The Parish Church of St. Thomas 1872 - 1972

The Clergy
























The Pastoral Concern

In 1851 the parish of Saint James, of which Moorside formed a part, contained 12,000 inhabitants, but by 1861 the census showed a rise to 17,000 with no increase of spiritual provision during these years. When the temporary church and schoolroom was built on Northgate Lane the Reverend William Chambers (later Dr. Chambers on acquiring his D.D.) was in charge of the district, though attached officially to the parish of Saint James.

Dr. Chambers - 1851 to 1865

Under the administrative abilities of Dr. Chambers, the task of forming a parish and building a church were contemplated, and the foundations of the work laid. An endowment fund was opened, offertories made from time to time and the fund raised to £3,000 by Thomas Mellodew. This sum was doubled by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners as a benefaction and so a permanent endowment of £200 p.a. was assured for the benefice.

The Reverend Alfred Starkey - 1865 to 1869

In 1865, after four years' good work, Dr. Chambers left to be appointed to Saint Anne's, Holloway and, on the 21st of November that year, the Reverend Alfred Starkey was appointed Curate in Charge of the Moorside District of Saint James's parish; Mr. Starkey had been trained at Saint Bees in 1855.

After his spell in Moorside Mr. Starkey became Vicar of Ryton-on-Dunsmore for 41 years, resigning in 1912 at the age of 84, and dying on Christmas Day the following year. The Coventry Herald wrote of him as a "gifted and literary man, an author of several publications, a musician. critic. poet and essayist" .

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The New Parish - Reverend Thomas Holme - 1870 to 1887

After Mr. Starkey left there was no one in charge of the district, but the Reverend Thomas Holme came over from Greenfield on Sundays to take duty. On 29th November, 1870, under the Peel Act, the new parish of Saint Thomas, Moorside, was constituted by an order in Council and Mr. Holme became, at the age of 57, the first Vicar of Moorside.
Thomas Holme had taken his licentiate in theology at Durham University in 1849, but there are no records of his appointments before he came to Moorside, when the parish population was 2,149. Thomas Holme was Vicar for seventeen years, towards the end of which time he was allowed a Curate, Harry Higson, on grounds of his failing health.
During his last year Mr. Holme had been too ill to preach; he died at ten o'clock on Sunday morning, 13th April, 1890, and was buried at Saint Chad's Churchyard, Saddleworth.

The Reverend Evan Mayhew Jones - 1890 to 1905

In November, 1890, Evan Mayhew Jones, a graduate from Jesus College, Oxford, was appointed to the living of Moorside from his fifth curacy at Saint Mary's, Oldham. During his stay there was a great in-crease in the number of communicants, the church interior was decorated, a lectern placed in the church, a survey of the churchyard carried out with drainage, the west churchyard wall was repaired and trees planted to improve the general appearance. The old schools were brought up to date, the penny bank commenced and a Mutual Improvement Society re-introduced. In 1891 the parish magazine was introduced.

One of the most prominent events in his time was his marriage to Miss Catherine Mary Griffiths of Caernarvon. A carriage and pair met the couple at the station, the Church Lads' Brigade formed an escort, and a large number of parishioners assembled on the Vicarage lawn to celebrate their home-coming "with cheers and with the bells pealing their own welcome". Mayhew Jones died suddenly on Friday, 20th January, 1905, at the age of 58, and a marble cross was erected on the grave and a memorial tablet placed in the church. His son, Richard Charles. born on 18th April, 1905, died on 12th September, 1906, and was placed in his father's grave.

His daughter, after graduation from Cambridge in 1924, and after being lecturer at Edinburgh Ladies' College, was appointed Warden, and Classics and Psychology Lecturer at the Marie Grey Training College, London.

For the interregnum the Reverend Matthew Shaw, of Saint James, became Curate in charge. Mr. Shaw had been ordained for 25 years, having served as Curate in Birmingham and Blackburn, and as incumbent in Jersey and at Hoddlesden. He served at Saint James as Curate from 1904 to 1910, afterwards going to Beesley Vicarage, Great Grimsby, Lincolnshire.

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The Reverend Percy Cecil Dean - 1905 to 1912

The incumbency of the parish was offered to Percy Cecil Dean, M.A. Cantab., A.K.C., who "occupied the pulpit" on Sunday, 20th August, 1905, after a reception on the previous day. Mr. Dean came to Moorside after curacies at Hatcham Park, London, and Saint Luke's, Heywood. He wrote In the magazine "Hardly had we set foot in the parish when the bell ringers rang for us a merry peal in token of welcome. It was a surprise, but a very agreeable one". His stay in Moorside has been described as "six vigorous years". He was awarded a first class degree in the natural science tripos, and was an energetic person. In 1912 Mr. Dean accepted the living of Saint Cuthbert's over Darwen, a much larger and more demanding parish with its population of nearly 8,000.

