A Brief History of St Andrew's
Cleaning the Church Silver - 1906
St Andrew's parish was once part of the huge medieval parish of St Mary the Virgin, Eccles, from which the village (Eccles means church) took its name.
As the population of the area soared following the Industrial Revolution the old parish was gradually broken up as surrounding townships gained their own churches. Eventually in the 1870s the rector of St Mary's, Canon Pitcairn, realised that even within Eccles itself his medieval church could not meet the demands of an increasing population, and an additional church was needed.
He organised local professionals and businessmen to set up a building fund under the honorary treasureship of Henry Boddington, Chairman of Boddington's Brewery, to raise money to build a new church designed by Herbert Tijon. They raised £5000, but when the church opened in 1879 just over £2000 remained owing on the cost of the building, which was therefore built not only without a tower (eventually added in 1889) but also without the planned interior decoration. This caused one local journalist to describe the building as, "light, but a little too monotonous to be quite cheerful."
Over the next 40 years the church was to be beautified with a wealth of stone carving, stained glass, decorative woodwork, and even wall paintings (although the latter were sadly covered over in 1965) to produce the magnificent Grade II listed building we see today.
But a building, however beautiful, is not the real church. The real church is a body of Christians worshipping and serving God together. From its earliest days the clerical and lay leadership of St Andrew's was committed to serving God by serving their neighbours, especially those from the poorest section of the community. Four months after the church was consecrated a church school was opened, the forerunner of the present St Andrew's Primary School, the current building on Oxford Road dating from 1893. A second school in the suburb of Monton, then part of the parish, opened in 1881.
Throughout the late Victorian and Edwardian eras St Andrew's ran a wide variety of activities, mainly for the benefit of the less well-off. These included evening classes, a savings bank, a wide variety of youth organisations and activities, a clothing club, and even an informal job finding service for young people connected with the church.
As the local population continued to grow, in 1912 Monton became a separate parish with its own church, St Paul's. By 1979 the St Andrew's congregation had declined to about thirty people and the church faced closure. Slowly congregation numbers rose again to about a hundred on the Electoral Roll by the end of the century. The building was adapted to modern church practise with a tea and coffee area and children's corner being created at the west end in 1983. The present church hopes to continue the tradition of trying to meet the spiritual and other needs of our neighbours.
You can take a quick online tour of the building here.
If you would like to read the history of St Andrew's in more detail, there is a "History and Guide" book available. For further details please click here.
If you are looking for information on family history/genealogy please click here.
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