Saturday, 15 September 2007

St Augustines Pendlebury.

A corner of the orthodox cemetery.
From the East end.

The founders memorial. You can see the lych gate in the distance.

St Augustine over the west door.

The statues over the north door.

Just up the road from me is the great church of St Augustine, Pendlebury.

St. Augustine's is a church of the Church of England in the diocese of Manchester, often called "The Miners' Cathedral". It is situated on the A666 in the town of Pendlebury, which is now part of Salford in Greater Manchester. Its address is 380 Bolton Road, Pendlebury, Swinton, Manchester, M27. There is a primary school connected to the church (St. Augustine's C of E Primary School).

It is a Grade I listed building. It was built by George Frederick Bodley between 1871 and 1874, and was generally used by the coal mining and cotton mill workers that lived in the area. It has a capacity of 'hundreds', but nowadays, due to a decline in population and a decline in church attendances across England, the congregation numbers around the 30 mark. It was described by Professor Nikolaus Pevsner, as being one of the most moving of all Victorian churches, he described the interior as being of "breathtaking majesty and purity" and that it was "one of the English churches of all time". It has a red brick exterior and an exquisite interior roof design, some of which is in need of restoration. It has detailed stained glass windows, as well as an impressive interior.

It was built largely at the expense of local banker, Edward Stanley Heywood, who donated it for the benefit of the local coal mining community. The first vicar of the church was Dr. Dewes (b. Coventry 1825; d. Pendlebury 1911), where he worked from its inaugration in 1874 until his death in 1911. He worked unceasingly throughout the smallpox and cholera outbreaks, and helped the poor and afflicted. Both vicar and church were the focal point for the mourning following the 1885 Clifton Hall Colliery explosion, in which 139 miners were killed. There is a monument to these miners at the church. Some of the community were from the Russian Orthodox Church, and you can see their graveyard as well. The church was drawn and painted by LS Lowry.

Currently, the church is in need of at least £1 million for refurbishments to the interior roof and to repair the pointing on the exterior of the church, and is a priority project for English Heritage, who quote it as being "exceptionally important"
It now falls into the Swinton Forward in Faith team ministry which also covers St Peters Swinton and All Saints Wardley. It is a beautiful Church, but like all huge Victorian Churches, is rather too large for the present congregation and is a constant battle to keep in good repair. It is, however, beautifully pastoral in it's setting and a place for quiet contemplation. I went today for the 100th anniversary of Bodley, the architect, for whom there was a celebratory High Mass of Our Lady with Mozarts Coronation Mass.