The Parish Church of St. Thomas 1872 - 1972

ACTIVITIES

Church Publications
The Parish Magazine
Early Difficulties
Magazine Difficulties
The Choir
Other Early News
Mills' influence on Church Services
Holy Communion and Confirmation
First Confirmation Service
The Guild
Sunday School
The Whit Friday Procession
- the Banner
- the Route
Sunday and Day School numbers
The activities of the Ladies
The Mothers' Union
Meetings for Men
Overseas Missions
Home Mission Field
The Children's Society
The Boys and Girls
The Scouts and the Guides
Youth Clubs
The Cricket Club
The Football Team
CLOSING COMMENT















ORGANISATIONS AND ACTIVITIES

Church and school buildings, though often noted for their architectural and historical interest, are erected for the simple purpose of providing shelter for meetings and assembly points for activities and interests. To learn the past details of this use of our buildings it is necessary to read through the church records and registers, and the most detailed accounts are often to be found in the parish magazine.

Church Publications

Specifically church news publications began with the appearance of the Record in 1828, followed by the Guardian in 1846 and the Church Times in 1863; these were national newspapers with wide circulations. In 1859 the first parish magazine printed for local church news was published in Derby, and soon this innovation was being adopted by many churches.

The Parish Magazine

In January, 1891, the first issue of the parish magazine appeared in Moorside, with an introductory explanation: "The practice of publishing a localised number of a monthly parish magazine is now becoming so general that it seems worthwhile to try how it will succeed among ourselves". It was hoped that 150 copies would be sold, at 1d each; by February 184 copies were already ordered; parish events were now recorded, month by month.

In 1891 the church balance for the year was 8 "on the wrong"; this and subsequent "wrong"; balances were taken care of by the ever beneficent patrons. On Easter Monday, 1891, the Archdeacon at the Visitation at Oldham Church, spoke on the need for lay help "a parson is generally what his people make him, their assistance has a profound effect". The May issue of that year described the tea party and entertainment carried out by men only. All parochial occasions: the choir and Sunday School outings, the delays on the railways, the food, the weather and places visited - all are recorded, in detail, in the magazine.

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Early difficulties

The magazine notes the difficulties in attracting people to the Easter Vestry meetings where the attendance did not improve despite changes in time and day. The poor attendance at the Day and Sunday School Anniversary in 1906 brings a complaint of "apathy" from the Vicar.

We read of wilful damage to the school in 1909, of the behaviour of children under 14 at parish socials and a request, In 1927, that they be accompanied by adults. In June, 1930, we hear of youths climbing over the churchyard walls and trampling down shrubs, of their congregating around the school and institute and of the police being called. There are reports of "rowdy" spectators at weddings in 1933, in the following year of people going over the churchyard wall instead of using the gates and of a red rose tree being taken from a grave.

The magazine reports failing attendances at the annual meeting during the war years and of a disappointing response to church from those who returned to the parish after their war service. In 1958 the attendance at the Schools' Festival was "the same as on an average Sunday", echoing the sentiments of 1937 anniversary comments.

As early as 1906 there had been a complaint on attendance, "We cannot understand why it(the church) is not full. The services are bright and hearty the singing is good and congregational and the sermons are short, and though we recognise that these are but aids to the main object - worship - yet they are aids and as such have an attractive force". These are sobering and yet heartening comments from the days when we imagined church attendance to be so much better than it is to-day.

Magazine difficulties

In 1908 the inset was changed to counteract the lack of interest shown in the magazine during the previous year. There was a letter from the vicar in the first issue for the year but it was not until 1897 that this feature became monthly. There are frequent references to the Magazine's inability "to pay for itself "; in 1915 the Sunday School undertook to finance the magazine, which arrangement continued until the Church Council accepted responsibility in 1918.

The Choir

The magazine notes our first Christmas Carol Service held on 29th December, 1890; - a choir re-union in February, 1916, when 180 persons met the Vicar and his wife. We read of an appeal for tenors and altos in May, 1927, of choirboys being introduced as a result of a Church Council meeting on 9th May, 1934. The choirboys had their own trip to Liverpool and New Brighton in August, 1938.

