St Margaret's Church, Prestwich

St Margaret's Church, Prestwich

The Parish Church of St Margaret serves the parish of Holyrood in Prestwich, Greater Manchester, England. The Anglican church, in the Diocese of Manchester, was originally opened in 1851, but has been extended several times since. It is particularly well-known in the north of England for its beautiful interior, with fine Arts and crafts wood carvings by Arthur Simpson of Kendal, and late twentieth-century paintings by Graeme Willson of Ilkley. The church's daughter church of St George, Simister, is in the same parish. St Margaret's Church is situated on St Margaret's Road, off Bury Old Road (A665).


The church offers regular worship in the High Anglican style. Saints days and festivals are all observed as appropriate, and the church's worshipping life is centred on the Eucharist. This is a rich heritage cited as one of the parish's major strengths.

The Holy Eucharist is celebrated at 8.00am (said) and 9.45am (choral) on Sundays. Evensong is held at 6.00pm (4.30pm from October to March). The Holy Eucharist is celebrated at 11.15am at St George's Church, Simister. During the week, the Eucharist is celebrated at 10.00am on Wednesdays, 7.30pm on Thursdays and at varying times on holy days. The office of Morning Prayer is said at 8.30am from Tuesday to Saturday in the Vicarage Prayer Room.

As part of a developing focus on Christian spirituality, St Margaret's is a member of the Worldwide Community of Christian Meditation, and regular sessions of Christian Meditation are offered at 4.00pm on Sundays from October to March, and at 5.30pm during the summer.


A large number of organisations are affiliated to St. Margaret's, including a branch of the Mothers' Union, a Ladies' Circle, the Sunday School, uniformed organisations and associations for children, including a branch of the Adventurers, formerly the King's Messengers. Other groups active within the church include the flower arrangers, the Bible Fellowship, the Christian Poetry Group, and the Social Committee which arranges events for both fundraising and fellowship purposes.


Another strength of the Parish Church, noted during the preparation of the parish profile for the Diocese of Manchester in 2006, is its musical heritage.

Although since the foundation there had been a choir at St. Margaret's, not until 1871 did this choir take its seat in the chancel. In 1887, a surpliced choir was introduced and between 1907 and the 1970s this consisted only of men and boys. Under various choirmasters and organists, the choir flourished. Currently there are some 18 members, a significant achievement when one considers the general decline in church choirs. The choir sings at the weekly Sung Eucharist and at choral services on major feasts during the week. Works recently performed include those in English, Latin, French and German, spanning many centuries.

The organ was originally built in 1891, and in 1956 was moved to Prestwich Hospital chapel. The reorganisation of the hospital chaplaincy in the 1980s coincided with the need for a new organ for St. Margaret's, so it was bought, rebuilt and enlarged by Messrs. Nicholson of Great Malvern. It was dedicated in 1987, when the opening recital was played by Dr. Alan Wicks of Canterbury Cathedral.



The church, designed by Manchester architects Travis and Mangnall, was founded in 1849 as a chapel-of-ease to the ancient Prestwich Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin. The population of Prestwich was growing at an unprecedented rate, having risen from 470 in 1714 to 5,152 by 1849. The site was the gift of the II Earl of Wilton. This was the first of many gifts the Earl was to make to the young church over the latter half of the century, and in 1884 the great west window, depicting the Parable of the Good Samaritan was erected by the parishioners to his memory.

The title for the new church was chosen after the original suggestion of St Thomas (the outcome of a desire of those in authority to pay a compliment to Thomas, Earl of Wilton) was rejected, and eventually the name of St Margaret of Antioch, Virgin Martyr was selected. At one time, there had been a chantry in Prestwich Parish Church dedicated to St Margaret the Virgin.

The foundation stone was laid by the Duchess of Cambridge in the presence of many dignitaries on October 3, 1849, following a preliminary service at the Parish Church. Extensive newspaper reports recorded the occasion for posterity.

The church was opened for Divine Service on October 26 1851, and consecrated on March 18 1852.

A new parish

The church grew materially and spiritually over the following years. The church was enlarged in 1863 and 1871.

In 1875, an important development occurred when the parishioners affiliated to St Margaret's, substantial in number, presented a petition to the Bishop to request that the church be licensed for marriages. The license for Holy Matrimony was granted.

In 1884 a new organ was added, and the organ chamber enlarged to accommodate it. At the same time a new porch was built.

1885 was outstanding in the church's history, for in that year St. Margaret's achieved the dignity of a separate parish, under an Order of Council issued by Queen Victoria on May 19. The Curate-in-Charge, the Revd. Stanley Swinburne, was inducted and installed as the first Vicar.

In 1888, another vestry was added, this being for the use of the choir. In 1899, the church finally achieved its current size with a significant extension in commemoration of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee.

In the same year, Mr. Benjamin Carver, another great benefactor of the church and its first Vicar's Warden, presented the church with the plot of land lying between it and Bury Old Road to the west, which he later opened as the St Margaret's Church Gardens. A memorial cross now stands in the gardens to bear testimony to his generosity.

