St. Lewis’ Croft 1827-1977 – A Short History

Compiled by James A. Carus

FOREWORD

Archbishop Derek Warlock and Bishop Augustine Harris

The Church of St Lewis, Croft, which on 26th May 1977 celebrates the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of its opening has a direct link with two of the English Martyrs, John Southworth and Edmund Campion.

The parish celebrated its centenary in 1927 when Pontificial Mass of Thanksgiving was celebrated by Bishop Dobson, Auxiliary Bishop of Liverpool, who also preached the sermon.

Strongly rooted in the faith of the Lancashire martyrs, the celebration of its one hundred and fiftieth anniversary will add another important chapter to its long history and the significant contribution of succeeding generations of priests and people to the sturdy growth of the church in this part of the Archdiocese of Liverpool.

We gladly join in the joyful celebrations of the parish priest, Father Thomas Rattigan, and his devoted people as they assemble in the historic church of St Lewis on 26th May for their Thanksgiving Mass, and we pray that God may bless them and make the priests and people of the future worthy of the faith of the martyrs on which the parish was founded.

JOSEPH GRAY
Titular Bishop of Mercia
Auxiliary Bishop of Liverpool
May 1977


St Lewis,
Croft,
Warrington
May 1977

My Dear People,

On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the opening of this church, I feel I owe a deep debt of gratitude to Mr James Carus (headteacher) for the amount of time, energy, and research which he has put into the publication of this souvenir brochure, and in making the history of this Parish so conveniently available to you. I wholeheartedly commend this publication to you.

Within these pages, we view in retrospect, part of 150 years of great Catholic achievement. We see the emancipated church rising from penal times and presenting to us a picture of a new mission, dedicated to St Lewis, patron saint of its founder, the Rev Fr Louis de Richebec.

In reading this history we are stirred to admiration for all those good priests who, with the help and assistance of our Catholic forebearers, and in spite of difficult circumstances, have kept the faith alive in this area.

We express the fervent hope that those of you who read this souvenir will be inspired by their example.

Thomas Rattigan – Parish Priest


EARLIEST YEARS

On 27th December 1825, Fr Hughes SJ of Portico Chapel, Prescot, received the following letter:

Dear Sir,

The sale of Hesford’s Estate is over. You are the purchaser. £765 is the sum that you have to pay, viz £310 for the first lot and £455 for the second. £5 under Mr West’s valuation, the sale being absolute. £10 per cent deposit money was required and I have paid it this morning. The remainder to be paid the first day of March next, at which time the Property will be delivered to you free from any tenant or occupier. You have now on your part, and as soon as possible, to send the names of the persons that are to be inserted in the Deeds, to either Mr Dodd, Solicitor at Warrington, or Mr Shaw the Registrar at Preston.

Yours etc.

For £765, Fr Hughes, a Jesuit, thus bought the land on which the Church of St Lewis now stands. The Church itself was not to be opened until 1827, but from 27th December 1825, the Catholics of Croft had a home. The first priest of St Lewis’s, Fr Leonard Louis de Richebec had been working in the area for some years, and upon his shoulders fell the task of building the Church, which apart from minor alterations, is still the spiritual focal point of 1,000 Catholics of Croft and the surrounding district.

The site measured 4 acres 38½ poles and consisted of haying fields including a meadow and an orchard, Heghe’s Mill, two further fields and Higher Wesley – whatever that might have been.

Although the Parish of St Lewis’s dates back to 1827, this is not the beginning of the history of the Catholics of Croft. Previous to the foundation of the Church the people in the neighbourhood worshipped, as was the custom at the time, at the Halls of two of the residing gentry, namely Southworth Hall and Culcheth Hall. Southworth Hall, about 4½ miles from Warrington was the original seat of the Southworth family. The Manor of Southworth and Croft (as also Winwick and Arbury adjoining) were possessions of the knightly family of Southworth. Between the years 1320-1346 Sir Gilbert de Southworth married the heiress of Nicholas D’ Ewyas and through the marriage acquired the manor of Samlesbury near Preston which henceforth became the principal residence of the Southworth family. Sir Gilbert de Southworth was Sheriff of Lancaster. In an inquisition taken at Wigan in 1323 the following passage occurs, ‘Gilbert of Southworth sent two men-at-arms, at his own expense, to help the Earl of Lancaster against the King.’ One of the men-at-arms was ‘Johannes, son of Roberti ie Faillour de Wynequick.’