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Other Early News

In addition to the concern with parochial matters, you find in the magazine the reflection of national concerns. On the 60th Jubilee of Queen Victoria there was a united procession of 800 scholars in June, 1897, a large bonfire on Besom Hill, and the flags flying from the two mills and the church. It was during this jubilee year that Thomas Mellodew was made a magistrate in 1897. There are articles in the magazine that reflect the concern in the country at large with the church schools debates and with the disestablishment of the church in Wales. The growing attention given to temperance is shown by the formation, in January, 1914, of a Band of Hope.

The Influence of The Mills on Church Services

The magazine shows the effect of mill times of work upon services. In 1909 the celebration of the Holy Communion was moved from 5 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. when the mills did not commence work until 8-30 a.m., while on Good Friday the following year the day was better observed than had been the case for years owing to the closure of the mills.

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Holy Communion and Confirmation

A steady growth in the numbers of those attending church for their Easter communion is reflected in these figures: 1890 75; 1902 246; 1903 231 (with 92 at 7 a.m. on a "wintry morning"). Holy Communion had been celebrated on the first Sunday after morning service (the same form of service as at the consecration of the church) and on the third Sunday at 8 a.m. In 1905 this was changed to a weekly celebration at 8 a.m. and at 10:30 a.m. on the first Sunday in the month, and at 10 a.m. on saint's days.

The First Confirmation Service

There had been a Confirmation Service by the Right Reverend James Prince Lee, Lord Bishop of Manchester, in the schoolroom on 19th July, 1862, when the Reverend W. H. Chambers (later Dr. Chambers) was curate in charge. The first confirmation in Moorside Church was taken by the Right Reverend F. A. R. Cramer Roberts, D. D., Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Manchester, on the 19th April, 1895, when 60 candidates(54 from Moorside) were presented. Confirmations since this date have varied in numbers between ten and thirty, with a communicants' roll between two and three hundred. Later this communicants' roll gave way to the electoral roll in the returns of statistics for the parish.

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The Guild

To strengthen the communicant life of the church, a Guild was formed on 2nd May, 1906, when fifty members were enrolled. These met at 8 p.m. on Wednesdays before the first Sunday of the month, with a short address on the Holy Communion: every member had to attend one of the celebrations of Holy Communion on the following Sunday. When this Guild disappeared, a Sanctuary Guild was eventually formed in 1956 for a few years. The great strength of guilds lies in their aim to deepen the spiritua1 life and the bonds of fellowship of their members, and to extend their spiritual work. They are quite distinct in purpose and role from the other organisations.
In 1962, arising out of increased concern for family life and needs with the observing of Christian Family Year, a Women's Guild was formed to serve the interests of the women of the parish. This Guild met monthly for a variety of activities and had a wide basis of membership.

Sunday School

This activity pre-dates both magazine and church in Moorside. The first Sunday School originated in Gloucester when Robert Raikes provided a place "where children could come, on the day of rest, and receive the elements of a Christian Education". The movement spread into other cities, into towns and villages, and met a real need, though the hours were really too short and the intervals between lessons too long to allow of much progress being made in educational work.

You can read of the emergence of school and Sunday School in the earlier chapter on schools. The first reference to children in Moorside goes as far back as 1821 when 108 children from Sholver took part in a town procession, on return from which they were refreshed with ale and spiced cakes. In 1856 a Sunday School was formed at the same time as the Mutual Improvement Society. In 1861 scholars from Saint James's Church "proceeded up to Moorside, being joined at Watersheddings bar by 300 teachers and scholars of the Moorside School, the whole procession at this time numbering 1,000. Use was made of a field lent by Mr. Robert Buckley and at 4-30 p.m. all had buns and tea in one of the rooms of the Moorside New Mill, a magnificent apartment 52 yards long and 22 yards wide". After tea there were sports until 8 p.m., after which the visitors walked back home towards Oldham.

The provision of the new schoolroom and temporary church at Moorside obviously provided a tremendous boost for Sunday School life. As educational facilities grew, the Sunday Schools became a purely voluntary church organisation which formed an increasingly important feature of parochial life, flourishing especially in the towns of the industrial north.

