Chapter 11 – All Saints

The saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it for ever.
Daniel, chapter 7, verse 18

‘Definite and material progress has now been made in the scheme for the erection of the Church of All Saints’ and its Church Hall in Forefield-lane, Great Crosby.  A wooden building has been erected on the land where the church proper will eventually stand, and this will be used for services until a brick building has been built on the land adjoining it.  The brick building will, on completion, be used as a church until the church proper has been built on
the site of the present temporary building.  The brick structure will then become the Church Hall.

‘This scheme for All Saints’ Church dates back many years.  Over twenty years ago the trustees of St. Luke’s Church acquired the land in Forefield Lane, but owing to various hindrances and disabilities of all sorts, operations were not commenced until November, 1933.  At a public meeting held then, a committee for the prosecution of the plans, and for the consideration of the ways and means of building the church, was formed.  The committee have met innumerable times, and as a temporary solution of the difficulty the wooden structure was constructed on the actual site of the church, on the north side of Forefield Lane.  The inaugural service is to be held at 6:45 pm on the 3rd June, when the Vicar of St Luke’s (the Revd A Powell Miller) will conduct a service.  It is hoped that the Chairman of the Great Crosby UDC, as well as the East Ward Councillors, will attend the service.

‘As is usual in these works, funds are needed, and an appeal for £2500 within the next 12 months has been issued.  The present building is, of course, only a temporary measure to enable work to be carried out whilst the Parish Hall is under construction.  This brick building has been designed by Messrs J Watson Cabre and R E Cookson, and will provide all the usual facilities.  In view of the extra work it will create in the parish a new curate has been appointed and will take up his duties at the end of this month.  It is interesting to learn that the services at the new church will be more of a popular than a formal nature, and that everything will be done to encourage “family” rather than impersonal worship.

‘The whole of the lay work in connexion with the construction of the church is being handled by a de-centralised committee, in which each member has charge of that particular department with which he is equipped to manage.  Even on the ladies’ side each separate aspect of the work is in the charge of an expert in that particular line.’

The article above, reproduced by kind permission of the Revd John Patterson, the present Vicar of All Saints’, records the state of the Church in 1934.

The laying of the foundation stone

The laying of the foundation stone of All Saints’ Church, on All Saints’ Day 1934, performed by the Rt Revd Herbert Gresford Jones, the Bishop of Warrington.  The Revd A Powell Miller, vicar of St Luke’s, is to the bishop’s left in the cape.

The following history ‘Some Recollections: All Saints’ Church 1934 to 1984’ was written by C E M (‘Connie’) Miller to record the first fifty years of All Saints’.  Provided by the Revd John Patterson, it is, with her niece’s permission, reproduced in its entirety.  All Saints’ was a part of St Luke’s Parish until 1982.

Land on which to build a church, a vicarage and a church hall in Forefield Lane, was given to the ecclesiastical authorities in 1911 by Mr Joseph Gardner, a local timber merchant.  But for the next twenty years there seemed to be no urgent need for a new church in the area.  The parish church of St Luke was able to accommodate all who wished to worship there.

The early 1930s, however, saw a transformation in the area around Forefield Lane.  What had been farm land became the site of hundreds of houses and more developments were planned.  What had colloquially been known as ‘Piggy Lane’, for obvious reasons, became Moorside Road.  The houses of Old Farm Road replaced the farm house and buildings.  Tithebarn Road and Charmalue Avenue were built.

By 1933, the Revd A Powell Miller had succeeded Mr Hartley as vicar of St Luke’s and the church which always had a big congregation became full to overflowing – even the galleries were full, though not always with an attentive congregation.

In consultation with the churchwardens of St Luke’s and with Mr E Gardner, the son of the donor of the land, Mr Miller approached a number of people, mainly those living in Hillcrest Road, Forefield Lane and Chesterfield Road, requesting support for the proposed church.  A hurried series of meetings in March 1934 brought plans for a wooden hut to be purchased and erected, at a cost of £75.  This hut was to be used for a Sunday school on Sunday afternoons and a church on Sunday evenings.

There were difficulties.  The land on which the hut and the church were to be erected had been made into tennis courts by a tennis club formed originally by members of St Luke’s church.  They were reluctant to surrender, at short notice, land on which they had spent much money.  After appreciable acrimony, they ceded the land and moved to Moor Lane.

The hut was quickly erected and the first church service took place there on 3 June 1934.  Worshippers arrived at church services with some difficulty.  Forefield Lane, between Hillcrest Road and Brownmoor Lane, was an unlit muddy track; the frontage of the church was bordered by a ditch and had to be crossed via a plank bridge.  However, the local scout group agreed to meet members of the congregation with storm lanterns and escort them to church!

A third difficulty was the shortage of money – this was the era of the Great Depression and very low wages.

The Revd A Powell Miller however was not a man to be deterred by difficulties once he had set his heart upon a project.  Appeals for help were sent out to local residents and local churches and they brought in gifts of kind and gifts of money.  The diocese promised to contribute £250 towards the building costs and various people offered loans of money at low rates of interest.  The organising committee then felt that, with these promises of help, it was safe to draw up plans for a permanent brick building.

