St Saviour (1962)

Chadderton

Denomination: Church of England

Postcode: OL9 8PU (Click here)

 

Sacred Suburbs is a celebration of post-war places of worship in the hinterlands of Greater Manchester. Whilst St. Raphael the Archangel (1963) by Massey & Massey and the magnificent William Temple Memorial Church (1965) by George Pace are well-known and much-celebrated examples within the region, our aim is to unearth those by lesser-known architects and artisans. Our first foray takes us north into Chadderton, a long-established township located near Oldham, and to a building no longer in use as a place of worship – St. Saviour.

The story of St. Saviour began in 1909 when in order to support a growing local populous, mostly employed in the nearby textile mills, the council of the parish church of Christ Church decided to erect  an iron-framed mission church on Denton Lane. Costing a mere £500 to complete, St Saviour’s Mission Church was dedicated on 6th January, 1910.

 

St Saviour Mission Church 1910-62

 

By 1954, Christ Church itself required significant remedial works when structural faults were identified by local architect, Denis Bowman. Although the cause of the problem was thought to be old underground coal workings, it later emerged that the existing timber roof was simply too heavy for its supporting structure. Meanwhile, the roof of St. Saviour had begun to leak, and the building was deemed so cold and draughty that a more permanent building was required. It was to Bowman that the parochial church council turned to once again.

Bowman was part of Taylor, Bowman & Roberts, an Oldham-based firm of architects with a pedigree in ecclesiastical work dating back to the Victorian period. Bowman himself had recently overseen the completion of the nearby church of St George (1958) on Broadway. With plans for a new St. Saviour prepared, and Messrs Partington of Middleton appointed as main contractor, construction of the church commenced on 17th July, 1961.

The new church, dedicated by the Bishop of Hulme on 14th July, 1962, was rectangular in plan and of traditional brick construction with a concrete flat roof. The arched main entrance was placed asymmetrically on the front elevation to encourage visitors, on entry, to observe the altar placed in the opposing corner of the church, whilst above, a north-facing roof lantern flooded the alter with light. This arrangement meant that the nave was on the diagonal with pew seating angled either side of a central aisle. Whilst not a true church-in-the-round, as advocated by contemporary thinking aimed at bringing congregants more fully into worship, it was certainly a strong nod in this direction.

 

St Saviour Church Morning Worship 1970

 

Generally lacking perimeter glazing – resulting in a rather austere external appearance – carefully positioned roof lights lit the inner sanctum. This was further enhanced by the building’s most notable feature – a large ‘dalle de verre’ window on the west facing facade which included symbols of Christ including the Dove and the Lamb. For the uninitiated, ‘dalle de verre’ translates as ‘slabs of glass’ and is the technique of casting pieces of thickened glass, usually stained, into concrete or resin.

St. Saviour’s window was created by one of its chief practitioners, the Frenchman Pierre Fourmaintraux, who brought the technique to Britain before joining James Powell & Sons (later Whitefriars Glass Studio) in 1956. Many examples of his work, including St Raphael the Archangel, have been listed by English Heritage and he is also credited with training Dom Charles Norris, one of the most prolific British proponents of the technique. An example of a Norris ‘dalle de verre’ window can be found in the Paul Pearn designed Blessed Sacrament Chapel (1965) at Buckfast Abbey.

In 1964, The Guardian newspaper published a piece on Fourmaintraux, entitled ‘Walls of Light’ in which he remarked:

 

‘a window is a little bit like poetry…in a church you ought to have the feeling that you’ve got to put yourself on your knees’.

 

At St. Saviour’s, the simplicity of Bowman’s design ensured that Fourmaintraux’s aspirations were realised.

 

Postscript

During the 1970s, ongoing maintenance issues relating to a leaking roof meant that mass had to be given in the assembly hall of the nearby Christ Church Primary School. With the problems unresolved, St. Saviour was abandoned for good, just twenty years after opening, when a third St. Saviour’s church was opened on Bishopgate Street in 1983.