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The Whit Friday Procession

The Whit Friday Procession was one of the distinguishing features and activities of a Sunday School in this area of Lancashire. In June, 1891, we read how scholars were to meet at 8-45 a.m. for the walk on Whit Friday morning. In 1893 they called at Moorside House for oranges, a regular children's treat from the patron. In 1901 there was a meeting with Watersheddings Methodist children (it was to be another 65 years before the church and chapel met in a joint walk in Moorside itself). In 1908 the charge for a band was 12 (The Moorside Mill Reed Band had ceased to exist in July, 1898. Until that date they had provided the music necessary for the day).

The Banner

The first reference to a banner in use is on 11th June, 1897, when one had been supplied by a Bolton firm. In 1908 the price of the meal for those walking on the Friday was reduced from 2/- to 1/-; to meet the cost of supplying a meal against the reduced income, a canvass for support was introduced - the origin of the present Whitsuntide collection.

The Route

In 1911 we read how "for some years now" the route followed was from Alva Road to Sholver in extent.

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Sunday and Day School numbers

In 1906, the year of the first Day and Sunday Schools' Anniversary, the Sunday School had 350 pupils with 28 teachers while the Day School had 194 pupils on roll with seven teachers. Two years later, 1908, the Sunday School numbers had fallen to 178 against the rise in the Day School numbers to 215. However, there was an increase in Sunday School teachers to 46, and the Sunday School remained at the 1908 level until the 1920's. By 1935 numbers were down to 100 scholars and 19 teachers.

In addition, during this period there had been a strong Bible class which catered for the older ones, the young men and ladies numbering 200, and remaining at this level until the First World War. After the Great War numbers remained at the hundred mark until, by 1934, they had fallen to about seventy.

The activities of the Ladies

From very early days the ladies of the parish have helped to beautify the church. In September, 1903, we hear of the Ladies' Sewing Class being formed to allow "the female members of the church and Sunday School to meet together for one evening a week for mutual intercourse and to make up useful articles of clothing which may be sold at the Annual Parochial Party, the profits to be devoted to parochial requirements". This was the beginning of many years of useful work on the part of the ladies of the church and resulted not only in many profitable sales being held, but also in the provision of altar frontals, in altar and church linen, and in embroidery.

In those early days jumble sales were held on Saturdays between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.

The Mothers' Union

In October, 1922, there were plans for C.E.M.S. and for the newly proposed Mothers' Union. On Wednesday, 17th January, 1923, at 3-30 p.m. in the church, an inaugural service was held, after which Mrs. Jones, Ruri-Decanal Secretary, was the speaker on the subject of the proposed Mothers' Union, in the schoolroom. The invitation in the magazine ran "Especially do we invite young mothers or wives to come as we believe this Union will be a help to them in the training of their children and in the home life".

A service for admission of members was held on Wednesday, 7th February, at 7-30 p.m., with a meeting afterwards in the schoolroom addressed by Mrs. Jones. Another service of admission was held in the chapel on Tuesday, 6th March, at 7-30 p.m., with a further appeal for young mothers "to come and join". The first business meeting was held on Tuesday, 15th May, 1923, and the first corporate communion on Sunday, 24th June, at 8 a.m. in that year. On Wednesday, 6th June, the Saint Andrew's Branch paid a visit to Moorside; a short service at 3:30 p.m. was followed by tea in the Vicarage garden and games.

By July, 1925, a steady growth could be reported, and practically all members had attended the corporate communion on 24th June. It was then decided to hold such a service every quarter. On 24th July a motor outing to Whalley Abbey was arranged for members and their friends - the first of many visits and outings. The first recorded Ruri-Decanal Festival attended by Moorside members was held at Saint Thomas's, Werneth, on 10th July, at 3-30 p.m., when an address was given by Chancellor Aspin and, after tea and an adjournment in Werneth Park, an address in the evening from Miss Burstall, Headmistress of Manchester High School.

In 1929 the Mothers' Union changed their pattern of meetings by arranging a speaker each month. During the Second World War, a knitting class was sponsored by the mothers to provide socks and scarves for men on active service. The ladies also made black-out curtains so that the afternoon services of 1939-40 could be replaced, in 1940-41, by the usual evening ones.

