An Illustrated History of Old Sutton in St. Helens, Lancashire

Part 10 (of 92 parts) - History of Religion in Sutton Part 3

An Illustrated History of Old Sutton in St.Helens
Part 10 (of 92) - History of Religion Part 3 (RC)
An Illustrated History of
Old Sutton in St.Helens
History of Religion in Sutton Part 3 (RC)
Researched and Written by Stephen Wainwright ©MMXVII

St. Theresa of the Child Jesus, Sutton Manor

St. Theresa of the Child Jesus in Sutton Manor is another remarkable Roman Catholic church. Although the mission dates back almost a hundred years, the present church was only completed in 1959, some 28 years after the foundation stone was laid. It was the dream and passion of Father Ralph Holden who wished to build a basilica dedicated to the newly-canonised Thérèse of Lisieux. Influenced by the large numbers of pilgrims who were making their way to St.Anne’s for 'Dominic Sundays', Fr. Holden hoped that similar numbers would be drawn to his church. However there were many setbacks and a beautiful, if somewhat less grandiose place of worship, was finally opened some seven years after the death of its founding priest.

Both sides of a card sent to Fr. Holden in 1923 from the Very Rev. Frederick William Keating, Archbishop of Liverpool


A card sent to Fr. Holden in 1923 from the Archbishop of Liverpool


Card sent to Fr. Holden in 1923

It was 1916 when a Roman Catholic chapel was first constructed in Gartons Lane, which was built by Dean Carr of St.Bartholomew's in Rainhill. In a 1939 obituary on prominent St.Helens Catholic Teresa Waterworth, the woman known locally as Aunt Teresa was also credited with being a founder of the Church of the Little Flower, as St.Theresa’s was also known. By 1923 Dean Carr’s curate Fr. Campbell was ministering in Sutton Manor. On April 19th of that year, Frederick William Keating, the Archbishop of Liverpool, posted a card to Fr. Holden requesting that he take over the mission from the less-experienced Fr. Campbell. The Roman Catholic church had ambitious plans to greatly expand their work in the Sutton Manor / Clock Face district and so needed a more experienced priest's hands on the tiller.

Left: Original plan for St.Theresa's; Right: Convent sanctuary plan with altar, tabernacle, font and lectern marked


Left: Original plan for St.Theresa's RC church in Sutton Manor; Right: Convent sanctuary plan with altar, tabernacle, font and lectern all marked


Original plans for St.Theresa's Church

The new incumbent's first acts seem to have been to extend the existing building into a larger but still simple church and to construct a small convent that could house four nuns. The place of worship was situated on the opposite side of Gartons Lane than the present church, adjacent to the entrance to modern-day Cannon Street. The latter is where the St.Theresa school is located. The old building - situated at the side of the present school - was demolished in October 2011 and bore the date of 1926.

However the 1928 Ordnance Survey map reveals the school adjacent to and to the west of the church, on the opposite side of the street. It's likely that the school building was opened here in 1926 but soon became inadequate and so a new building was constructed across the way. The date plaque was then probably transferred to the new building. The old building was still used as a school for Standard 2 pupils and part of it was used as a library. It's remembered as a long, low construction in three sections and during the war years, one part was occupied by the National Fire Service. After the war the building was used as a parish centre.

Left: the cover of the souvenir brochure for the foundation stone laying for the new church; Right: Father Ralph Holden


Souvenir brochure for the foundation stone laying and Father Ralph Holden


Souvenir brochure for the foundation stone laying and Father Ralph Holden

From late 1926 with the convent and school constructed, Fr. Holden was able to devote his energies to the creation of his basilica. The church was dedicated to the French Carmelite nun Thérèse of Lisieux, who was either known as Little Flower of Jesus or Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus. Plans were drawn up by Liverpool architect Anthony Ellis for a sandstone church in the free Norman style with a lavish domed interior and steeple. Ellis from Dale Street had been responsible for the design of St. Mary's College in Crosby just a few years earlier, as well as other Catholic projects in the district.