In the magazine of February, 1914, there is news of Percy Dean's success in raising money entirely by free-will offerings. As a result the "old fashioned bazaar" was, for that parish, abolished; Mr. Dean was using ideas on fund raising ahead of his days.

The Reverend Ernest Bradshaw Clarke

In 1908 Ernest Bradshaw Clarke was admitted as licensed lay reader and given responsibility for pastoral visiting in the Watershedding's portion of the parish. Mr. Clarke took his B.A. degree at the Victoria University of Manchester on Friday, 22nd December, 1912, the same year in which he was admitted deacon, being priested the following year.

On the 13th January, 1913, "a beautiful silver and glass pocket communion set" was presented to him as a memento of his ordination into the sacred ministry of the Church. He was awarded the Military Medal in 1918, was Vicar of Saint Hilda's, Audenshaw, up to 1928, and then of Bradshaw, Bolton.

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The Reverend Arthur Carsten Holthouse - 1912 to 1914

In 1912 Arthur Holthouse, a graduate from Clare College, Cambridge, was appointed to Moorside after, in his 32 years since ordination, having served as curate and vicar in six different parishes. The induction had been arranged for June but had to be postponed until September because of indisposition. Mr. Holthouse probably found the climate a little too exacting for his years and he accepted the living of South Benfleet, where he was instituted in June, 1914.

Mr. Holthouse paid a visit to Moorside in 1919 when he preached at the Church Anniversary Services. In 1921, after a relapse following an operation, he died and was buried in the family vault at Edmonton. His "gentleness and saintliness" during his stay in Moorside were recorded.

Ernest Russell

After the departure of Arthur Holthouse in 1914, Ernest Russell, who had been specially trained at the S.P.C.K. College at Stephany (in 1913) continued to assist in the parish in his role of licensed evangelist. He left the parish in September, 1914, because the parish could not afford to continue with his services, and took up a duty at Cobham in Kent. In 1915 he entered Dorchester Missionary College, and by 1918 we hear of him in France.

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The Reverend Arthur Frank Smith - 1914 to 1917

Mr. Smith, a New Zealander, had served in four positions in his own country before he came to England to a curacy at Lytham in 1912. He was inducted to the living of Moorside on Tuesday, 21st July, 1914, at 7-30 p.m., when he was met at the church door by a squad of Scouts. In the afternoon Mr. Holthouse had sent a telegram with "best wishes and hearty congratulations to you and your people". After three years Mr. Smith accepted the more populous parish (9,000) of Saint Bride's, Old Trafford, preaching his final sermon on Sunday, 18th November, and being inducted at Saint Bride's on Saturday, 24th November, at 3:30 p.m. In 1929 we hear of Mr. Smith as Rector of Authorpe with Tothill and Rural Dean of Calcewaith North.

The Reverend J. Mitchell

The Reverend J. Mitchell was Curate in charge after Mr. Smith's departure and lived at 19 Alexandra Terrace.

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The Reverend James Harold Garnett - 1918 to 1935

James Harold Garnett. a graduate at Oxford from Lincoln College, after training at Wycliffe Hall, and serving in six previous appointments, came to Moorside from Saint Ambrose Mission in the parish of Waterhead. He was inducted into the living here at the end of January, 1918, and settled down to seventeen years' pastoral care. It was during this time that the Mothers' Union was introduced and developed. In 1933 Richard Pratt, from the parish of Bradden, Isle of Man. came to act as Curate in charge while the Vicar was indisposed. On 9th November a pewter tea service was presented to Mr. Pratt for his help in the parish. On his leaving Moorside, in January, 1935, Mr. Garnett was appointed Rector of Elwick Hall, in the Diocese of Durham. Tribute was paid to Mr. Garnett for his zeal in various spheres of parish work and to Mrs. Garnett for her connection with the Mothers' Union in the Oldham Deanery. In the THE ARCHIVES of this site there is a very poor copy of an article - Local Churches - written at the time Mr Garnett was vicar at St. Thomas', with an accompanying photograph of Mr Garnett, regrettably again of poor quality.

In the magazine of October, 1943. there is a letter of appreciation addressed to the Church Council from Mrs. Garnett, from Moreton in the Wirral, dated 14th September.

