A BRIEF PARISH HISTORY
St Hugh of Lincoln (now St Hugh &
St John )
is a daughter-parish of St Vincent de Paul in Altrincham. In 1929 Canon
’s Parish Priest, bought Timperley
House, a dilapidated Victorian mansion with a useful piece of land near
the junction between
It was here that Fr Peter Burke, the first Parish Priest, lived and
celebrated Mass in a chapel formed by knocking two rooms together.
Bishop Hugh Singleton gave permission for a ‘temporary’ church to be
built, for he was not convinced the fledgling parish would continue to
grow. This building, dedicated in December 1931, lasted 50 years as a
church, and served as the Parish Hall until 2015 when it was demolished
and replaced with a new building. Sadly, Fr.
Burke’s frail health was not improved by the conditions in the damp old
house and he was soon forced to retire. His successor, Fr Thomas Butler, had the presbytery built, a pleasant, typically 1930s house which has
stood the test of time very well.
(formerly mainly market-gardeners’ fields) rapidly became covered with
semi-detached estates and the population grew fast. The parish soon
acquired the first of a succession of curates, enabling a Mass also to be
celebrated once a week in the Church of England Community Rooms in
Fr. Butler began campaigning vigorously (despite opposition from both
Councillors and local people) for a parish school to be built on Timperley
House’s spare land. To help raise funds he had a church hall put up on
the spare ground, for social activities. School plans were temporarily
derailed when new legislation made the land by the church too small for
the purpose. In 1937, however, he was able to buy the land just over the
canal on which St Hugh’s school now stands, though many more years
passed before the school was actually built. He also encouraged the
founding of an SVP Conference – for there was real poverty in the area
Fr Butler died suddenly in January 1952. He was succeeded
by Fr. (later Canon) Joseph Briscoe, who set himself two great objectives:
to win permission for a parish school, and to replace the temporary church
with a permanent, and larger, building. The old church was bursting at the
seams on Sundays.
In 1957 the acquisition of a large house on
meant that the
people could have a priest of their own.
The Parish of St John the Baptist was established, and Fr. Joseph Taggart,
then curate at St Hugh’s, was appointed Parish Priest.
Three years later the new parish had its own
church, designed by Francis Reynolds in traditional style, long and narrow
with a separate baptistry. But the creation of the new parish did not seem to take as
much of the pressure off St Hugh’s Church as had been expected: it was
still packed on Sundays. So, in 1962, Fr. Briscoe acquired the adjacent
house and grounds of Abbottsford Lodge. But plans for a new church again
came to nothing. All available money had been spent, not only on St
John’s Church but on schools as well – Blessed Thomas Holford and St
Ambrose, and at long last on the much-needed St Hugh’s Catholic Primary
School. (After the war, the campaign for a school had begun again, with
the same old opposition. It was only in 1962, thanks to the intervention
of Leslie Lever, a Jewish MP with a great interest in education and an
admiration for St Hugh who had protected the Jews of Lincoln, that the
battle was won.)
In 1974, plans were afoot to build the Racecourse Estate
(now Sale West), and so the parishes of St Hugh of Lincoln and All Saints
in Ashton-on-Mersey agreed to share the cost of another junior school (St
Margaret Ward) on Cherry Lane, the building of which would incorporate a
Mass Centre. No change was made at that time to parish boundaries: the
chapel there was served from St Hugh’s.
It was not until February 1979, shortly after Fr. Michael Dyson had succeeded Canon Briscoe, that the decision was finally taken to
replace St Hugh’s ‘temporary’ church.
Dedicated on 13th December 1981
exactly 50 years after the dedication of the ‘temporary’ building, the
present church is open-plan, easy to maintain, and purpose-built for
post-Vatican II liturgy – in the words of the architect, Anthony Bean
RIBA, ‘a pyramid roof supported on a perfect square’. The old church
was then converted (with a little help from Trafford Council and a great
deal of ingenuity and voluntary work) into a large and busy Parish and
Almost immediately afterwards, in 1983, the St. Margaret
Ward community was established as a parish in its own right, carrying off
a sizeable portion of St. Hugh’s congregation together with a section of
All Saints parish too. But despite the loss of numbers Fr. Dyson’s
successor, Fr. Denis Maher, was a great fundraiser, and the debt on the new
St Hugh’s Church was speedily cleared. In 2000 Fr. Anthony Myers, the
present Parish Priest, secured permission to have the narthex extended and
made into a more useful space, including facilities for baby-changing and
for the disabled.
In September 2008 Fr. Denis Herlihy, Parish Priest at St.
John’s for 27 years, retired.
The shortage of priests meant there was no
one available to replace him, and so the decision was taken to reunite the
Parish of St John the Baptist with its mother parish under the new name of
St Hugh and
The church of St John the Baptist closed after Mass on Trinity Sunday, 7th
June 2009, after serving the parish for 49
permission was given for the community to continue using the ground floor
of the presbytery, and for one of the rooms to be turned into a small
chapel. For the next eighteen months, until November 2010, Mass was
celebrated there once per week on a Thursday and daily Eucharistic
adoration continued, along with the weekly charismatic prayer group, other
devotions and meetings.
following a diocesan review of resources and after consultation with those
involved, the decision was reluctantly taken to close the presbytery too,
with effect from the beginning of Advent 2010. The intention at the time
was to demolish both church and presbytery and sell the site for
redevelopment. The demolition eventually took place in April 2013, and
the site was sold to Churchill's in 2014 for retirement homes. Some of the money realised
was used to replace the Hall at St Hugh's. Demolition of this
building (the former church) began in March 2015, and there is now has a
purpose-built hall on the site.
On a brighter note, the
Living Waters Prayer Group from the former parish of St John's continues to meet in St Hugh of
Church, daily adoration now takes place in
Altrincham, and the former separate SVP conferences have amalgamated and
meet weekly in St Hugh's porch.