St. Paul's Church History to 1980

In the St. Paul's church Archives Box there were three seperate documents relating to the history of the parish of St. Paul and rather than select just one of the documents, to be reproduced here, it was decided to display all three because some detail not present in one document appears in another.

All British Bazaar booklet version - 1911

The earliest document is entitled "Short History of St. Paul's Church and Schools" and it has been reproduced below from a booklet issued in February 1911 for St. Paul's church entitled "St. Paul's Church, Oldham, All British Bazaar".

The front cover of the St. Paul's 1911 booklet

In the year 1869 it was felt by the Rev. Ed. Owen, then Vicar of St. Peter's (who was supported by the generous and willing help of Messrs. George and Phineas Neild, cotton spinners), that this portion of St. Peter's parish and the contiguous portion of St. Thomas's parish needed more spiritual influence and direction; and so a large and energetic band of workers started a Sunday School in a room in a mill on Bentinck Street off Ashton Road, kindly lent by Messrs. Neild.

Religious services having been held in this room for some little time, it was decided to commence a movement for supplying better accomodation. A subscription list was accordingly opened, which was liberally responded to by St. Peter's people and others; and a new schollroom was opened on May 16th 1870, in Broadway Lane (now called Ashton Road). This building has from the date of opening, been used both as as Sunday School and Day School; and until the erection of the Church divine service was regularly held therein.

During the first three years of the school's existence a second building was attached to it; and in the nine years from 1877 to 1886 both the Sunday School and the Day School increased by leaps and bounds. Although during the period just mentioned a large sum of money had been raised for the erection of the Church, it was felt that the school work must not be hindered for lack of accommodation; consequently, through the untiring efforts of the Rev. F. Wareham (who had recently been placed in charge of St. Paul's Conventional District) and Mr. J. J. Adams who was head master at that time, a schoolroom specially adapted for infants was built at a cost of 300. This was in 1880. Later, an additional building was put up, costing 120; and last of all, two splendid rooms were added in 1897, at a further cost of 1,123.

As has been intimated, divine service was held in the old schoolroom before the erection of the Church. The memorial stone of the Church was laid on Easter Monday, 1879, by Edward Hardcastle Esq. The architects were Messrs. Wild & Collins, Clegg Street, Oldham; and the builders J. & J. Whitehead, then of Marsden, but now of Oldham, who have recently erected the stone wall round the churchyard under the direction of Messrs. J. Collins & Son.

The Church was consecrated by Bishop Fraser on Wednesday, May 27th 1880; and among those present at the solemn and interesting ceremony were Rev. Canon Birch, Rector of Prestwich; Rev. Canon Whittaker, Vicar of Leesfield; Rev. J. Bumstead, Vicar of Christ Church, Glodwick; Rev. G. D. Grundy, Vicar of Hey; and other local clergymen. There was a large congregation present, and Mr. Robert Jackson, junior, presided at the organ. After the consecration ceremony the Bishop delivered a lengthy address, dealing principally with the Burials Bill, which was then prominently before the country and Parliament. He based his remarks on Psalm 133.

Later in the day a luncheon was served in the schoolroom. Mr. S. Taylor, of Primrose Bank Mills, presiding (in the absence of the Rev. Ed. Owen, owing to a family affliction). In replying to the toast of "The Lord Bishop of the Diocese and the Clergy," Mr. Wareham said many of the Oldham churches had been placed in back streets, which he believed was detrimental. He intimated that he had experienced great difficulty in getting the site of St. Paul's Church, and at one time of the negotiations he was afraid his efforts would not be successful.

Our Church is in the 13th century style of architecture, with nave, ailes, chancel, organ chamber, and clergy and choir vestries. There is seating accommodation for 550 persons (all seats being free and unappropiated), exclusive of 24 seats in the chancel for the choir. Quite recently electricity has been applied to the organ and blowing apparatus. The reredos, of Caen stone, was presented by Mr. John Taylor, then of Fernholm, Werneth Park, from whom the organ was purchased. The pulpit is also of Caen stone, and was subscribed for exclusively by the scholars attending the Sunday School. The baptismal font (a handsome cover for which was a little time ago presented by Mr. and Mrs. Chas. Farrand) is made of Mansfield stone, and was the gift of the architects. It is a replica of an old font from Oldham Church, which is at present on view in the Oldham Free Library Museum. The Communion Table was made and presented by Mr. Samuel Mellor, one of the Sunday School Superintendants at the date of the consecration of the Church.