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Meetings for Men

The earliest organisation for men was the Mutual Improvement Society which is described in the chapter on schools. A men's meeting was held on Sunday, 15th July, 1906, and addressed by the Reverend W. H. Newett, organising secretary of the Saint George's Association (White Cross League) on the subject of "Purity". The success of this meeting led to a monthly service "for men only" in church at 3 p.m. The first was held on 3rd August, 1906, when, "on a day beautifully fine", about 40 attended a simple service, listened to solos from Mr. Buckley Kershaw and Mr. T. Pickup, to two voluntaries from J. M. T. Bridge, and to the Vicar who spoke on the subject of "Recreation". In many parishes at that time such meetings were among the most successful of the many organisations based on church and Sunday school.

In the 1920's we read of a men's class for the 18's meeting in the schoolroom with Mr. R. Smethurst as Secretary. In November, 1939, the men's class was discontinued through lack of members, but the men were soon meeting again on Sunday afternoons at 2:15 with an appeal in the magazine for the older men of the parish for support. Another start on a possible men's group was made in January, 1947, when twenty men played "Beetle", used card tables, listened to songs and enjoyed refreshments.
It was intended to run fortnightly meetings to promote spiritual, social and cultural developments though, at the first annual meeting on 28th April, 1947, attendance was disappointing. Two years later, on 11th October, an invitation from the Oldham C.E.M.S. to hold a meeting was received but only eighteen men attended and it was found impossible to recruit a secretary or committee. 1t was proposed to start a branch of the C.E.M.S. in 1950 and in 1962, but nothing materialised.

In the early 1960's a group of men met regularly for discussion at the vicarage and in various homes, and pleasant memories of this are still held.

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Overseas Missions

In addition to home centred activities the parish has also interest in the mission field. Missionary boxes were given out for the first time in early 1896, and provided 3-11-9d. for the S.P.G. In 1908 the magazine appealed for fifty subscribers for the S.P.G. monthly. "The Mission Field", at 1d. per volume. In October, 1926, there was support from the parish for an Indian teacher in the Bezwada district, and in July, 1940, we read of support for Kuwang-Chi Hospital. Chekiang, China. Missionary support continues to-day, chiefly for C.M.S. and for U.S.P.G. (the old S.P.G.) but with some little extra for other societies.

Home Mission Field

A mission was held in Oldham in April, 1921, led by the Reverend Elliot Bradley, of Grosthwaite Vicarage, Keswick, when the Bishop of the Diocese held a commissioning service in Saint Mary's Church (later Saint Mary with Saint Peter). The Church Army held missions in December, 1921 - the 3rd to the 12th - led by Captain Manby, and in 1944 - 23rd September to the 2nd October. The first college mission, from Wycliffe Hall, took place in September, 1964. when the Principal, the Chaplain, fourteen students and two wives of the students spent ten days in the parish; the Mission was based on the theme, "The Good News for all".

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The Children's Society

The Church's concern for unfortunate children is shown in our parish as far back as 1910 when, on the 15th March, the Organising Secretary of the Waifs and Strays gave a lantern lecture at 7-30 p.m.
In the note in the magazine it stated "it seems almost superfluous to appeal for support" and the first parish contribution was made in the following month. This Society, now known as the Church of England Children's Society, is still supported by the parish and receives regular financial help through the efforts of our local support group.

The Boys and Girls

At the turn of the century boys' and girls' clubs became an almost indispensable adjunct of any urban parish. In 1891 the Church Lads' Brigade was founded and a branch was formed in Moorside organised by the Reverend Mayhew Jones. In the magazine we read how this Church Lads' Brigade provided an escort at the railway station when the Vicar returned with his bride after their marriage in Llanbeblig Church, Caernarvon. in April, 1901. This branch in Moorside did not survive for long on account of the lack of officers.

