Chapter 10 – New St Michaels

And there was war in heaven.  Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back.
Revelation, chapter 12, verse 7

At the start of the 20th century there were more than 11,000 people in the parish of St Luke’s.  Many of them lived some distance from the church, a hardship with the state of the roads and transport at that time.  The answer was a ‘mission church’ which would also reach out to a developing area of the parish.  It seems that the Revd Robert Love had the project in mind for some time, before it came to fruition in the time of the Revd Frederic Bartlett, and wished the new church to be called after the old St Michael’s which had preceded St Luke’s.  Thus the ‘new’ St Michael’s was born with 1500 people in the ‘mission’ area.  It was a brave and selfless action to take.  St Luke’s accounts for 1899 show that revenue from seat rates amounted to £209 (£16,000 at today’s prices) from 103 people.  In 1910, after the opening of St Michael’s, the revenue was only £176 from 130, with most of the wealthier members of the congregation no longer contributing, many of them presumably having transferred to the new church.

A temporary iron or ‘tin’ church (the ‘Tin Tabernacle’), given by Joseph Gardner, was dedicated on the St Michael’s site by the Bishop of Liverpool on 1 August 1907.  Joseph, a local timber merchant, later Joseph Gardner & Sons Ltd, also gave the land on which All Saints’ was later built in Forefield Lane.  The curate-in-charge from 1907-15 was the Revd Walter S Mather.  At that time the built-up area of Crosby extended only as far as the line of Crescent Road (now St Michael’s Road); beyond that were sandhills.

In April 1910 the church council was formed and an organ given for use in the church.  Ernest Griffiths seems to have been the driving force behind this and the splendid lychgate which stood where the main entrance to the car park is now.  The wood for the gate was donated by ‘Timber-Broker Thomas’ and it was constructed by the secretary and wardens.  Later it was presented to the Liverpool Scouts Association who re-erected it at Tawd Vale Camp where it still stands, well maintained.  The isolated nature of the site can be gauged from the fact that in 1910 there was correspondence with the then Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company regarding the provision of a footpath from the Dowhills Road district to Hall Road station at the request of the church council, presumably to facilitate attendance at the church by means of the railway.

The curate had an excellent relationship with the council, and his parents invited them to their home in Woolton for Christmas and New Year dinners.  Celebratory songs were composed by the curate and printed in gratitude for the hospitality, to be sung to the tune of ‘Auld order xanax online Lang Syne’.  One verse goes:

The present Church is very small
And only made of ‘Tin’;
Withstanding storms that blow without
And used to blow within.

Presumably draught excluders had had to be fitted!  These songs, and others, written by the curate himself on the occasion of choir picnics held in June 1909 and 1910, give an idyllic, possibly idealistic, picture of the social life of the church at the time.  The choir included ladies, men from Bootle and ‘Lord Hargreaves’, and the outings were by train to Windermere and to Clitheroe.

The 1907 prefabricated (‘tin’) St Michael’s Church.

The 1907 prefabricated (‘tin’) St Michael’s Church.

One of the people involved in the setting up of the church was Francis William Hayward.  He had married the daughter of Robert Love who was vicar of St Luke’s for 32 years until he died in 1902.  Francis had also been churchwarden, both vicar’s and people’s, for 14 years at St Luke’s and continued to serve as people’s warden at St Michael’s from 1907 until he died in 1910.  He took a deep interest in the church schools and until shortly before his death was secretary and treasurer of St Luke’s Boys School and one of the trustees and managers of St Luke’s Halsall (girls and infants).  His funeral took place in St Luke’s as St Michael’s was not fully consecrated, although a memorial service was held for him in St Michael’s on 1 May and the congregation gave a lectern in his memory.

In 1913 an extra piece of land was purchased with a view to future extension.  A Church Building Fund was started but remained in abeyance during the First World War.  In 1915 the Revd Gerald E Jones took over as curate in charge.  In 1921, under the Enabling Act, the first annual parochial church meeting was held, a new transept was opened and the choir vestry was enlarged.  In 1923 St Michael’s Lodge was given to the parish as a parsonage house which remained until the present vicarage was purchased in 1967.

On 6 June 1924 St Michael’s was officially pronounced a separate parish, carved out of the parishes of St Luke and Sefton, with Gerald Jones as the first vicar.  The endowment (to pay the vicar’s stipend) was raised by the parishioners themselves, and the gift of the living (the right to choose the vicar) was assigned to five trustees, one of the original ones being the vicar of St Luke’s.

Thus the new St Michael’s, free to make its own history, went on from strength to strength, the present church being consecrated in 1931 and the tin church serving as the church hall until the present one was built and opened in 1962.  The centenary of a church on the St Michael’s site is drawing near, and so, as with St Luke’s, we should remember with gratitude the Victorians who had a vision of what we now enjoy.