Two pages within the souvenir brochure commemorating the foundation stone laying for St.Theresa's church, Sutton Manor in 1931


From the St.Theresa's brochure commemorating the foundation stone laying


St.Theresa's brochure commemorating the church foundation stone laying

St. Theresa stamp
Fundraising began with a series of advertisements that were placed in the Cork Examiner during August and September of 1926, in which appeals were made for Founders who were prepared to contribute £1. Three years later the Church of the Little Flower annual St. Patrick’s whist drive and dance first began, with social occasions often serving as opportunities to raise funds. The foundation stone for the new church was laid on June 7th 1931, with the ceremony conducted by the Most Rev. Richard Downey, Archbishop of Liverpool.

In the souvenir programme (which was priced at 3d) a further appeal was made for Founders who were willing to pay a pound to help fund the new church. In return names of all the contributors would be entered in one of two Books of Roses and all founders were promised a print of a portrait of St. Theresa that had been painted by the French Symbolist artist Edgar Maxence.

A so-called St. Theresa 'Cinderella' stamp was also made available as a souvenir to commemorate the foundation stone laying. Purchasers would not, however, have been able to use the Sutton Manor stamp to post their letters.

St.Theresa's Founder's Certificate awarded to donors to the new church - contributed by Rev. David Green


St.Theresa's Founder's Certificate awarded to donors to the new church


St.Theresa's Founder's Certificate

Portrait of St. Theresa by the French Symbolist painter Edgar Maxence
Portrait of St.Therese by Edgar Maxence
Although £1 was not an insignificant sum in those days, Fr. Holden required much more funding than the pound notes that his local parishioners could donate. So more appeals were made in the Catholic press and prospective benefactors were approached. Certificates were issued to those who made donations, such as the one above awarded to Martin Fitzalan-Howard.

How much he donated isn't known but the wealthy nobleman, who became Lord Fitzalan-Howard, took part in many ecumenical projects and managed his family's Carlton Towers estate in North Yorkshire. The certificate was curiously discovered by Anglican curate Rev. David Green in the loft of his new Vicarage in West Malling, Kent when he moved in during August 2011.

Progress in constructing the new church was painfully slow through problems in funding and sourcing of materials. The stone was sourced from a quarry in Rainhill and it's said that an accident in unloading some stone slabs in Sutton Manor led to a crane toppling onto the quarry owner's son. The young man was crushed to death and his heartbroken father sent no further stone.

With the outbreak of war, work on the new church ceased. Leaving a half-built building open to the elements for a number of years led inevitably to much damage and the local community nicknamed it "the ruins". Building work eventually resumed after the cessation of hostilities and post-war shortages with a fire that struck the old church in 1950 probably concentrating minds. The story even appeared in The Times (16/8/1950):
 Vestments were severely damaged in a fire which broke out early yesterday at the Roman Catholic church of St.Theresa, Sutton Manor, Lancashire. The building was also damaged. 
Father Holden received bad burns to his hands through the blaze after dashing into his church to rescue the Blessed Sacrament from the tabernacle. Three years later Ralph Holden died in Providence Hospital in St.Helens. The new church had been his dream but he didn't sadly live to see it realised. This was a setback for the project but his successor was Father Michael O'Donoghue who was determined to complete it. Father Michael had been a curate at St.Theresa's for some years and it had been his first appointment since ordination. In January 1945 he had given the last rites to a pilot of a Lockheed Shooting Star that crashed in Sutton Manor. He was a member of an Irish family with a boxing tradition that had settled in this country. Indeed one brother ran the boxing club at Lowe House in St.Helens. Father Michael now became priest in charge with completion of the new church a top priority.

By this time it must have been appreciated that compromises needed to be made, as the grand designs of 1931 could not realistically be achieved. The cost was too much and its original purpose had been lost, as a basilica had been opened in St.Theresa's home town of Lisieux. This had been dedicated in 1937 by
Cardinal Pacelli, who later became Pope Pius XII, and was consecrated in 1954. The French basilica seats 4,000 people and is a centre for pilgrims from all over the world.