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The Scouts and the Guides

In 1907 Sir Robert Baden Powell, a hero of the South African War, held an informal camp at Brownsea Island out of which grew what must be regarded as by far the most imaginative and original of all organisations for young people - the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides. The church records of 1913 note a Scout Troop of 18 who display by January, 1914, "a steady but sure progress" and who attend church parade; in July that year a squad of Scouts met the new Vicar, the Reverend A. F. Smith, at the main door of the church. In the previous March the Scouts held a recruiting march round the parish and attracted six new members. The patrol master was Wm. A. Bradshaw, who enlisted with the R.A.M.C. in 1914, trained on Salisbury Plain, was promoted corporal in November, then served in France.

For a time the Vicar and Vincent Kershaw, and then Ensign Shepherd, kept the Troop going. with great emphasis being placed on drill. By the end of the war the parish had no record of Scouts in Moorside. In 1932 the magazine carried plans to inaugurate a troop of Scouts and Guides. The following year, on 16th November, the first Rangers, of the 88th Company, were formed with Mrs. Billet as Captain and Miss E. P. Mellodew as Lieutenant.
Then, when Guides appear, we learn that Miss Mellodew is Captain and Miss M. Swindells is Lieutenant and that meetings are on Mondays at 7 p.m. In 1946 a new Brownie Pack was formed in April. with two Sunday School teachers as Brown and Tawny Owls.

In May, 1958, the magazine stated that it was impossible to find leaders for Scouts and Guides. There had been attempts to cater for those too old for the Scouts; a public meeting was called on Thursday, 28th January, to form a Church Lads' Brigade, but with no result. In 1962 Cubs, Brownies and Scouts were formed, with Guides being formed a year later. These four groups continued with new titles when the movements were reshaped in 1970 and are continuing to-day, with valuable assistance from adult leaders who bear the main burden of the work, and with a useful parent support group.

Youth Clubs

During the Second World War great interest was taken in the formation of Youth Clubs for young people of both sexes of the age range 14 to 20 years, and Moorside reflected some of this national interest. On Thursday, 6th August, 1942, the Reverend J. W. Ellis, Vicar of Saint Stephen's Church, Lower Moor, spoke to a meeting on "Youth Organisations" in the schoolroom. Out of the twenty-six who met, a committee was formed to plan "religious, educational and social programmes", with an opening evening on 27th August, 1962, from 7-30 p.m. to 9-30 p.m. and a membership of thirty.
Numbers continued up to the forty mark until 1949, when poor attendances were attributed to evening classes.

The Cricket Club

The cricket club, founded in 1862 by the village schoolmaster, W. Smith, met at Sunfield in 1862, Counthill from 1863 to 1865 and Dickens Street from 1866 to 1869. The club has enjoyed a close link with church and school and parish through the active support of the patron who, in times past, was the unifying and combining influence in the parish.
The club was able to field a third eleven, and to receive its new ground in 1913. The record stand was one of 262 put up by Michael Lawton and William Mellodew - each gaining a century and each declaring - in the Central Lancashire League. The bowling green was opened by John Hardy in June, 1899, a new pavilion was opened in 1903 and a new tea pavilion in 1908. In 1916 there was unusual activity on the cricket field when 214 wounded soldiers visited the ground on the 9th of August and were entertained by villagers. To-day the cricket club continues to provide the major parish sporting interest.

The Football Team

A football club was introduced in September, 1911, when members were required to be regular in attendance at Church and Sunday School; a field was used near Besom Hill Farm, King's Lane. The first home win did not come until 16th December, 1912, against the Y.M.C.A., and the first away win, 4 - 3, on 15th February, 1913. In November, 1913, the club for the first time reached the top of the 3rd League, and in 1925 held the Challenge Cup of the Sunday School Football League for the year. The club was reformed in the 1960's and ran for a few seasons.

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Closing Comment

While it is difficult to say just how far many of these organisations benefit the church and while some people will ask if the church can afford to run buildings, with continual maintenance and upkeep needs, for the use of those whose link with the church is often tenuous, there is no doubt on the social advantages for the village when a centre for gatherings and organisations is available.

For this reason alone if could be claimed that the cost and the effort is justifiable. The most important consideration is the place these groups have had in the affection and regard and absorbing interest of their members and leaders.

During their individual existences these movements have played a most important part in the lives of all concerned with them; it is impossible to exaggerate the happiness and purpose that have been brought into our village society by these activities during the years gone by.