2,500 and with less than half that available, a Sale of Work was held in 1904 to try to make up the deficit.
At the Congregational Meeting on 9th April 1902, Mr. Brunskill suggested that the temporary stalls for choir and clergy in the chancel might be replaced by proper ones to mark the tenth anniversary. Accepting this, the Council later declined the offer of an open Screen for the chancel, despite the strong recommendation of Mr. Brooke, the architect. The church seems to have reflected the style of worship practised in it; at the earlier meeting, Mr. Guest had commented upon‘The excellence and brightness of the services at St. Peter's as well as the avoidance of all extremes of ritual'. A Screen would presumably have been a little too extreme.
Entries in the Minutes around this time give other unexpected insights; for instance, the weather. The new boiler had made the building much warmer in winter but in summer, discomfort was fell from the sun, so much so that idea of fitting blinds over the south clerestory windows was discussed (though dismissed as too expensive) - hardly necessary today. Insights, also, into the attitude of some of the congregation; today, apart from the expected cheerful hubbub at Family Service, there is welcome quietness at other services, private prayer usually preceding the service itself. Surprising, then to read that the inner doors of the porches were to be closed during the Exhortation to avoid the disturbance caused by late-comers arriving and finding their places during the Confession at the beginning of Mattins.
And surprising to read that the church was to be 'open daily during Spring & Summer', having previously been more or less permanently shut during the week.
Hale was a constantly changing community and, within it, St. Peter's, a constantly changing congregation. It was this fact, shown in the departure of several generous givers, which was seen as the cause of a drop of £15 in the clergy stipend. Others were more fortunate: the organ-blower still received £3 per annum and the bell ringer £4. The tall hollies we see today cost £2 when they were planted in this year.
The year 1905 and the parish building opened simultaneously with the money finally raised. In the Church, gifts received included the alabaster base for the lectern, the carpet in the chancel and the humble umbrella stand. Donations included £7 0s 0d to the Society for Promoting Christianity among the Jews.
Over the next two years, efforts to have St. Peter's endowed as a separate parish finally succeeded - not, however, without drama. Revd. F. Wainwright, Vicar of St. John's Altrincham since its consecration in 1866, was the one, it may be recalled, who had outlined the boundaries of the proposed parish of St. Peter's at the original meeting: ‘Do you draw a line up Broomfield Lane to Hale Road...' he had said. Now he declined to accept this boundary, proposing instead one which would have extended his parish almost up to St. Peter's church itself.
Moreover, he further declined to receive a deputation from the Wardens and Secretaries of St. Peter's Council to discuss the matter. Perhaps, like Mr. Brunskill, he had been counting the houses in the now disputed area and found, as had he, that there were no fewer than 110, already a sizeable part of his congregation and one which showed every sign of increasing as Hale grew and grew. Eventually, the case was presented to the Bishop who ruled, after considering the matter, that the Conventional District ceded by Mr. Wainwright in 1892 was the proper area for the new parish.
As to our other neighbours, the Vicar of Ringway was in agreement that his boundary should be altered to bring his parish up to Broad Lane but the Vicar of Ashley felt that there were good reasons why his parish should continue to extend to Warburton Green. Lord Egerton, as Patron, objected to the proposal to extend Ringway parish up to Broad Lane. The boundary was to be Wicker Lane and Chapel Lane, as it still is.
The most important change, though, had nothing to do with geography. The Revd. Brunskill was no longer Priest in Charge but Vicar.
As Vicar, he was able to address his congregation not only in person but also in print when the Parish Magazine was launched in 1907 with a circulation of 400 copies. Two items it carried that year were cause for celebration, each a gift from Mr. Richard Joynson. The first was Aldeburgh House in Harrop Road to be a vicarage for St. Peter's, the second was £500 towards the provision of a caretaker's house at the new Parish Rooms. Sadly, in the following year it carried the news of his death.