The Southworth family occupied Samlesbury Hall for three and a half centuries before Penal Laws finally drove them from it. Saint John Southworth, SJ, one of our English Martyrs came from this family and was seven generations removed from Sir Gilbert de Southworth. Mass was last said in Samlesbury Hall Chapel in 1826.

Throughout the reign of Elizabeth I, daughter of Henry VIII, a determined effort was made to wipe out the Catholic Faith in England. Catholics were seen, not only as a threat to the new Reformed religion, but also, especially in the days of strained relations with Catholic Spain, as potential traitors. It was assumed, mistakenly in nearly every case, that no Catholic could be a loyal subject of the Queen.

As a result of this atmosphere of fear, Penal Laws were passed attacking Catholics, both priest and laymen. The fine for not attending the local Parish Church was at first one shilling a week but was later increased to £20 per month.

It is said that no family suffered more in its defence of the Faith than the Southworth family, particularly Sir John Southworth, High Sheriff of Lancaster in 1564. After many fines and years of imprisonment he died in 1595 and eventually they were obliged to part with extensive estates.

Southworth Hall, in the meantime passed through various hands until it was purchased by Colonel Richard Gerard in about 1670. He was the second surviving son of Sir Thomas Gerard of Bryn and was thus preserved in Catholic hands. The Colonel’s son, Thomas Gerard, inherited Southworth, but resided at Highfield House in Ince, near Wigan. In his return as a Catholic non-juror, in 1717 he stated that Southworth Hall was let for £33 per annum. He died in 1724 and his son, Father Thomas Gerard, SJ, conveyed the Hall and the Manor of Southworth to his cousin William Gerard apothecary of Wigan and subsequently Squire of Ince Hall. By one of the Gerards the demesne of Southworth Hall and about 20 acres of land was settled upon the Society of Jesus. Mr Thomas Lythgoe, father of Rev Randal Lythgoe, SJ, afterwards provincial of the Society tenanted the farm from 1797 till 1828.

In a report sent to the Superior in Rome in 1750 the income of Southworth Hall estate was put down at £57, of which £1 6 8s. 0d. came from the College of St Aloysius. The communicants in the congregation — from Croft, Winwick and surrounding areas was estimated at 200.

From the returns made to the Anglican Bishop of Chester in 1778 we learn that there were four priests resident at Southworth Hall and supplying the Mission Centres of Southworth, Culcheth, Garswood and Bryn; and this, when there were only three priests in Liverpool, one in Leigh and five in St Helens.

At the suppression of the Society in 1773, Fr James Foxe, alias Pole, SJ was priest in charge at Southworth and on 29th October, 1784, at Bishop Matthew Gibson’s Visitation he presented 34 persons for Confirmation and returned his communicants at 70. When Bishop Gibson made his Visitation at Southworth in 1793, Fr Foxe presented 25 for Confirmation. He died suddenly in his chair while catechising the children on 29th March, 1795. He was succeeded by Fr Richard Reeve, alias Hankey, SJ.

The earliest written record in the Parish consists of a Baptismal Register which is presently housed in the County Records Office, Preston and the first entry is in the hand of Fr Reeve, who baptized Joseph, son of Joseph and Helena Unsworth on 12th October, 1795.

FR LOUIS DE RICHEBEC

In 1797 the Society, being unable to afford a member to serve Southworth, obtained a ‘locum tenens’ in the person of Abbe Louis de Richebec, a French emigre. This good priest, a native of Barfleur in Normandy, was driven from his native land by the Revolution. He supported himself for the first years or so after his arrival in England by teaching French in several respectable schools in Lancashire and Cheshire. During this period he continued to serve the Chapel in Southworth Hall until it was decided to unite Southworth and Culcheth in one Mission at Croft.