On the formation of the Parish of St. Paul's in 1880 (it being taken partly from St. Peter's and partly from St. Thomas's ) Mr. Wareham became Vicar, and he held the vicariate until 1907, when he accepted the living and rectorship of Heaton Mersey, in the Rural Deanery of Ardwick. The present Vicar of St. Paul's is the Rev. Henry Edward Lovelady, for many years, Curate of Holy Trinity, Horwich, and he resides at 213, Windsor Road. The Churchwardens are Messrs. E. H. Shorrocks and W. Sutherst; and the Vestry Clerk, Mr. Norman Kellett. There are sixteen Sidesmen, who, with the Vicar and the officers above mentioned, form the Church Council. The Organist and Choirmaster is Mr. C. W. G. Whitehead; and the mixed Choir is a voluntary one. Mr. W. Cross is Parish Clerk and Apparitor.

The Vicars & Churchwardens

100 Years of Worship booklet version - 1980

The second document, "A Parish History" by Fred W. Humble, is reproduced from a booklet issued in 1980 entitled "St. Paul's Church, Oldham 100 Years of Worship". Fred Humble was, for many years, a prominent and active member of St. Paul's Church.

The front cover of the St. Paul's 100 Years Worship booklet

It is not unreasonable to relate the 'birth' and development of our church, with the period following the granting of the town's Charter in 1849. The new borough was to consist of eight wards and only 2,916 votes were allowed for the first municipal election. St. Paul's at this time did not exist.

From Star Inn, down King Street and Broadway Lane towards Ashton, the area was very sparsley populated. After 1849, many industrial and socialogical changes were being brought about by the new Borough Council, but events were darkened by the shadow of the Cotton Famine, during the sixties. It was during this period when unemployment was rife , that Alexandra Park was constructed in 1865. Historians now regard the period from the Reform Bill of 1867, as initiating a new age which transformed many institutions of the town and influenced the outlook of its citizens. After the end of the American Civil War, the cotton trade underwent a rapid and gigantic explosion, and the dire need for operatives led naturally to the need for housing and other services. In the thirty years from 1851 , the population of Oldham grew from 52,000 to 111,000.

In 1869, the Rev. E. Owen, Vicar of St. Peter's, felt that this portion of his parish needed more spiritual influence and direction, and in this matter, he was supported by the generous and willing help of George and Phineas Neild, Cotton Spinners. They gathered a large and energetic band of workers and started a Sunday School in a room of his mill, the Crown, in Bentinck Street, off Ashton Road.

Religious services were held in this room for some little time when it was decided to start a movement to secure more suitable accommodation. A subscription list was accordingly opened, and was liberally responded to by St. Peter's people and others. This finally resulted in the building of a new schoolroom in Broadway Lane (Ashton Road) and this building (the old school) was officially opened on May 16th 1870.

From the date of its opening, it was used as a Sunday School and Day School; for the Education Act of 1870 was to enforce the compulsary elementary education for the first time. Until the erection of the church, divine service was regularly held in the school. The first baptism took place on February 4th 1877. The Day and the Sunday schools were growing by leaps and bounds and a second building was attached to extend the accommodation. The people naturally desired to have a church of their own, and with the support of of the Vicar of St. Peter's, Rev. E. Owen suggested the formation of a conventional district, to be known as St. Paul's. This district was formed from part of St. Peter's parish and the contiguous portion of the parish of St. Thomas. The Rev. F. Wareham, who had been a curate at St. Stephen's, was placed in charge and became known as the 'father' of the new parish. A Building Committee was appointed to set about the enormous task of creating a church. There was some difficulty in acquiring a site, for the Rev. Wareham did not want the church to be in a back street. After prolonged negotiations the land on the corner of Broadway Street and Ashton Road was acquired, having been freed by the owner, Mr. J. Jones of Worcestershire, just before he died. It cost the committee 600.

The church records inadequately describe the tremendous amount of work accomplished prior to the laying of the Foundation Stone on Easter Monday, 1879. This must have been a memorable day for all the parishioners, and for the Rev. Wareham who had become known as the "Mendicant Friar". He was responsible for raising the money required to build the church.

The scholars and congregation assembled at 1.45; proceeded along Lee Street; and joined by members from St. Thomas's at Werneth Hall Road, they then proceeded along Union Street West to St. Peter's. The whole party then returned in solemn procession, back to the site via Union Street and Ashton Road.