The Reverend Canon John Calderley - 1936 to 1961

Mr. Calderley, a native of Bolton, after training at Egerton Hall, Manchester, was ordained deacon to serve at Saint Paul's Church, Oldham, in 1931. John Calderley came to Moorside in May, 1936, with a baby son, Denis. He had a great interest in Church Schools, gave up much time to this and carried out alterations to the old building. His interest in improvements led to the provision of vestries for the choir and clergy at the north-west corner of the church. After prolonged sickness, Mrs. Calderley died in 1952, and in 1954 Mr. Calderley married Miss Doreen Hall, a member of the church and a Sunday school worker. In May, 1961, the Reverend John Calderley accepted the living of Saint Matthew, Chadderton.

In 1971 he was made an Honorary Canon of the cathedral in recognition of his forty years' service in the diocese as a clergyman, the last ten of which he had been Rural Dean of Middleton.

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The Reverend David Lawrance - 1961 to 1974

In July, 1961, David Lawrance, a graduate of Manchester and Oxford, was inducted to Moorside after serving as Curate at Oldham Parish Church, as Chaplain in the R.A.F. in Cyprus, and as Embassy Chaplain and Priest in Charge in East Jordan in Amman.


The huge Sholver Estate and the private houses being built in the locality transformed the parish from a small village community into an overspill area of dwellings of every type. This enormous growth accelerated the provision of a new school to replace our old school and also led to the provision of a new county school. While many churches have suffered from the great changes of population as people have been rehoused, Moorside has simply gained enormously in terms of potential and growth and concern. The small crofts and simple mill village have in turn given way to a great spread of suburbia, though with the bracing moorland air, and damp mists and cold winds, to hint at the remoteness of the place in days long gone by.

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The Reverend Howard Gray - 1974 to 2008

After initially working in local industry, Mr Gray, born in Bolton and a continuing fan of the Bolton Wanderers Football club, started his National Service in 1958, spending 14 months of this time in Germany with REME - Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers - after initial training with the Lancashire Fusiliers. He then took up religious studies in Durham, Birkenhead and Rugby. His first ‘church’ appointments were for the ‘Industrial Mission’, which involved working with a variety of engineering companies in Greater Manchester to bring the church to the workplace and establish bonds with industry. Mr Gray was ordained as a deacon in 1965 and up to 1968 was the curate at St Cuthbert's, Old Trafford, Manchester and from 1969, held the same position at St. Clements, Urmston, Manchester.

He is the longest serving incumbent of St. Thomas’ Moorside having been inducted on the 18th March, 1974, and retiring on the 28th September, 2008. When inducted he was married to Aileen and they have a son and two daughters. The marriage ended with a divorce in 1977. He married Susan in 1992 and they have two sons. In addition to his prime role, Mr Gray was chaplain at the local Strinesdale Hospital, which was founded in 1895 and specialised in TB. The hospital closed in 1982.

One of the principle achievements during Mr Gray’s time at Moorside has been the refurbishment of the Church Hall under the project management of locally born Paul Scholes. Since it’s completion, the hall has become a focal point of innumerable community activities and is firmly established as an integral part of Moorside.

Mr Gray was a committed member of the Inter Faith Forum, which was established following the Oldham riots in 2002, to help establish bonds with all the different cultures and religions throughout the area.

Mr Gray’s fundamental role always centred around his involvement with the many residents groups in Moorside, to serve and benefit the community. Not least amongst which was been his association with St. Thomas’ School with which he has held a variety of positions from Chairman of Governors to referee for the football team.

Mr Gray was also a Trustee of the Sholver Millennium Green, which comprises 25 acres of recreational space in the heart of the community, bringing a sense of the countryside to the centre of Moorside. Mr Gray was also involved with Fulwood Nature Reserve, a facility within the Sholver area in Moorside, providing through tree planting, pathways and ponds, an educational resource for local schools, whilst also seeking to encourage the enjoyment of local wildlife, flowers, fauna and landscape.

Also from 2007, the church began a major repair project, in which Mr Gray took a leading part, until his retirement in September 2008.

Mr Gray and Susan, now live at Brompton Regis, in Somerset, where he has taken up - we hope - a less onerous position within the church.

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The Reverend Brenda Mitchell - June 2010 to present

'Reverend Mitchell was born and brought up in Bradford, and was called to ordained ministry after many years of working in the banking industry in Leeds.

She has three children, who are now adults, and worked for her local church in Baildon in a voluntary capacity for over 20 years as Sunday School superintentent among other roles and responsibilities.

Her ordination training was based at the College of the Resurrection at Mirfield on the Northern Ordination Course, during which she crossed the Pennines to join the Manchester based group of ordinands - her first contact with Manchester!

She moved from the Bradford diocese to be ordained deacon in Wakefield Cathedral in 2006, and priest in 2007, and served her curacy at St John's Church, Golcar, near Huddersfield. She was licensed to St Thomas Church Moorside on 3rd June 2010.