The first written evidence we have of Fr Richebec’s presence in Croft is in the aforementioned Baptismal Record, when on 18th October, 1797, he baptized Samuel Caldwell. The entry is signed L. de Richebec, Missionary.

Up to 1778 the dependence of the Mission on the gentry was very marked. But a large measure of toleration was granted to Catholics by Acts of Parliament passed in 1778 (Sir George Saville’s Act) and in 1791. The abolition of Penal Laws which then took place removed the necessity of the gentry’s protection. Henceforth a Mission was started wherever a congregation could be got together and a general development for small beginnings, churches or ‘chapels’ as they were then called was begun and priests supplied with a residence of their own through the generosity of the people, frequently helped by the charity of Catholics abroad and, all praise to them, Protestants at home.

When it was decided to give up the mission centre at Southworth Hall, the Society of Jesus erected a new ‘chapel’ at Croft, the foundation stone being laid by the Abbe Louis le Richebec on the Feast of SS Peter and Paul, 29th June, 1826. It was subsequently opened on 29th May, 1827.

This wonderful priest continued to serve St Lewis’s till the end of his meritorious life, being found on his knees in a dying state on 11th February 1845, aged 82. After his death, the Jesuits again took over the Mission until 1855 when they finally gave it up to the secular clergy.

PRIESTS OF ST LEWIS’S

Thanks to the Jesuit Archivist, a great deal is known about the Jesuit priests who served St Lewis’s. Very little unfortunately, is known of the secular clergy who followed them. 

Father Richebec was succeeded by Fr James Clough SJ who eventually succeeded his brother Fr Francis Clough SJ as priest in charge of Lydiate Hall. Fr Francis Clough SJ became the first Rector of the College of Mount St Mary’s. As Rector of St Lewis’s, Fr Clough was succeeded by Fr John Baron SJ the second son of Mr John Baron, a cotton manufacturer of Blackburn.

He remained at Croft until October of the following year when he was appointed Vice-Rector of Mount St Mary’s and declared Rector in 1857. His successor was Fr William Waterton SJ, son of Thomas Waterton Esq of Walton Hall, Yorkshire. This gives St Lewis’s its second contact with our English Martyrs, for Fr Waterton was a descendant of Saint Thomas More. He left Croft in 1849 and died at Stonyhurst on 18th January 1852.

Before the secular clergy took over the Mission in 1855, four further Jesuits Fr Shea, Fr Bird, Fr Miller and Fr Gallway (who afterwards became Provincial of the Society) served as Parish Priests of St Lewis’s.

Records show that these Jesuit priests were men of immense character. When the present Parish Priest, Fr Thomas Rattigan was welcomed to St Lewis’s he was reminded that Croft air seemed to suit the clergy — his two immediate predecessors had shared almost seventy years of Croft ministry between them.

Perhaps the pattern was set by Fr Peter Gallway SJ who certainly bore out the truth of the old saying that ‘men of condemned constitutions live long.’ This remarkable priest was told after he had completed his priestly studies that he had a lung infection and had but a short life to live. Thus condemned to an early death Father Gallway died at the age of 86 and astonished everyone by his indomitable energy of mind and body. At the age of 72 he undertook a literary work of considerable research and magnitude, treating exhaustively of the whole Passion and Death of our Blessed Lord. The three volumes of ‘The Watches of the Passion’ is still regarded as a great work. Nor was he without a sense of humour. When a motion was put down in Parliament demanding the inspection of convents he wrote two sketches to debunk the pompous members who sponsored the motion. it is said that ‘Irish Biddy in an English Gaol’ and ‘The Nun’s Choice, Newgate or Nudigate’ caused much amusement in the Houses of Parliament. Fr Gallway’s stay in Croft as a young priest must have stood him in good stead.

Fr Gallway was the last Jesuit priest to serve in Croft, but they left behind them a tangible reminder in two magnificent oil paintings of St lgnatious Loyola, and St Francis Xavier which were mounted facing the Congregation above the Sacristy door and where the present Lady Altar stands. They were removed about fifteen years ago by the Jesuits and I have been unable to trace their present whereabouts.