The memorial stone was ceremoniously laid at 3.30p.m. by Mr. S. Taylor, J.P., of Hathershaw, and he was presented with a silver trowel on behalf of all concerned. In a cavity in the stone, the following items were inserted:

  1. A parchment containing the names of the Building Committee.
  2. Copies of the church magazine from November '77 to April '79.
  3. Local newspapers of Saturday, April 12, 1879.
  4. Particulars of work of the Sewing Class.
  5. A lithograph photo of the proposed church.
  6. Names of Trustees, Sidesmen, Teachers.
  7. Copy of inscription on trowel and a list of subscribers.

It is not difficult to realise the tremendous amount of work involved by the Rev. Wareham and his Building Committee, from the laying of the Foundation Stone to the day of consecration. The regular meetings of a small body of men, all dedicated to see that their new church was ready in time, involved the consideration and granting of tenders; the overall supervision of the progress made; and the preparation and administration of all that was necessary for Consecration Day. The financial responsibility was always a difficult problem and their efforts to raise money could never be relaxed. Previous to 1880, they had received 400 from the Diocese towards the erection of the fabric, but throughout the building period, cash was always being demanded, in order to settle accounts for work carried out. In spite of all difficulties, the work was finally completed and the deeds were laid before the Diocesan Commissioners in April 1880, in time for the Consecration Day.

The church was consecrated by Bishop Fraser, D.D., of Manchester, on May 26th, 1880; and among those present at the solemn and fascinating service were the Rev. Canon Birch, Rector of Prestwich; Rev. Canon Whittaker, Vicar of Leesfield; Rev. J. Bumstead, Vicar of Christ Church, Glodwick; Rev. G. D. Grundy, Vicar of Hey; and other local clergymen. There was a large congregation present and Mr. Robert Jackson Jnr. presided at the organ. After the consecration ceremony , the Bishop delivered a lengthy address, dealing principally with the Burials Bill, which was then before the country and Parliament. After the service, luncheon was served in the schoolroom, Mr. S. Taylor of Primrose Bank Mills, presiding. The Rev. E. Owen was unavoidably absent due to a family affliction.

In replying to the toast, "The Lord Bishop and the Clergy", the Rev. Wareham intimated the great difficulties he had met in acquiring the site of the church and he praised all those who had supported him over the years.

Our church is in the 13th Century style of architecture , with nave, ailes, chancel, organ chamber, and clergy and choir vestries. Prior to recent alterations there was seating for 550 persons, all seats being free, exclusive of those in the chancel. The first Churhwardens, appointed in July, 1880, were Mr. S. Taylor of Hathershaw and James Brocklehurst of Neild Street (People's Warden). They were initiated at the Manchester Diocesan Registry in June, 1880, by the Rev. Canon Tonge, M.A.

After Consecration Day, the Building Committee continued in office to deal with all the necessary work needed to continue the furnishing of the church. It is interesting to note that only one week before Consecration Day, "W. Swallow be empowered to purchase the following articles - viz. 1 ladder, 1 step ladder, 1 wheelbarrow, shovel, rake and poker". From June, 1880, many plans were made, the future erection of a belfry, outside painting etc. The raising of money was paramount to pay the many outstanding accounts entailed by the Building Committee. By 1883, over 500 was raised, mainly in small voluntary subscriptions. In 1885, the Building Committee was dissolved after their great efforts, but other sub-committees continued in office.e.g. Spire Committee, Decoration Committee, etc. In 1886 Mr. J. Taylor offered the church an organ from Fernholme at a cost of 600, but later in 1892, he presented the debt on the organ to the school funds, although a successful Bazaar at the Town Hall in 1887 had greatly reduced the deficit owing. At a time the organist was paid the sum of 10 per annum. The "mothers" decided to raise funds to purchase a bell and in 1903 it was suggested that:

  1. The vestry should be ventilated.
  2. Surplices should be washed periodically.
  3. Incandescent lights might be tried in church.

The bank balance for that year was one pound, four shillings and fourpence halfpenny.

In 1906, the Annual General Meeting expressed its disapprobiation of Mr. Burrell's Parliamentary Bill as being subversive of religious liberty. The year 1907 brought the departure of Rev. Wareham to Heaton Mersey, and so ended a magnificent period of service to the church, and to St. Paul's in particular. During a period of 30 years he had built from nothing a thriving spiritual community. He was succeeded by the Rev. H. E. Lovelady, who continued to make many additions to the church's amenities. These included the church floor, renovating the organ, establishing the boundary wall, and the choir wearing cassocks for the first time. The Foundation Stone for the proposed Church Institute, now known as Copster Hall, was laid by Mrs. Lovelady in 1911. This project was abandoned later as being too far away from the church premises, and due to difficult financial problems.

