Christ Church Heritage...
Founding of the Church...
The members and friends of the Church of England in Timperley felt for many years the need of a church nearer than the then Parish Church at Bowdon or the Chapel of Ease in Altrincham (St. George’s). In May 1847 a meeting was held which decided to inaugurate a movement for the building of a church and vicarage in Timperley and to take immediate steps to raise the necessary funds.
A Building Committee was formed and the money began to come in. A plot of land was given by Mr. J. Barratt and Mr. James Bayley of Altrincham was appointed architect for the project The foundation stone was laid on the 13th of November 1848. In anticipation of the approaching completion of the building a meeting of subscribers was held and the first Trustees of the Patronage were appointed.
These were:- The Revd. W. H. G. Mann (Vicar of Bowdon), James Barratt, Thomas William Tatton of Wythenshawe Hall, Benjamin Bagnall and John Skelton. Shortly afterwards, the Trustees appointed the Revd. Edward Dowling as the first incumbent. At the first Vestry Meeting Benjamin Bagnall and John Skelton, both living in Timperley, were elected Churchwardens.
The first service was held by Bishop’s Licence on the 20th September 1849 when the Churchwarden’s staves were carried for the first time. They are still in use today. Christ Church was consecrated on the 23rd October 1851 and the original Ecclesiastical District of Timperley was created and assigned as a separate parish under the name and title of Christ Church Timperley on the 7th May 1852.
The First Building...
Christ Church is unusual in being built aligned north to south and not east to west. So all the descriptions in this booklet will refer to the Liturgical, with the altar at the east end. The original building took the form of a simple rectangular chapel with a tower and spire at the west end. The church was designed in the Gothic revival style with a slate roof and built in red sandstone from Runcorn. The interior was extremely simple, with four regularly spaced oak beams supporting the roof and white-washed plastered walls. All the windows had plain diamond panes of glass. A balcony was placed at the west end of the nave with a separate outside entrance through the tower and this originally housed the musicians and later the organ.
The oak boxed pews accommodated 497 parishioners of which 130 seats were free. Pew rents were paid by different families for their ‘own’ pew, hence the numbers on the pew doors. Some had their own lockers for prayer books added, a few of which still exist, along with pegs for gentlemen’s hats.
It is at this point that the building departs from its simple origins and begins to claim its elements of distinction.
The first gifts to the fittings of the church were two carved oak chairs with needlepoint cushions. These are both individually hand-carved after the style of Pugin, showing clearly that his design principles were strictly adhered to. These chairs are still in the church. The original pulpit is also still in use but the first oak lectern has been replaced by a traditional golden eagle.
The Enlargement of the Church...
By 1864 the church was found to be too small for its needs and it was decided to enlarge the building. The architect was John Lowe who was generally known for building Stockport railway viaduct. He was commissioned to build transepts, chancel, organ chamber and a vestry. The extension was opened in 1865 and provided an extra three hundred seats. Lowe’s additions carried on the Gothic revival style, although on the exterior he did not use exactly the same kind of stone facings as had Bayley, the original architect.
The north transept was built with a door and the south transept with two long windows. Both have a circular rose window. Apart from changing the position of the organ from the balcony to a special compartment by the chancel, little else was changed within the original interior. A new organ from Benjamin Bagnall was built and installed by Jardines of Manchester and a new font in memory of Maud Dowling, the daughter of the Revd. Dowling and his wife Margaret.
In 1882 the first stained glass window was placed in the east end in memory of Alfred Woodhead. This was produced by Heaton, Butler and Bayne and represents the Ascension. It is divided into five panels with Christ as the large central figure surrounded by golden light, with figures of angels in the upper half and disciples in the lower half of the surrounding four panels. This is said to be one of Heaton, Butler and Bayne’s better windows showing good colour and design.
In 1887 the interior condition of the church gave rise to much concern. One of the besetting problems of Christ Church has been the damage caused by damp, the building being on clay ground and itself built of porous sandstone. Once again the Church Committee looked to one of the top Manchester architects to alleviate their problems. This time they chose Charles Heathcote who suggested building a cavity wall which was then covered with terracotta tiles. To try and preserve these from damp they were covered in oil-based paint. Heathcote also provided the stained glass for the transept windows. The two rose windows and the long windows are in a geometric design of brilliant blues, reds, greens and yellows.
1898 saw a further enlargement of the vestry and a new organ built by Wadsworth Ltd of Manchester.
The Influence of the William Morris Arts and Crafts Movement...
The church interior is influenced by the Arts and Crafts Movement particularly due to the determined efforts of the Revd. C. D. Wray, Vicar from 1905 – 1917. The movement was popular in Manchester, while local residents in Hale and Bowdon included Edgar Wood the architect and G. Faulkner Armitage interior designer. In the Parish Magazines there are many references to craft fairs, talks and demonstrations by visiting craftsmen. Revd. Wray was himself a woodworker and arranged for classes to be attended by parishioners. His awareness of the developments in the Arts and Crafts Movement resulted in some splendid additions to the church.