As a tribute to the work of the Jesuits in Croft the preacher at the centenary celebrations held in the Church on 29th May 1927 was Fr Henry Davies, SJ from Heythrop College. The Auxiliary Bishop of Liverpool, The Right Rev Dr Dobson, pontificated at the High Mass celebrated for the occasion.

The following secular priests served at St Lewis’s after the departure of the Jesuits.

1855-1855 Fr Gillett
1855-1856 Fr P. Laverty
1856-1860 Fr Gibson
1860-1875 Fr Wells
1875-1878 Fr T. Turner
1878-1881 Fr J. Parkinson
1881-1884 Fr J. Dorran
1884-1887 Fr F. Blake
1887-1897 Fr P. Monaghan
1897-1906 Fr F. Blake
1906-1908 Fr H. Byrne
1908-1941 Fr J Donohue
1941-1969 Fr T. McGarvey
1969 – 1987 Fr T. Rattigan

 

A total of 22 priests have therefore served in St Lewis’s Church since it was built 150 years ago.

PEOPLE OF ST LEWIS’S

What of the parishioners of Croft?

A register made up towards the end of the last century — probably about 1860-1870 — lists the parish adult population at 210. The priest (not identified), who compiled the register,- however, points out that this number does not include Catholics who possibly made their Easter Communions ‘at other Chapels’. Nor does it include the itinerant Irish population, nor the many Catholic servants male and female, who were not entered ‘owing to the difficulty of finding their temporary place of residence.’

Of the working members of the parish no fewer than 70 were silk weavers. There were 15 labourers, 13 farm workers (labourers and owners), 8 shoemakers, 8 railway labourers, 4 innkeepers, 4 shopkeepers, 3 hucksters, a policeman, a charwoman, a tailor, a joiner, a stationmaster, the priest’s housekeeper, the schoolmistress and finally — every parish has one — one twister! The social background of the parish has obviously radically changed over the years, notably since the Second World War and the advent of the Atomic Energy Authority.

The priest’s comments in the register, however, show the truth of the saying that people never change. Whilst the vast majority of the congregation were recorded as being very devoted and faithful Catholics, we nevertheless read comments such as ‘a very negligent family. Wife a nothing.’ ‘Never comes’, ‘Married a Methodist and turned (as he says) on account of some alleged unfairness about a Catholic raffle!’

The whole spectrum of life is covered. Against Peter Unsworth, an innkeeper in Croft village is an entry ‘Has a son at Stonyhurst College.’ Against another parishioner occurs the comment ‘Has an idiot boy.’

ST LEWIS’S 1900-1977

The generosity of this small congregation of limited means must be taken for granted. The fabric of the Church was well maintained, and apart from the priest’s stipend and the housekeeper’s salary, the cost of their children’s education was largely the responsibility of the people of the parish.

A look at one month — February 1909, will give us some idea of Parish income. The total Church collections for the month amounted to £3 19s 2d. This was supplemented by the Children of Mary who gave 2s 8d, the Living Rosary Society who gave 6s 11d, the Church Door Box which yielded 1s 3d and a private donation from Miss Welsby of 3s 0d for Altar Candles. A special collection on Ash Wednesday boosted the income by 4s 11½d. This meagre income was supplemented by various endowments which, in 1912 for example came to £70 17s 7d. The annual income from bench seats amounted to £12 9s 0d. and there were various special annual collections such as Charity Sermons which, in 1912 resulted in £13 2s 6d. Many present day parishioners will remember with affection Doris Weir who was caretaker of the school for many years. Her parents farmed the present school field and the income for the Church from the farm land in 1912 was £40.

There were, of course, the diocesan collections. Priests Training Fund £1 10s 4d; Lenten Alms 5s.; Peter Pence 1s; Holy Maces 2s 6d. Hardly princely sums to maintain Church affluence! The total income for 1912 was in fact £239 2s 10d. In the same year the total expenditure was £212 17s. So, at least, Fr Donohue, the priest at the time, was able to stay in the black. There is no record in the accounts of any salary paid to the priest, so presumably, he relied entirely on Mass stipends, donations for other services and his meagre Diocesan salary for his own support.

