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History of Saint Anne's

The old church

One hundred and sixty years ago, the districts known as Old Swan and Stoneycroft were one scattered hamlet. Thanks to the vicinity of the cattlemarket, on market days the local public houses and hotels were crowded with country customers, and the packed bar rooms noisy with strange dialects, as crowds of drovers ate and drank. As the market day ended, and the road cleared of departing cattle, Stanley became once again a very quiet rural village.

In 1830 the Liverpool and Manchester Railway opened and the district developed rapidly. Where St. Anne's Church now stands, was an iron foundry, standing back from the road. Tue Brook, then a clear stream, flowed past the works and provided the water necessary for the foundry. About this time the property was bought by Mr. Thomas Gardner, whose son, of the same name, was in Holy Orders, and married to the daughter of one Samuel Hilton, of Anfield. These two gentlemen, assisted by a grant from the Church Building Society, built the first Church in Stanley. Mr. Gardner (Senior) also built and furnished a house for his son at the east end of what had been the foundry offices, and the remaining land was laid out as a garden to the parsonage.

The Church, consecrated on October 13th 1831, was a plain building of red sandstone, with a low pitched roof, squat tower, consisting of a nave and shallow chancel with round headed windows. In about 1878, additions to the building, originally rectangular, made it more cruciform. Internally, the flat ceiling was supported by iron columns and there was a West Gallery. The pulpit, reading desk and clerk's place were of the old "three decker" type.

Set into the wall on the Prescot Road side of the church yard is one of the water fountains that Charles Pierre Melly built in the 19th century to provide a supply of clean water to the working class of the city. Only 9 of these remain and the 'Friends of Liverpool Monuments Civic Society' are trying to get the fountains restored. More information is available on their website

old church

The Reverend Thomas Gardner resigned in 1880 and named his son, The Reverend Hilton Gardner, as his successor, it being provided that for a period of fifty years from the Consecration the right of Presentation should remain with the Founder's family.

The present church

On Saturday, September 27th, 1890, the new church of St. Anne, Stanley, built by Mr. Thomas Fenwick Harrison in memory of his father, was consecrated by Bishop Ryle. The church was designed by Aldridge & Deacon and is early English in character, of the style prevalent in this country between the years 1200-1250. It is of excellent proportions and beautiful design. The exterior is of Woolton, the interior of Runcorn stone. The stone pulpit, beautifully carved, was the gift of one of Mr. Harrison's daughters, the East Window the gift of his son. The East Window in the Lady Capel was the gift of another daughter, and the font of his grandchildren.

Later, Mr. Fenwick Harrison purchased the garden of the old Parsonage, and other land to the east of the churchyard; built the Verger's Lodge at the main gates, and enclosed the added portion, in order to preserve the amenities of the church in perpetuity. When the enlargement of the churchyard was made, the old Parsonage was pulled down, together with the houses at the Church gates. The present Vicarage, at 8 Derwent Square, was purchased in 1891 from money which had been raised by parishioners to build the new church, before Mr. Fenwick Harrison's generous gift.

In 1900, at a special Vestry meeting, it was resolved to raise funds to furnish a side-chapel - on the understanding that no Communion Table be put in. In 1908 Mr Duncan Radcliffe offered to furnish the side chapel as a memorial to his parents. The vestry accepted, but refused the Table, “because many parishioners have great objection to such an innovation.” However, Mr Radcliffe eventually prevailed, because an altar was put in. There were also iron gates at the entrance to the Lady Chapel, copied from the ironwork on a door leading into Durham Cathedral cloisters. This took place at the beginning of the long ministry of Canon W.J. Elsley, who remained at St Anne's until 1934. During his ministry St Anne's School was built, the gift of Mr Fenwick Harrison to the parish in 1915.

In the following years, St Anne's was still being improved. In 1914 a faculty was granted for two candlesticks on each Altar, a Litany desk in the centre aisle, and white marble facings on the chancel steps. In 1914 Mr Fenwick Harrison presented an organ, as a memorial to the patriotism of those who voluntarily offered themselves for service in the Great War. A memorial screen was erected, on which are entered the names of those who died during the conflict. Anthony Hogan has set up a website with information about the men listed on the memorial.

church in 1915
The church in 1915

The Parochial Church Council replaced the Vestry and Sidesmen as the governing body of the Church in 1917. The new Council included women for the first time. In 1919 the practice of rented pews and reserved seats was finally abolished, and the church was free and open to all to sit wherever they chose. In 1925 a faculty was obtained to replace the old gas pendants with electric light. By this time the staff numbered five: Canon Elsley, the Vicar, two curates and two Deaconess Sisters.

Canon Elsley was succeeded in 1934 by the Reverend J.M. Buckmaster, who remained at St Anne's during the Second World War. On Sunday 3 September, 1939, two hundred people attended Evensong at St Anne's. Work in the parish necessarily slowed down. The Sisters had gone, so had the curates. During the blackout Evensong was at 3pm. The church was damaged very little, although it suffered from neglect as no repairs could be done throughout the war.