The outbreak of World War I restricted many of the activities of the church for four years, and the absence of many men on active service resulted in the records of that period being very brief. In 1918, the Rev. Lovelady took an appointment at Rivington and the Rev. W. J. J. Neal succeeded him and remained for 24 years. The aftermath of World War I presented further difficult problems, but a healthy, spiritual community was rebuilt with many flourishing organisations.

This was not surprising since the Rev. Neal was a keen supporter of the idea suggested by the Oxford Movement. He earnestly believed in maintaining the authority of the church. When he left , due to ill health, in 1943, he was succeeded by the Rev. H. W. Hewitt who, following the end of hostilities in 1945, found himself facing another difficult task. Economic problems arose throughout the world, and the church, as always, proved a great comfort to the people. Pastorally, the church activities were at a zenith with a wide variety of means of fellowship available to the parishioners. Church magazines were inevitably brief due to wartime restrictions and informal Sunday evening services were held.

The Rev. Neal returned in 1950 to unveil the War Memorial to those of our parish who laid down their lives during the war. In 1952, the Rev. Hewitt left to go to Droylsden. He was succeeded by Rev. J. E. Earle for a period of six years, during which time the old day school became Primary only, and with the rapid growth of Fitton Hill Estate, a site was found for a new sister church, to be called St. Cuthbert's, and within the parish of St. Paul's. Other improvements were made in church and in 1955 the 75th Anniversary was celebrated and an appeal for 1,000 was successfully made. Free will offerings were started and crowded anniversary services are still remembered by older members of our present congregation. Building operations were started on St. Cuthbert's and Bishop Greer laid the foundation stone in March 1957. A new Building Fund was started and St. Paul's had to find 8,000 towards the cost. In 1958 the Rev. Earle went to Horwich, and following a difficult interegnum, the Rev. C. Barton B.A. became our vicar.

He immediately set about his task with great enthusiasm with the support of an active Parochial Church Council. During this period, attempts were made at Christian Unity and problems at St. Cuthbert's occupied much time and effort. A Planned Giving Scheme was introduced; a thriving Youth Fellowship was created; a 'Crossbearers' Group was set up; and a more effective social committee appointed. About this time, electric heating was installed, and greater emphasis was laid on the Communion Service. The closing of the old day school, in 1962, and the opening of St. Martin's, Fitton Hill, further affected the work in the parish, as the Crete Street Estate developed into a substatial housing area. The responsibility for the condition of the old school and the liability of the P.C.C. to maintain the same as a church hall, meant much effort and careful consideration of many matters, financial and otherwise. A new Communion Service was under consideration and later, in 1973, adopted. This is the one in use today.

After the leaving of the Rev. Barton in 1968, another interegnum led to the appointment, in 1969, of the Rev. L. R. Toone, and many new ideas were introduced to further the work of the church and parish. Closer participation became the order of the day and a successful Christmas Fair enabled us to re-decorate the church. The deterioration of the old school building had caused much grave concern to the P.C.C. over many years, but a happy solution was ultimately achieved with the sale of the site and the construction of an admirable parish hall at the west end of the church. This hall was officially dedicated by Bishop K. Ramsey on May 1, 1977, and has been a tremendous asset to all facets of church work since that date.

Whilst the church has continued to hold a large variety of social events, it is regrettable thet the Junior Organisations are not as well supported as they were in the past, and the "Mothers" Group is no longer in existence as such. Such bodies have played an important part in the growth of the church throughout its past history. It is pleasing, however, to report the very active part now being played by women members, in all branches of church work, something they were often denied during the long period before the Second World War.

In June 1979, the Rev. L. R. Toone took up an appointment at St. Mary's, Greenfield, after over ten years' invaluable service to our church. He and Mrs. Toone had already been deeply involved in the preparations for our Centenary Celebrations and so they now join our guests of honour, instead of being host and hostess, as seemed to be the case when the work was started.

Despite prolonged efforts to attain Christian Unity over recent years, success has not yet been acheived, but continued efforts must still be the wish of all Christians. This must be a major aim in the years ahead.

It is obvious that this brief history of St. Paul's inadequatley reports the multifarious efforts of thousands of people who have worked and dedicated their lives in the name of Christ, and by so doing, endeavoured to lead happy and useful lives.