Arthur Simpson

In 1899 Edward Holt, of the Holt family of brewers, began the process of enriching St Margaret's with beautiful carved oak work by the Kendal craftsman, Arthur Simpson, with a gift of new choir stalls designed by Dan Gibson. Over the following 21 years, the church was enhanced with a new High Altar, reredos, panelling, bishop's throne, rood screen, war memorial and other items. The legacy of this fine Arts and Crafts work, believed to be the best example of Simpson's ecclesiastical work, is a superb liturgical setting.

Growth and change

Further burial space was acquired in 1909, when land on the opposite side of St Margaret's Road from the church was purchased from the Rector of Prestwich and consecrated. It is now known as the New Churchyard. This was necessary due to the increase in population; in 1900 the population of Prestwich was 12,839.

In 1910, the Church House was built opposite the church, and it was dedicated by the Rector of Prestwich and opened by Mr. Carver on November 12. It was extended in the 1950s, and the interior was significantly altered in 2005. It continues to be used for parochial purposes.

t George's Church

In order to care better for people at the Simister end of the parish, a new church was built in 1915 on a site given by the V Earl of Wilton in Nutt Lane, Simister. Built as a chapel-of-ease to St Margaret's and dedicated to St George the Martyr, it has the distinction of being the only church in the Diocese of Manchester begun and completed during the Great War, and has altered little over 90 years.

Altering the worship

In March 1932, the Revd. T. R. Musgrave was inducted as fourth Vicar of St Margaret's. He significantly altered the style of worship at St Margaret's, commencing the Sung Eucharist on Sundays early in his tenure, introducing the Christmas Eve Midnight Mass in 1933, and offering daily celebrations of Holy Communion. 1932 saw the creation of the Children's Corner in the south aisle, which has since been removed. In Advent 1936, a second Altar for use at the daily services was erected in the north aisle, and furnished by the gifts of church organisations and individuals. The Chapel was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The post-War years

In 1951 St Margaret's celebrated its centenary with a year of festivities and special observances. In 1960 the south-west porch, built in 1899, was converted into a columbarium for the interment of the cremated remains of the Departed. Since that time, a Garden of Remembrance has been added to the Churchyard. In the 1960s, the changing liturgical environment in the wake of the Second Vatican Council and Liturgical Movement within the Church of England prompted alterations in the church's worshipping life, such as the combination of the Sung Eucharist and Sung Matins on Sunday mornings.

In the late 1960s, provision for the young people of the parish was substantially improved by the building of a new Youth Centre and a Scout and Guide Headquarters. In 2005, these were replaced by a two-storey Youth and Community Centre on the same site.

"St Margaret's Reborn"

In February 1985 the church was damaged by arson, when the 1884 Foster and Andrews organ, the Lady Chapel and a number of other fittings were completely destroyed. A huge restoration project was launched which included the complete renewal of even those parts of the building which had not been directly affected by the fire. At the same time, changes in liturgical worship made it convenient to move the High Altar from the east end to a new bay in the Chancel, and remove the old chancel screen to the west end of the church, where it lent greater dignity to a new baptistery area, created in a more central location with a new marble font at its centre. During the eighteen months during which the church was completely out of action, the congregation used the Church House for worship. The church was rehallowed by Bishop Stanley Booth-Clibborn on September 8 1986.

The Vicar at the time, the Reverend Martin Ashworth, described the restoration and re-ordering as symbolising "St Margaret's Reborn". In the years since the fire, the church has indeed experienced a revitalisation of its priorities, its work and its mission, and as a result has since 2004 begun to experience noticeable growth in worshippers and members.

In autumn 2007, the church announced its intention to observe 2008 as "The Year of the King's Message", a year with a particular missionary focus inspired by the Golden Jubilee of the church's group for young people, the "Adventurers", formerly called the "King's Messengers".

Vicars of St Margaret's Prestwich

Prior to 1885, the church was cared for a number of Curates-in-Charge, the last of whom, appointed in 1871, became the first Vicar upon the creation of the parish.

:1885 — 1892 The Revd. Stanley Swinburne:1892 — 1926 The Revd. Joseph Herbert Kidson:1927 — 1932 The Revd. George Stephen Osborn:1932 — 1939 The Revd. Thomas Randolph Musgrave:1939 — 1959 The Revd. Cecil Rhodes Ball:1960 — 1982 The Revd. Canon David Nigel Astley Clegg:1983 — 2006 The Revd. Martin Ashworth:2007 — The Revd. Deborah A. Plummer (Priest-in-Charge)

The seventh Vicar, the Revd. Martin Ashworth, retired on July 31, 2006. In September, 2006 the Bishop of Manchester suspended the living of the parish until 2011, which will allow potential pastoral reorganisation. On December 3, 2006 it was announced that the Revd. Deborah Plummer, then Associate Vicar and Lecturer of Bolton Parish Church, had been appointed Priest-in-Charge, and she was licensed to the Cure on July 9, 2007. In September, 2007 the Revd. Jonathan Poston joined the parish clergy as the first Assistant Priest for nearly ten years.

External links

* [ Official Church website]
* [ "A Church Near You" pages]
* [ The Diocese of Manchester]

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