In 1945 the Reverend Trevor Charnley was instituted as the sixth Vicar of St Anne's Church. His was the task of repairing and restoring a church and congregation tired and worn by the years of war. Organisations had lapsed during the war years, and he saw each leader and discussed problems, before getting the organisations back on their feet again. He also made contact with the young men of the parish as they returned from the Forces, often disillusioned, and encouraged them to return and revitalise the life of the Church. His main task was to raise funds for much needed repairs, and much of this was done through Church Aid ~ an envelope scheme, and Gift Days, when the Vicar would sit outside the church to receive gifts from parishioners.

Mr Charnley was succeeded by the Reverend Owen Hughes in 1953. At this time, tables were bought to begin a Whist Drive. It must have been a popular pastime, as three years later the profits were used to buy new robes for the choir. A Hall Building Fund was set up and enquires were made about building a hall beside the Church. Because of the cemeteries, this proved to be impracticable.

In 1957 the Reverend Norman Ponsford was instituted as Vicar. He had not been here long when at 3.15am on 5 September, 1957, the Fire Brigade were called to the Church by a resident from Cheadle Ave. The Vicar's Vestry was badly burned, but the fire was contained. At this stage new cabinets were made for the vestry, greatly improving the appearance of the room.

In 1965 the Reverend Keith Lightoot was instituted. A Parish Communion was begun each Sunday, which has been the main act of worship on Sundays at St Anne's since that time. The congregation were invited to remain afterwards for tea, and this brought to the fore the need for a Church Hall. It was decided to build within the Church at the West end, at the cost of £5000, and thus St Anne's became the first church in the diocese of Liverpool to develop its building for dual purpose use. In 1967 permission was given to reserve the Blessed Sacrament, and an Aumbrey was made in the south wall of the Lady Chapel sanctuary.

A major alteration was made to the Lady Chapel in 1972. The chapel was enclosed and new chairs were purchased. The wrought iron gates were removed and replaced with glass panelled doors in memory of George Johnson, a beloved Lay Reader in the parish from 1958 to 1972. At about this time, the front churchyard was cleared, creating a pleasant open space in front of the Church.

In 1973, the Parish Communion was televised by BBC one Sunday. The neighbouring church of St Mark, Edge Lane was closed, and the Altar from St Mark's was placed in the Lady Chapel. The earlier Altar was placed in front of the Memorial Screen, and became known as the All Souls Altar.

In 1975, the Reverend Alan Taylor was instituted as the tenth Vicar of the parish. The ongoing work of the church continued with repainting the hall and vestries and insulation of the Church roof. Part of the church land had been sold to Merseyside Improved Housing, and in 1977, after many years of negotiations, building started on a scheme for sheltered accommodation , which comprised twenty six flats. St Anne's Court was opened on St Anne's Day, 26 July, 1978. During Fr Taylor's ministry, the Eucharist was celebrated every day at St Anne's. This has become an important feature of the parish's spiritual life.

Another group who were welcomed as regular members of the congregation at about this time are the L'Arche Community who have lived and worked in our area for more than twenty years. They have continued to make a distinctive contribution to the life of St Anne's over the years.

In 1984, the Reverend Myles Davies was instituted as the eleventh Vicar of the parish. For most of his time at St Anne's, the Reverend Lena Prince has been an honorary Curate, whose pastoral ministry has been widely appreciated. During the present incumbency, the Lady Chapel has been refurnished, and in 1989 the Church had a relighting scheme in preparation for the centenary the following year.

In 1990 St Anne's celebrated the centenary of the present building with festival services on 27 September and on the following Sunday, in the presence of the Bishop of Liverpool and the Lord Mayor who attended in state. Music was provided by the Philharmonic Brass, and an anthem, Christ is our corner-stone, was specially composed by Noel Rawsthorne. This anthem is now widely sung in churches and cathedrals all over England, and has sold in excess of 23,000 copies. The choral tradition at St Anne's in recent years has become well known and much appreciated, under the leadership of Geoffrey Williams, Organist and Choirmaster since 1987.

In 1999 after five years of careful discussion, the hall was rebuilt to a design by Anthony Grimshaw of Wigan. The new design brings back into view the pillars and window in the baptistery, which has given a new sense of spaciousness to the hall and to the whole Church building.

St Anne's is a strong and vibrant inner city Church community, proud of its traditions and its history, and looking forward to serving the parish and its people for many years to come.

Vicars of Stanley

1831 to 1880 The Reverend Thomas Gardner
1880 to 1886 The Reverend Hilton Gardner
1887 to 1907 The Reverend Walter Scarlin
1908 to 1934 The Reverend William Elsley
1934 to 1945 The Reverend John Buckmaster
1945 to 1953 The Reverend Trevor Charnley
1953 to 1957 The Reverend Owen Hughes
1957 to 1965 The Reverend Norman Ponsford
1965 to 1975 The Reverend Keith Lightfoot
1975 to 1983 The Reverend Alan Taylor
1984 to 2011 The Reverend Myles Davies
2011 to present The Reverend Emma Williams