"On This Rock I Will Build My Church"
Matthew 16:18

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By Colin Barnsley

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First Published 29/5/2021
Last Updated 10/1/2022

 

How the church of St. Catherine's came to be built on Outwood Road

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Fig. 1 The first church of St. Catherine's, 1933
© Stockport Image Archive
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Worship Before St. Catherine's

Before 1825, St. Mary's Stockport had been the parish church  for Gatley, within Stockport Etchells. After St. Thomas Church Stockport was built in 1825, St. James Church Gatley was then built in 1880, as the daughter church of St. Thomas.  Finally in turn, St. Catherine's would become the daughter church of St. James   ; but for many years, Heald Green had no church of its own   .

The first service noted as taking place in
Heald Green was held in a cottage next to the blacksmith's shop in 1889  .  From 1921, services were held in Long Lane Congregational Church chapel with their kind permission once a month; also The Social Institute, Finney Lane ; Cheadle Etchells School, East Ave ; and the Church School, Shadow Moss (in the parish of Northenden)  .

Residents of
Heald Green from the 1920s recall that the nearest church was St. James in Gatley, and they had to walk there in all weathers   .

 

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St James Church Gatley Interior circa 19

Fig. 2 St. James Church Gatley circa 1938
© F. Mitchell / St. James Church
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St Catherines Laying Foundation Stone 19

Fig. 3 Laying the foundation stone, 1933
© F. Mitchell / St. James Church
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Church Hall

The need for a permanent building for worship was clear. Plans were made for a church costing £18,000 with fittings another £11,000.  It was obvious that such a sum would take time to raise, and so plans were put forward for a church hall which could be used for the time being.

The original plan was modified at a cost of £1,600.  A suitable plot of land was discussed with Mr Thomas Dale Neal in 1927 (Neal Ave is named after him) near where the Heald Green Beefeater is.  However it was decided that a more central plot was needed, a location on Outwood Road selected instead, and the foundation stone laid on June 19th 1933 by the Bishop of Chester   .

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The patron saint was chosen in memory of Catherine Dale Neal, the mother of the benefactor, Thomas. Its land, altar, cross, candlesticks, altar cloth, hangings and a frontal were all given in memory of Mary Matizey de la Cuadra, nee Mary Dale Neal.

The altar was made by L. Brown and Co. of Wilmslow. A chalice and paten were given in memory of Mr. Joseph Fiddiham. The bell came from St. James Church Hall, Gatley.  Its altar and furnishings would be moved to the new church when it was completed in 1956  .

 

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St Catherines Dedication 1933-01 FM smal

Fig. 5 St. Catherine's Church Dedication 1933
© F. Mitchell / St. James Church
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Fig. 5 The Altar and furnishings (pictured in 1956)
© F. Mitchell / St. James Church
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Memories

St. Catherine's have collated an excellent set of memories from parishioners over the years - their recollections on the church, its clubs and societies, Heald Green and their wider lives can be found in Linkline Memories in our Heritage Library.  We hope to expand on numerous topics in future articles.

 

Fig. 6 Linkline Memories
© St. Catherine's Church
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“The first Rose Queen Fete was held in 1938 and was the high spot of the year  The procession started at the Heald Green Hotel, led by the Silver Prize Band and wound its way through Finney Lane and Outwood Road to the church.  The new queen would sit on her throne on the back of a lorry surrounded by small attendants with baskets full of rose petals which were strewn before her on the red capet which led to the dais where she would be crowned by the retiring queen.  This all took place in the field where the new church now stands. There were other floats in the procession and the scouts and guides in their uniforms marched alongside. After the ceremony the fun began with sideshows, drinks and eats and various other things for sale..”
- Ann Rushton, from Linkline Memories, Oct 2014


During the war years the church room was used as a day school for Manchester evacuees.  There were also dances held there observing the strict blackout rules and a good series of films shows were shown complete with sound   . 
 

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"I moved to Long Lane in 1946 after the war, I was 9 years old. I only went to St Catherine's to be a Girl Guide (none at the [Long Lane Congregational] chapel)…it was [in the 1933 building] run by Elsie Worthington with help from Barbara Leech…I was one of the first to get married at St. Catherine's in 1957"   - Shirley Slack, 2021


Heald Green became a separate parish from Gatley in 1949.  The vicarage was bought and paid for, putting on hold the church fund for a while. Plans were drawn up for the church room extension.  The work was done by local builder Walter Meredith   .
 

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The foundation stone of the new church was laid by the Right Rev. Gerald Alexander Ellison D.D. Bishop of Chester, on 16th July 1955, and the church was consecrated on 19th May 1956   .  A more complete record of the day is found in the fascinating souvenir programme   .
 

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St Catherines 1956 Stockport Advertiser
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Fig. 8 Souvenir Programme 1956
© St. Catherine's Church
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St Catherines Right Revd Gerald Ellison

Fig. 9 Opening the church 1956
© Stockport Express
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Fig. 7 St. Catherine's Church 1956
© Stockport Advertiser
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St Catherines After The Service 1956 FM

Fig. 10 Blessing the parish 1956
© F. Mitchell / St. James Church
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Fifties to Today

This first-cut article was created to share with you some of the wonderful resources that have been generously contributed to us from the archives of local historian Frank Mitchell (now held by St. James Church, Gatley), the Ratepayer's Association, and of course St. Catherine's themselves.  We look forward to expanding it with more shared memories of events since 1956 in the coming months. If you can help, please contact us at healdgreenheritage@gmail.com, or via our Heald Green Heritage Facebook Page.

In 2021, as we begin to recover from covid, services at St. Catherine's are now resuming at their normal times, and other activities on site are restarting (subject to restrictions).   For full details, please refer to the church website.

 

HP1-2-01-01 003 Saint Catherines Church.

Fig. 11 St Catherine's Church 2021
© Colin Barnsley
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