His obituary in the Manchester Guardian filled six columns. It told of the man who, after Rugby School and Christ Church Oxford where he obtained his MA, joined his family's business, a silk mill in Ancoats, Manchester. Once prosperous, the business was then dying as a consequence of the free importation of foreign silk. Rather than close it down, the course which economic sense dictated, he and his brother met a regular annual loss in order to keep in employment the staff of men and women who had served the family loyally all their lives.
Richard Joynson was a quite exceptional man, a worthy Victorian who made a lot of money and devoted his whole life to doing good. He was a churchwarden at Ancoats where he helped to finance two churches, St. Marks and St. Philips. He built a small Episcopalian Church in Scotland near the family's holiday home on Loch Ard near Aberfoyle. He was a regular worshipper at Bowdon Parish Church near to his home, Chasefield, in Park Road, but it was in St. Peter's where one might almost expect to read Sir Christopher Wren's words about his beloved St. Paul's: 'Si Monumentum Requiris, Circumspice...' ('If you require a memorial, look about you...'). For wherever you do look in St. Peter's, there is something to remind you of Richard Joynson.
We can learn from recorded facts what actually happened in those first ten years or so, but it is only by reading what people actually said and did that we can gain an impression of the kind of church St Peter's was and what it was like to be there.
Ada Pearce remembered it very well indeed.
'Tom, my brother, and I used to go to Mr. Brunskill's ‘Quarter Before Three' Sunday afternoon class in the Church. That was for the children who were brought by their mums or their nannies. They went to Culcheth [a private school on Cavendish Road, Bowdon] or Wadham or Dudley Bank [other private schools]. The children who went to the State schools went to Sunday School in the Parish Building with the curate [Revd. C. Lewis who came in 1910].
'But I do remember that Mr. Brunskill was intensely interested in Mission. I remember the Sales of Work we had were terrific events. All the different people made things. I remember Mrs. Gibson (remembered today for the Gibson Trust), used to ask the daughters of the Mothers Union to serve and used to dress us up in fancy aprons. That was when the kitchen of the Parish Rooms (Assembly Rooms) was in the cellar. You went up some steps and shoved the dishes through and they arrived just underneath the front of the stage.
'We used to have Missionary Plays, I remember... in the Drill Hall. The Missionary Play was about Missionary activity and was part of the fund-raising. I can remember playing an irate Indian father whose daughter was completely terrified of him but who wanted to become a Christian.
'In my day there wasn't any Youth Fellowship or anything like that, only Sunday Schools for the children.'
Just as the Sunday Schools were socially divided, so, too were the Services. Ada Pearce again:
'There were two definite congregations, the Morning Service was for householders ... and the Evening Service was for their maids. All the houses had maids or servants. We were in Warwick Road in those days and we had two sleeping in and two who came in during the week to do odd jobs.'
There was a practical reason for the segregation: the servants could not come to Morning Service as they had to have the Sunday luncheon prepared for their employers when they returned from that Service.
Unthinkable as all this seems to us today, it is only fair to remember that, in this respect, St. Peter's was by no means untypical, a microcosm of society at the turn of the century. Only fair to remember, too, the great efforts made there and the large amounts of money raised for the needs of others. That may have been by no means typical.
On the other hand, "Churchianity' does seem to have nudged over Christianity on occasion. Mrs. Pearce, Ada's mother, was one of the elite members of the Ladies' Guild. One day, she took along some flowers for the church. Shortly afterwards, Ada remembered her coming hack into the house in tears with the flowers. They had been refused with the words, "Oh, no, Mrs. Pearce. They are not ecclesiastical!"
To qualify for membership of the Ladies' Guild you had to employ a maid - not just any maid but a live-in maid. The situation in Hale was a more discreet echo of that in Bowdon, described and remembered at first-hand by George Evans.
'Denzell was built in 1887. In 1904 it was bought by Mr. Samuel Lamb, he had two sons and four daughters and domestic staff consisting of butler, cook, kitchen maid, pantry maid, two ladies' maids and a sewing maid. Outdoors there were head and under-gardener and 14 other gardeners. My father was the coachman and he had an assistant and we lived in a house in the stable yard.'