The first major addition was the reredos and high altar with a new side window opening into the chancel. The famous architect Edgar Wood designed the work in 1910 which was executed in oak, with sycamore and ebony inlay by the firm of George Wragge at the Craft Works, Salford. It is dedicated to the Revd. S. Wilkinson, a previous incumbent 1890 – 1905. Two altar frontals were completed at the same time, possibly by lady members of the church, and were noted for their beautiful and pure colour, clearly following the principles of William Morris & Co.
In 1911 a cross of pewter, brass and enamel was added. This was specially designed and made by George Wragge in memory of J. H. Keymer of Heightside, Thorley Lane (now Edenhurst Drive). In the same year, the Vicar’s woodworking class produced a beautiful door (designed by John Cocker ARIBA) for the north transept. Also in 1911, the window representing ‘Gentleness’ was erected on the south side of the church. Designed by W. M. Anderson in the Arts and Crafts style and made by George Wragge, it is in memory of Mary Wood who died in 1910.
The next three windows in the nave, all made by George Wragge’s Craft Works, are of excellent design and execution and noted for their beautiful and pure colour following William Morris principles again. On the north side is a window dedicated to Sir Bosdin Leech who lived at Oak Mount on Wood Lane. He had been Lord Mayor of Manchester, Chairman of the Waterworks Committee and, along with Daniel Adamson, one of the instigators of the Manchester Ship Canal, for which work he was knighted in 1894. This window consists of a figure representing ‘Diligence’ in the Arts and Crafts style, and was dedicated in 1913.
The First World War brought further riches to the church but in very sad circumstances. The central two windows on the south side both commemorate soldiers who were killed in action during the war. The first, ‘Courage’, is dedicated to Kenneth Wray, son of the Vicar, and shows the figure of St. George in armour carrying a sword and lance. The second, ‘Justice’, is dedicated to John Swift who fell in Mesopotamia and depicts St. Louis of France dressed as a crusader. In both these windows the face is that of the young man, copied from photographs. Between them is the Roll of Honour from the First World War bearing 107 names of men from the parish who perished.
One stained glass window which is seldom seen is that commemorating the members of the choir who were lost during the war and is in the organ chamber. This bears the names of the choristers and again is in rich colours.
The choir window
‘Faith’, the last window on the south side behind the stairs, is different in style with muted colours and mainly green but beautiful with summer sun streaming through. Dedicated in 1908 and in memory of Hattie Bell, this is the first window you see from the main door.
The final stained glass window, which is slightly out of character with the other five, represents the figure of Gabriel and is of a much later date – 1936. Hence it has lost some of the pure Arts and Crafts style of design. The colour is not as pure and probably relies more on chemical colour rather than natural. It commemorates Anthony F. Obegi and his wife. The designer is unknown
Electric lighting replaced gas in 1920. The Organ Chamber was extended in 1923 as the existing one was too small and damp. The organ was rebuilt with the introduction of ‘a mechanical apparatus’ for blowing the instrument. In 1933 the existing communion rails were removed and replaced by new oak rails with a memorial inscription to William Bell who was the Parish Clerk for the township / civil parish of Timperley.
The 60's and 70's...
The electric lighting was rewired in 1960 with new lighting pendants and shades fitted. The church underwent internal redecoration during which the wording over the chancel arch was painted over. Further major changes were made later in the 1960s. The carved oak choir stalls were removed and replaced with others of a plainer design that did not match the style of the church. These were intended to be placed in the south transept that is now the Lady Chapel, but were later transferred to the chancel. During the reorganisation, the front pews in the nave were taken out to open up the chancel but this failed to have the desired effect with sad results for the church.
The original oak choir stalls.
The 1960s replacements.
During 1976 and 1977 the south transept was converted into a Lady Chapel and furnished appropriately through donations. The initiative was largely that of former Lt-Col Ronald Lydiatt, one of the Churchwardens at the time, who did much of the work personally. An altar was given by Eric Matthews (former Churchwarden, Chairman of the Trustees of the Benefice and long-term member of the choir) in memory of his wife Marjorie.
The Lady Chapel
Major Restoration Work...
In 1982 the Quinquennial Inspection revealed very serious and unexpected problems with the building. On the advice of the architects who carried out the inspection, the PCC agreed that a substantial phased restoration programme should be undertaken.
Following a Report for Listing by Debbie Robb which concentrated on the Arts and Crafts features within the building, Christ Church was registered as a Grade 2 Listed Building in 1985.
For a variety of reasons, Christ Church Fund was not launched until 1986 and Phases 1 and 2 (the roof repair and ceiling replacement) did not begin until 1988. They were completed in 1990. Phase 3 saw the repair of the vestry and the outside of the building, together with repairs to the windows and an overhaul of the heating system. Following a number of burglaries a complete security alarm system was installed. It was during the completion of Phase 3 that the spire was found to be dangerous and had to be taken down. The initial appeal for £100,000 was passed and grants were received from Trafford MBC amounting to £27,281. The first three phases cost £131,192. Fairhursts Design Group were the architects. The main contractors for the first phase were W. Fearley & Sons and for the second and third phases Ashwood Ltd (Rochdale).