Two views of the interior of the newly-built St.Theresa's taken from a fundraising magazine published in 1962


Views of the interior of the newly-built St.Theresa's Church from about 1962


Interior of the new church c.1962

So the steeple and domed interior of the Sutton Manor church were not built and architectural firm William and John Bail Ellis designed a flat roof instead. Three highly-skilled local stonemasons worked on carving the twenty-four stone pillars inside the church. Sadly one lost his life when a boulder fell on top of him. Stonemason and builder Peter Howe completed the work and much of the beauty of the church is down to his hard work and talent. Fundraising for the new church continued during the 1950s and included the so-called Pillar Fund. Horace Pugh was the Land Sale Manager at Clock Face Colliery and for around ten years he visited parishioners on Sundays to receive donations. In later years a football pools helped to raise funds.

Margaret O'Sullivan arrived in Sutton Manor in 1957 to live in the little convent on Gartons Lane, the young nun found the walls of the new church only halfway up. However the front arch of the church had been erected some years previously and on top stood a statue of St.Theresa. Margaret writes:
 The story goes that during the war, when the bombs were being dropped on the area, a policeman, who was not a Catholic, saw a bright light surround the statue and no damage was done there that night. Every year we held a Walking Day and on one particular occasion, there was torrential rain all day, non-stop. Fr. McEnroe got us all to assemble in the school hall, where he started the Rosary. At the end of the Rosary, he shouted down to me "Sister Margaret, do we walk?" and I said "Yes Father, we walk". With the rain still pelting down we went outside and while I was lifting the infant children on to a float, the rain stopped. We paraded round the parish all that day in dry clothes. When we arrived at the parish hall for refreshments and I was lifting the children off the lorry, the rain came lashing down again. People later told us that there was no dry spot in the whole of the area all that day. On entering the hall, Fr. McEnroe opened the palm of his hand to show me that he had carried the relic of the saint with him all afternoon!”. 

Left: Postcard despatched by Father Michael O'Donoghue; Right: beautifully carved pillar inside St.Theresa's church


Postcard sent by Father Michael O'Donoghue and beautifully carved pillar


Postcard sent by Fr. Michael O'Donoghue and carved church pillar

The church finally opened on May 21st 1959 with the Archbishop of Liverpool, the Most Rev. John Carmel Heenan, presiding. Father Michael had finally succeeded in building the church after 29 years and had become a very popular figure with his parishioners. So there was much unhappiness when just eighteen months later, Father Michael was moved onto a parish in Liverpool by Archbishop Heenan. He believed that priests should not stay for long at any one church and the archbishop was even said to have told his priests not to bother unpacking their suitcases!

Father Michael's successor was
Father Cornelius McEnroe who had the task of making the new church financially solvent. A special church magazine was published in 1962 which was devoted to appeals for donations. Father Cornelius wrote:
 In our own Parish, thank God, our schools are paid for but upon the House of God there lies a heavy debt. He to whom all things belong, must live in a house mortgaged to others.
The debt amounted to £19,000 and on top of that there were parish expenses, the cost of running the church schools and a £300 annual subscription to the new Liverpool cathedral. The old church across Gartons Lane was now being used as a parish centre and so also had some running costs that needed paying. However during the 1960s, new housing estates were built in Sutton Manor and Clock Face and the church enjoyed a marked increase in its congregation. These additional parishioners were able to contribute to the church's coffers and help reduce its debt as well as participate in church activities.

There are many, including
Ron Padmore, who still recall the St.Theresa walking days from the 1960s that used to finish on Sutton Manor colliery's football pitch. "We got a bag of goodies and a bottle of pop; to us poor kids it was heaven!", writes Ron. Like other St. Theresa schoolkids, he would sometimes help in weeding the garden of the convent, which closed during the 1970s. The nuns taught at the school and during Ron's schooldays, the headmistress was Sister Agnes.