After some discussion, it was decided that the first permanent building should be a church hall and plans were considered.  The choice of design was to prove unfortunate.  It included a high stage on which the communion table was placed and was reached by a flight of steps – perilous for the elderly.

However, Messrs Duthie & Sons were given the contract for the building at a cost of £2317 19s 0d and the work soon started.  The foundation stone was laid on 1 November 1934 by the then Bishop of Warrington.

A feverish round of activities took place to raise the necessary money.  ‘Open Markets’, rummage sales, carol parties and collections in neighbouring streets brought financial help but money difficulties were a problem for many years.  It was in fact a shortage of money which led to the purchase of folding chairs instead of pews, at a ‘bargain price’ but they squeaked at most inappropriate moments.

Outside Alexander Hall

Outside Alexander Hall following a function to commemorate the dedication of All Saints’ Church.  Centre: the Rt Revd Albert Augustus David, the Bishop of Liverpool; on his left, the Revd A Powell Miller, the vicar of St Luke’s; on his right, Captain Malcolm Bullock, the local member of parliament.

It was at this time that Mr E Gardner died.  He had carried much responsibility and the committee decided that a chair should be placed in the church as a memorial.  This is the chair which is usually placed behind the altar and known as the ‘Bishop’s Chair’.

Work on the building proceeded apace, in spite of ominous problems with land drainage and arrangements were made for the opening and dedication of the hall.

These ceremonies took place on 13 April 1935.  Captain Malcolm Bullock, the local member of parliament, opened the building and the Bishop of Liverpool dedicated it.  The usual speeches were made.

The vicar had appointed Mr Illingworth and Mr Wadsworth as the first churchwardens.  A flourishing Sunday school had been formed and there was a regular congregation of about fifty, with the church full on special occasions.  So a foundation had been laid but there was still much to do, much to work for.

As ever, there was money to raise to pay off the debt on the building, to pay for its cleaning, lighting and heating, to pay a share of the curate’s stipend and a share of the diocesan quota.  Choir stalls were needed, but these were generously given by Mr Morris and bear his initials and those of his wife.  Hard work by many people kept All Saints’ afloat – though only just.

Steady work and a great deal of faith enabled All Saints’ to buy its first organ in 1937.

The old hut proved its value as a social centre for the church.  It became the headquarters of a flourishing scout group, the meeting place of All Saints’ Church Fellowship and the club room of an All Saints’ tennis club.  Incidentally the first suggestion that the tennis club might be allowed to use the kitchen and what is now the parish office was scornfully rejected by the committee.  It was felt that drinking tea and eating sandwiches on church premises were quite inappropriate.  How times change!

The old hut, with extensions and careful maintenance, was to last for many a long year.  A hard working party put in layers of manilla paper and wallpaper to make it draught-proof when its tongue-and-groove boarding started to part company.  There was much DIY in those days.

The outbreak of war in September 1939 was, in some ways, the end of an era for the church.  The Revd A Powell Miller, who had taken so vigorous a part in the establishment of All Saints’, had to leave the parish to take up his duties as a chaplain to the forces.  He did not return as vicar.

His departure meant that the laity of All Saints’ had to assume a much greater responsibility for its development but their powers were limited.  Staffing shortages and changes meant that the next vicar of St Luke’s, the Revd Paul Nichols, had to concentrate much more of his time and energy on the parish church.  Perhaps naturally, plans for the future of All Saints’ were not pursued with the same enthusiasm that Mr Miller had shown.  Mr Nichols’ brilliant sermons ensured large congregations when he preached but the general supervision of church activities lay in the hands of the curates, the Revd S Singer and Revd D Garland.  Both Mr Singer and Mr Garland knew that their stay at All Saints’ would be limited in time and that they could not be responsible for long-term plans.

People at All Saints’ continued to assume that the original plans for a parish church still held good and as soon as the original debt was paid, they started a building fund which, by January 1948, reached £1277.  The church committee decided to approach diocesan authorities to discuss the future of All Saints’ and appointed a delegation to see the Bishop and the Archdeacon of Liverpool.  Tremendous disappointment ensued when the bishop replied that there was no prospect of a parish church at All Saints’.  Land at Thornton had been donated by the Earl of Sefton for a new parish church there and there would be no need for two parish churches so close together.

All Saints’ could hope only to become a ‘Conventional District’ which would give it some independence.  He suggested that the best plan would be for All Saints’ to buy a curate’s house, to ensure that a curate could live in the area.  There was more than a hint of ‘no house – no curate’.  The committee were in a dilemma.  Some were unwilling to use building fund money to buy a house.

Fortunately for All Saints’, when the Revd D Garland left in 1948, the Revd A V B Morgan, a mature clergyman, was prepared to purchase a house in Forefield Lane and come as curate.  He and his wife came to the parish in May 1949 and for more than two years both gave devoted service to the church, until Mr Morgan was appointed as vicar of a church in Bradford.