Church repairs for the year accounted for £3 8s 11d, altar expenses £21 13s 7d, housekeeping £78, light and fuel £14 15s 9d, housekeeper’s salary £20 and Income Tax 8s 6d. Amongst the sundries a new playground cost £23 7s 6d (a special collection for this brought in £14 8s 2d) and two strange items: to the Rev Wadeson of Croft Parish Church 16s 3d for tithes and to Winwick Church Warden’s Bread Rent Charity 11s 2d.

As regards the heating, lighting and cleaning of the school the Managers agreed to accept the sum of £1 9 12s from Lancashire County Council as their share of the expenses for the year.

When Fr McGarvey came to St Lewis’s in 1941 his first Sunday collection was £1 9s 7d, the collection for the Holy Places was £1 7s 11 d, and his Peter Pence collection was £4 2s 1d. The rate of inflation between the first year of Fr Donohue’s ministry, and that of Fr McGarvey in 1941, would hardly stand comparison with 1976!

By 1949, however, the value of money was changing. In that year the income for the parish was £1,559 9s 2d, the expenditure was £1,585 2s 4d.

An interesting final financial note is that the deed for the annual Bread Rent Charity mentioned above, which was paid to Winwick Churchwardens was finally bought by Fr Rattigan shortly after he came to Croft for £17.

EARLY EDUCATION

On the original site bought by Fr Hughes in 1825 there stood a farmhouse and a barn. The house was eventually converted into a school, part of which was set aside to accommodate the schoolmistress. Prior to its use as a school, however, it probably served as a Church until the present building was opened in 1827. Whilst there is no written evidence of this, the very architecture of the building can leave no doubt as to its one-time use. On the opening of the present Church this former farmhouse became the parish school and served that purpose until 1959 when the first three classrooms of the present school were officially opened and blessed by the Archbishop of Liverpool, Archbishop John Heenan.

The present Church was attached to the barn, and seemed in fact to be a large extension of it. Part of the barn was eventually converted into a kitchen, but most of it was demolished by Fr T. McGarvey in the early 1 960’s. What remained was reconstructed by Fr T. Rattigan in 1970 to make provision for the present Parish Committee Room.

The earliest school log book dates back to 1877, and the first recorded report of an inspection by Her Majesty’s Inspector will give a fair idea of the education given. The inspection was carried out on 28th March.

‘This school, which has been in operation some years, now claims grants for the first time. The building is suitable and the interior arrangements are satisfactory, except as regards the Infants who should be provided with a gallery. The zealous teacher has established very good discipline and has succeeded in laying foundations of instruction. The children examined in the standards passed in the ordinary subjects with much credit, the reading and penmanship being very good.

The First standard must master their multiplication table more fully and the Infants must be more carefully attended to. The children passed fairly in the special subjects. The offices should be subdivided with wooden partitions. The wall at the end of the room seems to be damp.

The names of four scholars have been struck off.

4th May 1878

The Parish Priest, Fr J. Parkinson moved with alacrity on the suggestion of a gallery; it was erected on 10th May, but the problem of the ‘offices’ was not so easily solved! Sixty-eight years later, in 1946, Fr T. McGarvey received a letter from the Divisional Education Officer, ‘. . . The County Architect has had an inspection made of the closets at the above named school and recommends that they should be improved. He suggests that as it is impossible to instal water carriage closets, chemical closets should be provided.’

Occasionally, progress marches very slowly!

The report itself however shows clearly the educational emphasis on such things as discipline, tables, penmanship and examinations. A far cry from child-centred education in open-planned schools littered with concepts!

The emphasis on examinations is underlined by the frequent visits by the Rev Manager in his capacity as examiner.

‘The school examined by Manager. Upper standards deficient in reading. Standard I writing not good.’

‘School examined by Manager. Results good. Reading of Standard III not as good as it ought to be.’

‘School examined on Thursday afternoon by Rev Manager, therefore, lessons on time-table altered. Standards I and II passed extremely well. Reading and Dictation of Standard III not so good.’