Left: Front cover of the St.Theresa's fundraising magazine from 1962; Right: Father Cornelius McEnroe


Cover of St.Theresa's fundraising magazine from 1962 and Fr. McEnroe


The cover of 1962 fundraising magazine and Father Cornelius McEnroe

Not only did Fr. McEnroe pay off the debt but prior to his retirement in 1975, he managed to build a new school as an extension to the existing one. Fr. Donal Moynihan was the priest in charge during the 1970s and '80s and Fr. Phil Swanson took over in 1995. Since 1916 when Dean Carr of St.Bartholomew's RC church in Rainhill first created a mission in Sutton Manor, the two churches have retained strong links and Fr. Swanson also ministers at St. Bart's.
Thanks to Father Phil Swanson and Alan Pugh for their assistance with this page

St. Joseph's RC Church in Peasley Cross

The origins of St. Joseph's R.C. Church in Peasley Cross, go back to January 4th 1858 when the Passionist Fathers at Sutton Monastery opened a school in Appleton Street. The growth in the numbers of Roman Catholic children in the district in less than a decade had been so phenomenal that more school capacity was urgently needed. So Father Bernadine Carosi, rector of St. Anne’s, applied for a Government grant of £754 towards the cost of building a new school. This was reported to have been built in a ‘modern Italian style’ at a total expense of £2,000 and capable of accommodating between 400 - 500 children. It was named St. Joseph's in honour of Father Joseph Gasparini, who had pastoral responsibility for that part of the parish. The headmistress was Sister Frances de Sales Durie and Government inspector S. N. Stokes stated that she was the best teacher in the country.

As the new school in Peasley Cross had been built with Government aid, it could not be used for church services as well. This presented a dilemma, as there was a pressing need for more church accommodation in the district. So fundraising began to build a hall capable of accommodating almost 1,000 people, where church services could be held. This opened in Langtree Street (which became Jackson Street) on January 8th 1862 under the name of St. Joseph’s Lecture Hall. Permission was subsequently given by
Bishop Goss of Liverpool for Mass to be celebrated in the hall and by January 1863 there were two Sunday Masses celebrated at 8am and 11:30am, with Benediction at 3pm.

The estimated cost of St. Joseph’s Lecture Hall had been £520, but the final amount was much higher at £685 17s. From mid-August 1864 the new Rector of St. Anne’s,
Father Ignatious Spencer, spent six weeks on the road attempting to obtain the additional funds. He’d successfully raised about £100 but succumbed to a heart attack in the village of Carstairs near Lanark.

The Roman Catholic population in Peasley Cross expanded rapidly and by the mid-1870s numbered about 1200, including children. The Passionists found the additional workload within buildings that had become dilapidated and inadequate too great and on October 1st 1875 they pulled out of Peasley Cross.

Two views of St. Joseph's from early in the 20th century and 1960 - note the gas light has been replaced by electric light


Two views of St. Joseph's from early in the 20th century and 1960


St.Joseph's RC Church, Peasley Cross

A new mission began under Father Richard Baynes who transferred from St. Anthony's in Liverpool. He immediately began searching for a suitable site for a new church and priest's house and found one near Peasley Cross Lane. Fr. Baynes arranged for the debt on the old church of £296 to be paid off and he also found a further £512 to pay for land for the new church. The foundation stone was laid on June 10th 1877, by the Right Rev. Dr. O'Reilly, Bishop of Liverpool who appealed for contributions from those assembled. £272 in cash and cheques was then laid upon the stone with a further £90 pledged. Alderman Johnson donated £100 and Sutton Glassworks gave £20, as did the Peasley Cross Guild. As the new church and adjacent priest’s house was going to cost £5800, much more fundraising had to be done.

A picture postcard of St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church in Peasley Cross, St.Helens c.1910


St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church in Peasley Cross c.1910


St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church

The Gothic brick building in Sutton Road was 100 feet long and 56 feet wide and accommodated 670 worshippers. It was designed by Liverpool architect James O'Byrne and constructed by Sutton builder James Fisher. The church was opened on September 1st 1878 by Cardinal Manning and Dr. O'Reilly in front of what the Liverpool Mercury described as an 'immense congregation'.