All Saints’ had not bought a curate’s house but, once again, All Saints’ was fortunate.  The Revd E T Pakenham, who had retired after many years service in the mission field, had come to live in Blundellsands.  He agreed to take the Sunday services and for nine very happy years he ministered to All Saints’, loved by the congregation for his friendliness, his cheerfulness and his devotion to the church, in spite of his increasing frailty.  It was during his ministry, in 1957, that the present church hall was erected.

In 1961, Mr Pakenham decided he must retire.  The Revd M H Bates who had become vicar at St Luke’s, appointed the Revd David Ellis as curate-in-charge of All Saints’.  In an attempt to solve the problem of accommodation for the curate, Crosby Council was asked whether they would allow him to rent a council house.  This they would not do but they had a scheme whereby David Ellis could buy a house on mortgage, with a low rate of interest, which led to the purchase of 53 Cranfield Road.  David Ellis was a man of ideas and vigour.

Accepting the fact that no new church would be built in Forefield Lane and that the church now had a hall, he, together with the vicar and the church committee, decided that a transformation of the church building should take place.  No longer was it to look like a hall, but a church.  The stage was removed, the floor space opened up and partly refloored, new pews, new communion table, new lighting provided and finally, a modern stained glass window installed in the east end, in memory of Mr Frank Fay.  The cost was nearly £5000 but enthusiasm for the changes ensured that the money was raised.  It was almost like a new beginning.

David Ellis left in 1965 to teach in Hong Kong.

The Revd John Woolley succeeded David Ellis.  His six year ministry here was a period of consolidation and steady growth.  His sincerity and his kindliness made him many steadfast friends and a large party of All Saints’ people went to his induction as vicar of Croft, to wish him well.

Hallowing Service at All Saints’ Church in May 1965

Pictured following the Hallowing Service at All Saints’ Church in May 1965 are the Bishop of Warrington, the Rt Revd Laurence Brown (right of centre), the rural dean, Canon Harry Bates (left of centre), the vicar of All Saints’, the Revd David Ellis (right) and members of the choir.

The Revd Ian Elliott came to Crosby in 1971 but there was a change of pattern in his ministry.  The Revd Raymond Lee had become vicar of St Luke’s when the Revd M H Bates became Archdeacon of Lindisfarne and he had decided to assume a greater share of responsibility for All Saints’ rather than appoint a curate in charge.  Mr Elliott’s time and energies were divided between All Saints’ and St Luke’s.  Mr Lee very soon realised that All Saints’ was, in fact, functioning almost as a parish church without the status.  He soon made arrangements for weddings to be solemnised at All Saints’ and indeed it was fortunate that he did this.  When St Luke’s church was burnt down in 1972, All Saints’ was able to provide all the facilities St Luke’s required.

Mr Lee impressed upon both deanery and the diocesan authorities the fact that All Saints’ committee was, in effect, almost the equivalent to a parochial church council, only nominally subservient to St Luke’s; that it organised its own finances and eventually paid its own diocesan quota.  This did much to prepare diocesan minds for the idea that All Saints’ should become an independent parish.

With the appointment of the Revd A V Douglas to succeed Ian Elliott, there was a reversion to the old system whereby Mr Douglas was placed virtually in charge of All Saints’ and, similarly, the Revd John Parr took charge of All Saints’ in 1979.  We were very fortunate that both the Revd A V Douglas and Revd John Parr had great gifts to offer to All Saints’, different though they were.  Both had enthusiasm and new ideas to give but it had become clear that a three year period did not give them time enough to develop their ideas.  Both were very fortunate also to have in the background the kindly wisdom of St Luke’s first deaconess, Frances Briscoe, who lived nearby.  Frances changed the minds of many at All Saints’ who hesitated about the place of women in the ministry.

To revert to the church buildings once again – by 1976 it was obvious that no more of the church land would be needed by the church – even to build a vicarage there would be too expensive – so permission was obtained from the ecclesiastical authorities to sell the land and use the money to improve church facilities.  It was decided that a covered way between the church and the hall would be a great advantage and could provide a more sheltered entrance to the church.  Most of the money from the sale of the land, supplemented by a generous bequest from Mrs Fay, was used to carry out this scheme and to construct a car park.

The remaining money was set aside for any new major project.  This turned out to be the purchase of a house in Hillcrest Road to be All Saints’ vicarage, for in 1982 All Saints’ became a parish.  What had often seemed only a pipe dream became a reality.  The Revd Leslie Thomas is the first vicar of the Parish of All Saints’, Great Crosby.

What now ???

In these recollections, little mention has been made of the devoted service of the laity of All Saints’, yet without their steadfastness in times of difficulty and disappointment there might have been no All Saints’.  It would be tedious to recount the names of all those who gave generously of their time, their talents and their money.  It would be invidious to choose from among them.

They would all rejoice that All Saints’ has come so far; they would all hope that All Saints’ will rise to the challenge to preach the Gospel to all and to care for all in need.