The school was very structured and every deviation from the set timetable was faithfully recorded in the log-book.

22nd February 1878
‘New books, slates, form and colour for school received on Wednesday. Arithmetic lesson of Standard III quarter of an hour longer than specified on Time Table.’

These were the days of the ‘object lessons’ when either the Juniors or the Infants were gathered together en masse for a specific lesson.

‘Object lesson on sheep given to the Infants.’
‘Standards II and III given object lesson on the cow.’

In 1891 the following syllabus was listed—

English:
Standards IV, V, VI Marmion
Standard Ill Death of Keeldare
Standard II Never Say Fail
Standard I Keep Pushing
Infants Bliss

Object Lessons:
Harvest, Railways, The Seaside, Ships, Gold, Silver, Farm, Colour, The Carpenter, The Blacksmith, The Clock, The Monkey, The Lion, The Giraffe, The Camel, Cotton.

Standards IV, V and VI also studied ‘Lays of Ancient Rome’ and ‘King John’.

Like the policeman, a teachers’ lot was not always a happy one — and indeed her job sometimes rather tenuous.

‘Report by Her Majesty’s Inspector — 1879.

While the order continues to be very good there appears to be a considerable falling off in the attainments, the work of the Infants generally, and the Arithmetic in the standards being very poor, and very little being known in Geography and Grammar and that little being of too mechanical a description. Possibly these deficiencies may be partly due to the want of duly qualified assistance, and the fact that the Infants are taught in the main room. A lesson stand would be useful.

Improvements will be expected next year. Unless HM Inspector is able to report more favourably next year upon the Infants and the arrangements for their instruction the grant under Article 19 ( B1 (A) will be endangered.

The issue of Miss Pye’s Certificate is deferred until a better report on the state of her school is received.’

Miss Pye did not reign long — there was, in fact, a rapid turnover of school teachers in those early years. Very few put down roots in the area and it appears that new appointments took place every two or three years.

Not all newly appointed schoolmistresses found things to their liking. On 4th August 1884, Miss Margaret Anne Vanson was appointed. By 22nd August she was writing:

‘Scholars continue disobedient and most irregular in observance of school hours. Some arriving so late as twenty minutes to ten and even after closing of Register both morning and afternoon. Silence not observed strictly and discipline most imperfect in all standards.

Three or four boys noisy, disobedient and regardless of all school discipline and causing teachers a great deal of trouble. Their names taken down for Rev Manager.’

By 3rd October, however, things must have improved somewhat as Rev Manager ‘most generously has given scholars a very plentiful treat of pears and sweets.’

The Manager mentioned in this extract was Fr Blake who, in fact, had two spells as Parish Priest of Croft, and who was a much loved Priest.

Some four years ago an elderly lady, who has since died, visited school and recounted how the same Fr Blake took her and two other children on horseback every evening to their home near the present Bulls Head in Lawton. He would walk by the horse and ride back after seeing them safely home after school. He obviously showed his kindness on many occasions.

‘Yesterday Rev Manager and friends again visited school and provided scholars a treat in the ‘Swinging Boats’ which had just arrived in Croft.’

‘A half holiday this afternoon given by Rev Manager who most kindly gives scholars a beautiful treat of Cakes, Sweets, etc. Rev Manager also gave out pictures to each of the scholars.’

‘Rev Manager visited school twice. As a treat for scholars brought in two German musicians during the afternoon who danced and sang some songs.’

These were the days when parents paid for their children’s education.

1833:
… School fees not paid up by some children attending school, although their parents have been sent in the amounts owing.’

‘The Guardians paid school fees for the boy Charles Stock up to the end of June.’

POST-WAR EDUCATION

There were very few children attending school and when the weather was bad, numbers of 31, 26 and 23 were recorded as being present.

Miss M. Johnson and Pupils – 9th June 1958

Numbers remained low — in the 60-70 range, until the late 1 950’s. At one time, in fact, during the war, numbers reached such a level that the school was threatened with closure.

