St John & St Mark Church Bury

praying for Beirut

History

History

Rooted in 1770 – still growing in 2020!

This page gives you some history of our church, both the one we have now and the old one. Our present church is on Sunny Avenue in Bury. It was built in the 1960’s on land given by Lord Derby back in 1914. Originally it was to be a daughter church to the old St John’s, which was built in 1770. So, we mark our 250th anniversary in 2020!

The first St John’s was located on the ‘Rock’ Bury. That building is gone, but it was approximately where Costa Coffee is now near M&S! However, you can still see some memorials in the garden nearby.

The ‘old’ St John’s opened in 1770

For a fascinating insight into some of the early church-goers on the Rock, including Robert Peel senior, please follow this link. There’s also one of the best photos of the exterior that you’re likely to come across.

Below is the Reverend Edmund James Smith, who was the first Rector of the Parish of St John, serving from 1858 to 1884. Reverend Smith was a Fellow of Worcester College , Oxford.

reverend edmund smith - with a fine looking beard
Rev Edmund Smith

The photo directly below was taken in 1927 and shows the interior of the old St John’s, complete with gallery. The second is a side-chapel.

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Inside the old St John’s, 1927
Side Chapel in the old St John’s – there’s a woodcut of the Lord’s Prayer in the far corner

Here’s another interior shot. We’re not sure what year this was taken but note the pulpit is centre stage rather than to the side and we therefore presume it’s prior to 1927.

Interior of St John’s –
the text either side of the window says ‘I am the bread of life’ and ‘I am the true vine’

Whit Walks

Below is the Choir on the 1961 Whit Walk. The photo is taken in Union Square. There were that many Whit Walks that Bands were in high demand – and they came from as far away as Langwith Colliery in Nottinghamshire.

After the large gathering of all Church of England churches in Union Square, those from St John’s would then process to the old St John’s on the Rock for a brief service – and then make their way to the old St John’s Infant School on Hornby Street. In the afternoon, people made their way up to St John’s field where it was games for the children with refreshments provided by a team of volunteers.

Choir on Whit Walk – courtesy of Andrew Salisbury

And here’s the Mothers’ Union, also on a Whit Walk. The picture includes Mrs Salisbury and Mrs Hutchinson.

MU on Whit Walk – courtesy of Andrew Salisbury

Below is a colour photo of the interior of St John’s. It shows the wedding of Alan and Shirley Whitehouse on 28th October 1961. Note the stained glass window, helped by what was clearly a very sunny day for late October. Thanks to the Whitehouse’s for permission to show this.

The new Mr & Mrs Whitehouse: 28th October 1961

Seedfield Mission

Our current church hall on Parkinson Street is built on the site of Seedfield Mission Church. The Mission was housed in “Temporary Buildings” and opened for Worship on the 21st February 1914 during the time that Richard Plantagenet Hudson was vicar at St John’s.

The photo below was taken on the north side of the Mission in 1946/7. Those present in the photo include: Trevor Holt, David Hogg, Geoffrey Spencer & Bill Turner.

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At right angles to the Mission Church, where the present Chancel is and the Vicar’s vestry and Choir vestry are, was the Mission Hut. It was built in 1925 and catered for regular monthly dances, Summer & Christmas fairs, youth club and meetings. From 1956 most of the church services were held here due to the poor condition of St John’s on the Rock.

Below is a picture from inside, taken at some point in the 1960’s, of a fine looking bunch of people enjoying an even finer spread.

History
Courtesy of the Salisbury/Hutchinson family collection

The church’s one foundation

The picture below shows Emma Holt breaking ground on the new site for St John’s Church on Sunny Avenue. Emma was the eldest parishoner at the time.

History Emma Holt
Emma Holt ‘breaking ground’ – courtesy of the Salisbury/Holt family collection

The Foundation Stone was laid on a sunny day, Saturday 8th September 1962. The picture of the ceremony and the notes below are thanks to David Howard, son of Sam and Barbara.

history - laying the foundation stone

The church was then finally Consecrated on Saturday 6th June 1964. It was built during the incumbency of Rev. Arthur Hulse. Arthur was the Vicar of St. John’s for a further 14 years out of a total of 24 years service to the Parish of St. John.

history whit walk 1967
1967 Whit Walk – thanks to Andrew Salisbury

In 1970 we celebrated 200 years of the Parish of St John. There’s some really interesting archive film available of the Anniversary Service which can be seen on this You Tube clip. The service is roughly 7 minutes into the clip.

Sculpture

Above the altar we have a sculpture of Christ. It’s pictured below with Michael Bostock, who was warden at the time, just before it was put into position. To get an idea of scale, Michael himself was over 6ft tall.

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The 9ft sculpture is constructed of fibreglass and a cold-cast coating of aluminium. It was made from a clay model by Derek Isaac & Cynthia Chapman and was dedicated in January 1972 by the Bishop of Manchester.

The initial clay model was made by Leicester teacher and artist David Merriman, who had met our vicar Arthur Hulse whilst on holiday in Wales.

David said of the figure “I have attempted to portray a Christ in Majesty… He has risen superior to physical pain. In the face I have tried to express resignation, compassion and yet authority.”

Clergy

Rev Arthur Hulse also oversaw the building of our Church Hall on the site of the Seedfield Mission Church. It was dedicated on the 12th March 1972, by the Right Rev. Kenneth V. Ramsey, Bishop of Hulme.

Following Arthur Hulse we have had:

  • 1978 Huw Glyn Thomas
  • 1987 John Bernal Kelly
  • 1994 Robert William Lawrance
  • 2001 Ian Jack Stamp
  • 2013 Dave Thompson became our current Vicar

Joining up

In July 1983, Huw Thomas oversaw the Parish of St. John joining with that of St. Mark to become ‘St. John with St. Mark’ Parish.  The church of St. John then became the Parish Church of the new united Parish. Unfortunately St Mark’s was pulled down due to problems with the building. Looking back in the history books, an earlier attempt to combine the parishes had been made in 1924-1926, but was apparently ‘vigorously opposed’.

If you look below you’ll see the interior of St Mark’s. Consecrated by the Bishop of Manchester in October 1883 the building had been constructed in just under a year from when it began. Its cost was around £5,800 with many of the fittings and furnishings donated by friends of St Mark’s.

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The Salvation Army Citadel was later built on the site of St Mark’s but you can still see the old church gates and the War Memorial.

Improvements

During Ian Stamp’s incumbency we improved comfort levels in the hall by having double glazing and new wall panels fitted.

We also had an extension to the hall completed in 2009 and this became a Community Library run by the Bury Metro Libraries.  The extension included a new kitchen, used by both ourselves and the library staff. Sadly the Library was closed in December 2017 due to re-prioritising of Bury MBC funding.

New Benefice

On Sunday 18th October 2010 we held a service at Christ Church, Walmersley and afterwards at St John’s Church Hall to celebrate the inauguration of ‘The  United Benefice of Walmersley Road Churches’. This marked the bringing together of our two parishes under the care of one Vicar.

Thanks to a very generous donation we replaced the original wooden framed large West Window of St John’s at the end of 2015 with a double glazed metal framed window.

A new history

And so now we’re making our own history for someone else to write in the future! We’d love you to be part of that so please come along if you don’t already.

If you want to find out what we’re doing now, please take a look at our ‘about’ page as well as the posts on the home page.

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