The old building still exists and, known as Pennine House, is put to use for light-industrial purposes. Regrettably, Fourmaintraux’s window has been removed from the building and replaced with an entrance screen and roller shuttered doors. Its current whereabouts, or even existence, are unknown. Was it consigned to a skip? We don’t know for certain, but if anyone can help us to trace it please contact us.

St Saviours 2014

 

 

Acknowledgements

Feature image is courtesy of the Manchester Local Image Collection

Cathy Flint at the Christ Church & Parish Office (Chadderton) provided much information and was kind enough to loan us a short history of the parish.

4 thoughts on “St Saviour (1962)

  1. I’m doubting my own memory reading this. I grew up in Chadderton and attended Christ Church Primary School from 1975-1982. For most of that time, I feel sure that the Saint Saviour’s congregation worshipped in the school assembly hall. My parents attended the Church of the Nazarene in Oldham, so I didn’t often go to services at the CofE church, except for things to do with school, Brownies and Guides. I don’t remember attending any services at the modern building at the bottom of Denton Lane, only services in school or at the main parish church, Christ Church. A dedicated church space annexed to the school opened as I left, but worship had definitely happened in the assembly hall before then.

    My grandfather attended St Saviour’s and went to the tin church and the church designed by Bowman. He died when I was 2, but every time we went past the disused church building, my dad used to tell us about how grandad was disappointed about the money spent on the new church and how the congregation hadn’t been able to worship there for very long.

    I’m confused, then, by your statement “Just twenty years after opening, the congregation vacated St. Saviour citing ongoing maintenance issues” because I thought it happened long before that. Perhaps, as you’ve had access to the parish archive, my memory is tricking me.

    The building used to fascinate me as a child, it was such an intriguing shape, and I longed to look inside, but it was most definitely off limits. It’s a shame it didn’t survive as a place of worship and we can no longer admire Bowman’s design.

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    1. Hello Mrs Hicks,

      You should not doubt your memory! The purpose of this blog is for people, such as yourself, to fill in the gaps in the absence of a current official history (the last one was published in 1970). We were unaware of the actual date the second St.Saviour was vacated, and therefore the ‘twenty years’ was more in reference to occupancy of the current church. We will update the blog to include the temporary usage of the adjacent school hall and thank you for sharing this with us. If you can add anything further, we would be extremely grateful.

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      1. Ah, I see! That makes sense. I’ll ask my brother if he can remember anything. He’s six years older than me so might know more. We definitely had a book or booklet that included something about St Saviour’s, possibly the same source as the picture above showing the congregation. The book has been lost to time, though! One thing I remember my dad saying was that there were structural issues with the new church that meant it was dangerous to use and too expensive to fix.

        Christ Church primary school was built in 1970, I think, same year as I was born. The school is a single storey, flat roofed building with the infant and junior wings separated by the assembly hall. This large room is where I remember going to church services. The school is on Crawley Way, a pedestrian walk off Denton Lane. The Bowman Saint Saviour’s building is about 300 metres away at the bottom of Denton Lane.

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      2. Hello,

        Thank you for the additional details. The booklet you refer to is most likely to be ‘Christ Church, Chadderton: The First Hundred Years’, published in 1970. We have a digital scan which we could email to you if you like (would need an email address).

        Our understanding is that the issue was with ongoing costs relating to maintenance of the leaking roof. Whilst this may have been described as a structural issue at the time, the subsequent change of use and continued existence of the building suggest the problem was not as serious as claimed. We have recently visited the building and, considering it is over 50 years old, it is in fairly good condition (the loss of the Fourmaintraux window notwithstanding).

        Money, or lack of it, was probably at the root of the decision to abandon the church. Christ Church, for example, quite definitely suffered from a structural fault but, as recounted in the booklet, money was found to remedy the problem – older churches tend to be more venerated!

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