At the time of writing, Denzell's most recent service as a hospital is ended and its future is to be as offices. The gardens have long been open to the public yet George told the author that, as he sat on the lawn there with his grandchildren, he felt distinctly uneasy. In his childhood that had been forbidden territory.
In 1910, what Mr. Brunskill had often seemed to be sensing actually came to be. The honeymoon was over. The pioneering enterprise of the early days, the euphoria of striving towards and reaching a target figure and the satisfaction of seeing a bare and simple building fitted and furnished and made beautiful, all these were things of the past. Reminders of happy and exciting times to those who had lived and worked together through them, but simply an elegant fait accompli to those who came to live in Hale but did not always come to worship at St. Peter's. In memory of her father, Richard Joynson, Mrs. Joynson-Hicks gave to the church the splendid clerestory windows. And that was that. St. Peter's Church was now complete.
It was this attitude of mind with which John Brunskill had to contend. In a literal and material sense, the church was complete, but in a spiritual sense, he argued, it was far from being so.
In his Annual Report he wrote:
'After due allowance has been made for those who worship elsewhere, there can, I think, be no question that the proportion of our parishioners who are present in Church regularly, Sunday by Sunday, is by no means what might be expected. It indicates a decreasing realisation of the duty of public worship and of its value in maintaining the spiritual life.
'In the case of newcomers, I would suggest that church people might more often make their arrival in the parish known to the clergy, while older residents help both in this respect and also by personally inviting and welcoming more recent arrivals to the service of the Church.'
There was an urgent need, he seemed to suggest, to think less about what the building was and rather more about what it was for.
Meanwhile, especially with the young. St. Peter's ‘family' was growing. The curate, Revd. Connop D. Lewis, took over the Sunday School (the Reader, Mr. Statham, was still Superintendent), and also became Captain Lewis, commanding the newly formed Company of the Church Lad's Brigade. The Recreation Society was inaugurated.
There was still a need for money and not just for St. Peter's Church. Mr. Brunskill referred, in his Report for 1912 to the findings of the Archbishop's Committee on Home Church Finance.
‘In all true Church life the unit is the Diocese and as part of the wide body the Parish must share the responsibilities of that body.’
'It is necessary to instruct Churchpeople in the duly of systematically contributing some definite portion of their income.’
It was a bold move, challenging a congregation to provide not just immediately visible improvements to I heir own church nor even worthy support to those in need far beyond the seas but mundane necessities for churches in their own diocese. Not only that, to do so, not with the exhilaration of Fund Raising Events, and all the preparation and excitement that entailed, but by the cold calculation of what we know as Planned Giving.
As the attitude of the congregation became enlightened, so did the interior of the church. For the last lime, Mr. Toft turned down the gas jets. Fillers lowered the gasoliers, threading wiring through the pipes to bring current to the incandescent bulbs. Then, for the first time, Mr. Toft touched the switch and flooded the building with electric light. It gleamed upon the woodwork of the new sanctuary gates and sparkled on the crown and mitre (symbols of the authority of the Churchwardens) which tipped respectively, their new staves of office.
The staves are in their place to this day, proudly and prominently symbolising Church and State in those who bear them and the duties that go with them. There seems to be no trace of two gifts which arrived in 1913 - an Invalid Carriage and a Bath Chair, but one gift from that year is still treasured above all others, literally speaking. Dedicated the previous October by Archdeacon Gore, Mrs. Whitehead's gift of a clock turned the tower, which had, it may be remembered, begun as a speculative doodle on an architect's drawing, into a most useful as well as decorative feature of the village.
Only six months later, Archdeacon Gore, who had been the guiding spirit behind St. Peter's Church, died, in April 1913. It is a tribute to him that 20 years after the Dedication, not only was the church thriving but there was an urgent need for Sunday School accommodation for 200 children and for funds for a place of worship in the Hermitage Road district of Hale.
In 1914 the world went to war. From St. Peter's Church, Hale, 120 men joined His Majesty's Forces. On December 17th, Basil Hamilton Woods became the first of them to be killed in action.