Phase 4 related to the internal reordering and redecoration of the church which began in July 1997 and was completed on 30th October. The unfortunate effect caused by the removal of pews in the 1960s was transformed by some first class joinery, including new choir stalls, communion rails and storage cupboards. The platform at the front of the chancel was extended, the church redecorated and carpeted to a new colour scheme and the lighting replaced and improved. A group of ladies from the parish made new kneelers for the pews completing a transformation of the interior into a brighter more welcoming place.
The ultimate cost was greatly in excess of £100,000 which was Funded by what remained in the Restoration Fund, the Coombs and Dobson Bequests and the John Cocker Bequest. Later, a new public address system was installed with the clergy using radio microphones and the organ was cleaned and repaired by Anthony Herrod.
The new colour scheme.
The Tower and Spire...
The tower had previously been ‘reconstructed’ in 1935. A tablet recording this was placed at the back of the church (now in the St. David’s Room) as a memorial to Frederick Alfred Tomlinson, the late owner of Timperley Hall. (This was probably when the base of the spire was strengthened with metal rings.)
Unexpectedly during the work on Phase 3, the spire was found to be in a dangerous condition and had to be taken down. The replacement of this became Phase 5 of the restoration and proved to be problematic due to the church’s status as a Listed Building. The problem related to the method of supporting the spire internally and finding a solution that not only involved the PCC and architect but also the Diocesan Advisory Committee, Trafford Council and English Heritage.
After years of discussions and disagreements between the conservationists, consultees and architects the cost of replacing the spire was prohibitive and so an alternative solution had to be found. This resulted in a saddleback roof replacing the original spire which was completed in December 2004. The top section of the old spire now stands by the hut in the churchyard.
The 150th Anniversary...
The 150th Anniversary of the first service held at Christ Church was celebrated on the 20th of September 1999 when His Grace the Archbishop of York, The Most Revd. and Rt. Hon. David Hope, was the celebrant and preacher at a Sung Eucharist. A celebratory meal was also held at The Woodlands Park Hotel, Wellington Road, Timperley with the Bishop of Chester (Right Revd. Peter Forster) and his wife as principal guests.
From March 2002 the congregation at St. David’s Church in Hale, a daughter church of the parish, joined with the congregation of Christ Church following the closure of their building.
The final stage of refurbishment was completed in 2006 when pews beneath the gallery were removed and the floor levelled. A meeting room and kitchen were created with glazed folding doors opening onto the main church. Toilets were installed in the base of the tower and access to the gallery created from inside the church with an oak staircase. To open up the space at the back of church, the font was relocated to the corner of the north transept. The room was dedicated on Advent Sunday 2006 and named the St. David’s Room.
St. David’s Room
New inside staircase
up to the balcony - 2005
In March 2008 renovation work began on the organ. It was completely dismantled with the majority of the parts transported to the workshops of David Wells, organ builder in Liverpool. The rest was stored in the Lady Chapel. Refurbishment was completed for the July.
In 2015 the floor in the St. David’s Room was found to be rotten and had to be replaced. 2017-18 saw the repointing of the outside walls of the transepts and chancel with eroded stones being replaced and in 2019 the crumbling plasterwork on the transept arches was replaced and painted.
The first two burials took place in 1855. In 1905 the churchyard was extended on the Thorley Lane side when a plot of land was sold by John Arnold (auctioneer) to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for £275. This was consecrated on 15th June 1907.
The churchyard contains the Timperley War Memorial where an act of remembrance takes place each year and wreaths are laid from the Mayor of Trafford and the Vicar, Churchwardens and people of the parish of Timperley. The memorial consists of a cross on a plinth, was designed by John Cocker senior, and paid for by subscriptions from the whole population of Timperley. There are also 14 War Graves – 11 from WW1 and 3 from WW2. The 11 First World War Graves mostly commemorate men who died of wounds while being treated at local Red Cross Hospitals. There are 42 other memorials on family gravestones naming fathers, husbands and sons who died during the wars of the 20th century.
In the 1980s, a number of headstones were laid flat as some were unsafe but also to make cutting the grass easier and more effective. It is a constant, all year round task of grass cutting, weeding, clearing up tree debris, pruning and removing dead flowers. The walls of the building need to be kept clear of vegetation which is a source of damp. A contractor cuts a large part of the grass regularly and we rely on a small group of volunteers for the rest of the work. The trees surrounding the church are regularly monitored. All the mature trees have TPOs (tree preservation order), so permission must be gained from Trafford Council and sometimes the Diocese before any work can be carried out on them.
We aim to provide a place of quiet, reflection and remembrance in our churchyard while preserving an important record of the social history of the area.
Many faithful people have worshipped at Christ Church for over 170 years. They have preserved the building and supported the parish and it’s community with their time, talents and generous giving.
Hopefully this building will continue to welcome and be of service to people of all ages for years to come.