It is no accident that individual names of generous and dedicated parishioners have been omitted from this article; for it would be invidious to single out any one person or any one group. What we must hope to do in the future is to extend and improve our Christian community and our service to God.

A History of Oldham Churches book version

The third document, is the 'St. Paul's Church Ashton Road' section of the excellent book entitled "A History of Oldham Churches" by John Beever, written around the year 1996. This book can be borrowed from the main Oldham Library or local district libraries, the book reference number is 942.7393 BEE. The book can also be purchased from Oldham Local Studies and Archives, 84, Union Street, Oldham, telephone number 0161 770 4654, email: The cost is betwwen £4.25 and £4.50 + pp. John Beever has very kindly given his permission for this document to be displayed on this website.

The front cover of the History of Oldham Churches book

Some churches were founded by rich patrons or with the help of the state. St. Paul's owes its existence mainly to the patient and persistent work of its first minister, who, with the congregation, spent many years raising funds and encouraging people to part with money to pay off the building debt.

With the end of the American Civil War and an improvement in trade following the cotton famine, the area around what is now St. Paul's developed very quickly. There was clearly a need for a school and somewhere to tend to the spiritual needs of the people and so the vicar of St. Peter's Church, the Rev. E. Owen, started the ball rolling in 1869. With the help of two brothers, George and Phineas Neild, he opened a Sunday school in the Crown Mill on Bentinck Street, which the Neilds owned. The group that met there became large and energetic, and it was soon realised that a more suitable place of worship was needed.

On 16th May 1870 the school on Broadway Lane (the old name for Ashton Road) was opened, and paid for by public subscription. The building served as school, Sunday school, and church and the first baptism took place on 4th February 1877. About this time the new church became an independent parish and the curate in charge, the Reverend F. Wareham, was to have a tremendous influence on both church and congregation.

The Reverend Wareham was a prime mover in the building of the St. Paul's we know today and he inspired the congregation by his personal efforts to raise money and to get things done. For example, at one point he decided that the church should own the land it was to stand on, but the landowner was reluctant to sell despite prolonged negotiations. The Reverend Wareham ::EvolutionHistorydecided the only solution was to go and see the man in person, so he set off to Worcestershire and persuaded the owner, Mr. Jones, to sell for 600. Such wanderings, not only around Oldham but around the country on behalf of his church, gained the Reverend the nickname, "The Mendicant Friar".

On Easter Monday 1879 the congregation met with members of St. Thomas's Church and then made their way in procession via St. Peter's picking up their people, back to site of the new church. Here they watched Mr. S. Taylor, JP, of Hathershaw, who owned the Primrose Bank Mills, lay the foundation stone. The consecration ceremony was performed by the Right Reverend Fraser, Bishop of Manchester, on 26th May 1880. Following construction, the church was in great debt and the building committee had to continue fund-raising for many years to complete the church. Some of the original plans could not be included: the entrance today passes through a base to hold a spire and the architect's original drawing which shows St. Paul's as it might have been can be seen hanging inside the church.

The Reverend Wareham served St. Paul's for thirty years. He retired in 1907 and the congregation later collected for a stained glass window that was placed in the west wall and dedicated to his memory.

For a time the church continued to grow as further schoolrooms were added and an institute erected on Copster Hill Road in 1911. (This building has had a chequered life and is now a Salvation Army Citadel.) The casualties of two wars are commemorated in two plaques as well as by the east window, dedicated in 1922, which depicts the fallen, both combatant and non-combatant. In 1957 the sister church of St. Cuthbert on Fitton Hill was opened with St. Paul's contributing some 8,000 towards the cost.

St. Paul's School lost its senior pupils in 1952 and from then until it closed ten years later it was a primary school only. When the school building was demolished, the site was used for sheltered accommodation. The loss of space for parish use was relieved in 1977. As has happened in many places, this was achieved by converting an area at the back of the church into a seperate room.

The area may not have the industry that it had when St. Paul's was opened, but the church is still surrounded by residential property and sits at the side of one of the busiest roads in Oldham. Despite the juggernauts thundering by, St. Paul's remains solid within its community.

An image of St. Paul's church in 1996

Acknowledgements ........

To Muriel and Ronnie Scholes for the donation of the All British Bazaar booklet to the church Archive Box

To Muriel Scholes and other members of St. Paul's for the donations to and organising of the church Archives Box

To the Rev. Nick Andrewes for the presentation of this and other pages on this website