In March 1957, at the time of the Suez crisis, when many Egyptian families were evacuated to this country, 109 children were admitted to St Lewis’ School. They were accommodated in the huts on the old Naval Camp site at the end of Lady Lane. Their stay in Croft was of a temporary nature, many of them eventually finding their way to Australia. The camp site itself was demolished shortly afterwards to make way for the Croft housing estate. A more tangible reminder of the days when the school resembled an annexe of the United Nations are the remains of an American transit camp which are still to be seen in Lady Lane. Although the Americans had their own school on the Burtonwood Air Base, several of the staff of the Camp in Lady Lane elected to send their children to St Lewis’.

With true American generosity the staff of the Lady Lane Camp organized an annual Sports Day on the Camp for all the local children, when no expense was spared, the afternoon always ending with a free tea for all. When the Camp was eventually closed, the Officer Commanding offered the swings, and climbing apparatus to the school at a reasonable cost. The offer was accepted with alacrity and the equipment, which was re-erected on the school field has given hours of enjoyment —and remarkably few broken bones — to the children for the past fifteen years.

By the summer of 1958 the Egyptian refugees and most of the Americans had departed and the school, which had been an all-age school with two teachers for over 100 years, was re-organised into a Primary School only, the Senior children initially being sent to Sacred Heart, Leigh, then to St Mary’s, Leigh, and ultimately to St Aelred’s, Newton-le-Willows.

This was a time of rapid growth in the Culcheth area and numbers on roll rose accordingly. The first three classrooms of the present building were erected in 1959, followed by the hall and two further classrooms in 1965 and the last two classrooms in 1970. The foundation stone for the school was laid by Fr McGarvey on 5th October 1958, and the school was officially blessed and opened by Archbishop Heenan on 19th June 1960.

The old building, which had done such valiant work in the education of St Lewis’s children for well over 100 years was finally demolished in 1970.
It is interesting to note that since 1887 there have been no fewer than 25 head teachers of the school.

THE CHURCH

The Church Pre-Vatican II

The Church Post-Vatican II

The Church itself is now a designated historical building and the external features cannot be changed. The major internal changes took place in 1970, when, in accordance with the mind of the Vatican Council certain liturgical alterations took place. The main altar was removed, the present marble altar was installed and the Sanctuary was subsequently remodelled to cater for the change. At the time of going to print plans are afoot to re-bench the Church and make other slight alterations, but the faith which inspired the early priests, parishioners and teachers remains the same.

One of the present parishioners, Mrs Mary Hampson, recalls how her father, Mr Jonathan Gibbons looked after Fr Blake when he was in the terminal stages of cancer. It was the time of the Forty Hours Adoration. Fr Blake, who was, of course, bedridden, asked to be dressed, in order that he could be taken into Church to visit Our Blessed Lord. He insisted on wearing his finest clothes, ‘top hat, frock coat, spats and walking stick,’ and thus attired he was carried into Church where he spent several hours before the Blessed Sacrament. He was then taken back to bed where he died soon afterwards.

If we, in 1977, can emulate such piety and devotion, then there is no doubt that in another 150 years, someone will be sitting down and writing another instalment in the history of the Catholics of Croft.

ST LEWIS’S 1977

What of St Lewis’s in 1977? With a population of 1,000, the building of the Locking Stumps estate at Birchwood will undoubtedly bring about changes.

Three Masses are said each Sunday attended by over 600 people. The Parish Choir, led by Michael Walker, sing at the 10.30 a.m. Mass. Formed in 1970, the present Choir’s first official function was a Confirmation service performed by Bishop Gray. The success of this occasion laid a solid foundation for the present Choir. Initially numbering sixteen and somewhat out of balance with a surplus of sopranos and bass baritones, the present Choir of twenty-six can now boast of a repertoire including the St Cecilia Mass, the John the Baptist Mass, many congregational Masses, a plain chant Mass, a Mass based on the Dvorak New World Symphony, a Folk Mass, Cabena and many others. Motets are great favourites; Panis Angelicus, Inclina ad me, O Sacrum Convivium, Bone Jesu, Ave Maria, the Mozart and Elgar Ave Verum and others.

A pleasing feature of the Choir is the number of children who are regular members and who contribute in their own special way modern hymns such as Amazing Grace and Morning Has Broken.