The cost of construction plunged the mission into considerable debt, which rector
Fr. James Heyes considerably reduced during his tenure. He departed in January 1898 and was replaced by Fr. John Barry who left in September 1900 to take charge of a new mission at Barrow-in-Furness, before returning to St.Helens. Fr. Richard Ryan was listed as priest in the 1901 census, living in the Sutton Road Presbytery. Father Patrick Joseph Coffey was another popular priest at St. Joseph's, having previously been Chaplain to the Queen of Portugal. Another early priest was Father Melia, a friend of Captain Michael Hughes of Sherdley Hall, who campaigned with him as Regimental Chaplain during the Boer War. Between the two world wars, Fr. Hugh McGarry served as assistant priest at St. Joseph’s for 18 years. There was also Ernest Daly, who was inducted as Rector on September 28th 1941, after previously being a professor at Castlehead College in Grange-over-Sands for twelve years.

Annual processions and field days in Sherdley Park first began in 1916. Describing the twenty-fourth such event in 1939, the St.Helens Reporter said:
 Tiny five-years-old toddlers, picturesquely dressed as farmer boys and milk-maids, and others wearing gay and colourful Japanese costumes were a charming feature of the procession. St. Joseph's field day has always been noted for the colour and beauty of its procession, and Monday's turn out, with the hundreds of children in costumes of all colours and the banners with their beautifully coloured designs, was one of the most impressive of recent years.
St. Joseph's church closed in 2004, which was the same year that the Passionist Priests left Sutton. The Church of St.Anne's and the Blessed Dominic was taken over by the Archdiocese of Liverpool and Fr. Peter Hannah, the parish priest of St. Vincent de Paul church in Parr, was initially given responsibility to minister to the Sutton parish.
Other Relevant Pages and Articles on Sutton’s RC Churches:
Memories of Sutton Articles re St.Theresa's Church & School: My Childhood Memories of Sutton Manor by Arthur Padmore. Memories of Sutton Articles re St.Anne's Church & School: Childhood Days in Peckers Hill Road by Anne McCormack; St. Anne's Schooldays and the Clock Face Plaque by Herbert Eden; St. Anne's, Neil's & Blood Curdling Monsters at Sutton Bug! by Alan McDermott; Football the Beautiful Game by Bill Bate; St. Anne’s Under Eleven Inter-Schools Cup Winners 1952 by Stan Bate. Also See Pages: St. Anne’s School; Sutton Churches; Sutton Churches Photo-Album
Other Pages and Articles on Sutton’s RC Churches:
Memories of Sutton Articles re St.Theresa's Church & School: My Childhood Memories of Sutton Manor by Arthur Padmore. Memories of Sutton Articles re St.Anne's Church & School: Childhood Days in Peckers Hill Road by Anne McCormack; St. Anne's Schooldays and the Clock Face Plaque by Herbert Eden; St. Anne's, Neil's & Blood Curdling Monsters at Sutton Bug! by Alan McDermott; Football the Beautiful Game by Bill Bate; St. Anne’s Under Eleven Inter-Schools Cup Winners 1952 by Stan Bate. Also See Pages: St. Anne’s School; Sutton Churches; Sutton Churches Photo-Album
Next:  Part 11)  History of Religion in Sutton Part 4 (Chapels)   |   Research Sources
Next:  Part 11)  Religion in Sutton Part 4 (Chapels)
Stephen Wainwright
This website has been written and researched and many images photographed by myself, Stephen Wainwright, the Sutton Beauty & Heritage site owner. Individuals from all over the world have also kindly contributed their own photographs. If you wish to reuse any image, please contact me first as permission may be needed from the copyright owner. High resolution versions of many pictures can also be supplied at no charge. Please also contact me if you can provide any further information or photographs concerning Sutton, St.Helens. You might also consider contributing your recollections of Sutton for the series of Memories pages. Sutton Beauty & Heritage strives for factual accuracy at all times. Do also get in touch if you believe that there are any errors. I respond quickly to emails and if you haven't had a response within twelve hours, check your junk mail folder or resend your message. Thank you! SRW
This website is written and researched by Stephen R. Wainwright ©MMXVII  Contact Me
Visit Sutton Beauty & Heritage on Facebook
Visit Sutton Beauty & Heritage on Google Plus
Visit Sutton Beauty & Heritage on Facebook
Visit Sutton Beauty & Heritage on Google Plus