The original organist Albert Bowers, emigrated to Ireland but his place was most capably filled by the present organist, Margaret Laird.

With the changes in the Church after Vatican II, the Choir had to face the challenge of the modern liturgy without losing the traditional Church music which is so loved by the congregation. The challenge was met. Successfully led by Michael Walker the choir includes Tony Smith, a Halle singer of repute and his wife Peggy, Janet Caulfield, Terry Quick, Margaret Wiszowaty, Lillian Houghton, and Michael Walker’s wife Jean.

 

The Choir

The bass baritone section includes the Deputy Choir Master, Ben Sherwood, Norman Jenkinson, Roy Gunton and George Hulme. The last mentioned, a most popular and conscientious member is, in fact, a non-Catholic.

Amongst the younger members who are still attending school are the three Walker children, Jackie, Christina and Joanna, the three Houghton children Julie, Lesley and Andrea, Sarah and Debbie Gunton, Jane and Julie Laird and Helen Jenkinson. Family traditions run strong in St Lewis’s Choir. Another able contributor is Alex Finn.

For the Choir, the year’s highlights are the Carol Service which precedes the Christmas Midnight Mass, and the Holy Week services including the Vigil Mass at Midnight at Easter.

The Music tradition begins in the Primary School where one of the year’s outstanding events is the Annual Festival of Carols which is held in December. The guests of honour have included Bishop Gray who was present in 1976 and Bishop Augustine Harris.

On 16th December 1976, two hundred children, all in traditional costume, packed the altar, and before a congregation of 250 presented the Christmas story in song and verse. Each child had a part to play but the main soloists were Helen McDonough, Helen Jenkinson, Kathy Latham, Fiona McFarlane, Moira McFarlane, Stella Johnson, Andrea Houghton, Michael Hodgson and Andrew Merrick. A collection for the Mother Teresa Fund, organized by the children resulted in £45.

Another Parish event of note is the Annual Sports Day and Garden Party which is held in summer and which regularly attracts a crowd of well over 400.

School Festival of Carols – December 1975

About fifty years ago Mrs Fairclough and Mrs Goodear founded the Croft branch of the Catholic Women’s League which is affiliated to the Liverpool Archdiocesan Branch.

Still flourishing there are at present 32 members. The Chairman is Mrs Quick, the Treasurer Mrs Wiszowaty and the Secretary is Mrs Stephenson.

Meetings are held on the first Wednesday of each month preceded by Benediction and Holy Communion. Meetings are followed by a talk by a guest speaker or, on occasions by a social event.

Members of the Catholic Women’s League visit patients at Newchurch Hospital, are represented on the Age Concern Committee and help in the canteen at Risley Remand Centre. Money is also raised for various charities.

The school buildings were completed in 1970 and are designed to hold 245 children. The present Headteacher is Mr J. Carus, other members of the Staff are Mrs V. Roche, Mrs M. Carus, Mrs A. Hemingway, Mrs R. Green, Mrs T. Robbins, Mrs E. Johnson and Mrs C. Bridge. The School Managers are Fr Rattigan, Mr J. Gibbons, Mr J. Hampson, Mr Walter Farrington, Mrs D. Donnelly and Mr William Farrington.

Fr Thomas Rattigan was appointed to Croft in August 1969. Born in Dunmore, Galway, Fr Rattigan was educated in Jarlath’s seminary, Tuam and St Peter’s College, Wexford. After ordination in 1936 he moved to St Winifred’s, Bootle where he remained as a curate for 23 years before moving on to St John’s, Wigan. After one year in Wigan he moved to St Vincents, Liverpool as parish priest and then to St Lewis’s, Croft in 1969.

To him and to the Parish of St Lewis’s, may we all say ‘Ad multos annos.’

The Staff
Standing – Mrs R. Green, Mrs. M. Millington (Secretary), Mrs C. Bridge, Mrs E. Johnson.
Seated – Mrs A. Hemingway, Mrs T. Robbins, Mr J. Carus, Mrs V. Roche, Mrs M. Carus