By Lawrence R. Gregory
There had been plans in place to build a church at Winton since the 1910s, when Annette, the Dowager Lady de Trafford promised to endow a new parish in the village. Her son Sir Humphrey Francis, the 3rd Baronet de Trafford gave more than 2 acres of land for a church, presbytery & school. The condition of the gift was that the new parish be dedicated to St Gilbert in memory of Lady Annette’s youngest son Gilbert who had died aged 21.
Mass had been celebrated in the Holy Cross School at Patricroft since 1909, served by the curates at All Saints, Barton. Bishop Casartelli made his first episcopal visitation to the new Mass centre in 1915 and recorded in his notebook:
“Visited Holy Cross School-Chapel, Patricroft; large school, accommodating c250; better attended than Barton; more central for people; has good collections. Everything has to be removed (altar, benches, etc) every Sunday night for school; very awkward. Went to inspect the very fine piece of land (2 acres, 40 proles) practically given (for £5 down) by De Trafford Trustees for new church, presbytery etc in Winton. Close by railway bridge, on main road (at present some oats and vegetables grown!) it is a splendid plot”.
Fr George Callaway
1st Parish Priest of St Gilbert, Winton 1917-1955
In 1917 the parish of St Gilbert, Winton was canonically erected, and Fr George Callaway, curate at Barton was appointed as the first Parish Priest. Fr Callaway had been born in Bath in 1881 and had been ordained in 1907, the fourth of four brothers who became priests of the Salford Diocese.
Callaway purchased a house on New Lane as a presbytery and moved in among his new flock. At this stage the new parish was named St Gilbert, Winton (temporarily residing at the Holy Cross Schools, Patricroft). In 1919, Dean Newton of St Mary’s, Eccles made a visitation and reported:
“My Lord, I made the diaconal visitation of St Gilbert’s Mission at Winton on Oct 30th 1919. The Insurance premium on the school for the current year had been duly paid. It may be remarked that the accommodation of the school is quite inadequate. The buildings are old – dilapidated. The offices particularly being unsatisfactory. At present the school has to serve as a chapel at the end, though much labour is expended in preparing the rooms for Mass and Benediction. It is hoped that the splendid site of the new church and schools will soon be occupied by more convenient premises of even of a temporary character. At present Standards V, VI and VII of the school have to seek accommodation at All Saints Barton”
Fr Calloway’s first task was to erect a new parish school on the site at Winton. The foundation stone was laid in 1922, and the new school opened in 1923. After this, the old Holy Cross School became a full-time chapel. He then began fundraising to build a church and presbytery alongside the new school. These plans however were never realised, they were interrupted first by World War Two, and then latterly by the 1944 Education Act, which decreed that, the remainder of the school plot would be required for education purposes, partly as outdoor space, and partly for a new Secondary Modern School.
In late 1954, Fr Calloway began negotiations for a new plot of land at Winton. This new site between Worsley Road and Swanage Road, was purchased from Eccles Borough Council in January 1955, and cost £175; two houses on the site fronting Worsley Road were demolished by the council. The site was inexpensive to purchase because it was criss-crossed by the tunnels of two coalmines, Rams Mine and Crombourke Mine, making it highly undesirable as building land. Fr Calloway then engaged the architect Arthur Farebrother to design a brick Romanesque style church,
However he would not live to see these plans that were submitted in September of that year. Fr Callaway died on the 24th February 1955 at the age of 74.
Fr Donatius Burke
2nd Parish Priest of St Gilbert, Winton 1955-1959
1st Parish Priest of St Matthew, Winton 1959-1963
Farebrother’s church was never built, a structural survey commissioned by the diocese in January 1956 found that the ground was too unstable to erect such a large building. In its place a temporary church hall was erected, described by the architect as a “timber prefabricated building by Vic Hallam with reinforced concrete foundations”. St Matthew’s new church was opened and blessed on the 11th January 1958 by Bishop George Andrew Beck. The church cost £6634, with an additional £4664 being spent on foundations. The following month Stations of the Cross were erected.
In July 1958 work began on building the presbytery. Designed by Wilfrid Thorpe & H. Hurst Smith of Deansgate, Manchester, and built by G & J Seddon at a cost of £13,080, it too was constructed on special raft foundations in an attempt to keep it safe from future subsidence. The house was first occupied in August 1959.
An Independent Parish
St Matthews became an independent parish on the 1st June 1959 and Fr Donatius Burke became the first parish priest, transferring from St Gilbert’s, Winton, he moved into his new presbytery on the 17th August. The first baptism was performed on the 7th June. He recorded that average Mass attendance that first year was 620. In November two additional Sunday Masses were introduced, bringing the number up to four, 8am, 9.15am, 11am, & 8pm. Average Mass attendance continued steadily rising and in 1961 was recorded at 820.
Fr Burke had been born in 1910, he was educated at Oscott and was ordained in 1935, and was the younger brother of Bishop Geoffrey Burke, Auxiliary Bishop of Salford, and sometime Rector of St Bede’s College. He left the parish in October 1963 and died at St Joseph, Heywood in August 1979.
In September 1960, a branch of the Catholic Needlework Guild was established at St Matthew’s with Mrs O’Keefe of 19 Sycamore Road as branch secretary.
It is interesting that in May 1961, the idea of establishing a sister parish at Worsley was being discussed. Also that same year Fr Burke was negotiating to buy an additional plot of land adjoining the presbytery of St Matthew’s, where he hoped to replace the temporary building with a permanent church, he was gazumped however by the Council who acquired it for housing.
Dr Robert Catterall OBE
2nd Parish Priest 1963-1965
The second parish priest at St Matthew’s was Dr Robert Catterall, who served for two years but made no entries in the Parish Log Book. Fr Catterall had been born in 1905, and ordained in June 1929, he had served as a Naval Chaplain, then as parish priest at St Thomas of Canterbury, Heaton (1959-1962), and had been on sick leave for a year prior to coming to Winton. In 1965 he was appointed as parish priest at Our Lady & St Patrick, Walton le Dale, where he remained until taking early retirement in 1968, following this he moved to Balloch, Scotland where he died in 1989.
Fr Thomas Wilson
3rd Parish Priest 1965-1978
The new Parish Priest at St Matthew’s was Fr Tom Wilson, Born in 1919 in Bolton and ordained 1956 at Irlam, Fr Wilson was aged 46 when he arrived at Winton, it was his first parish. He recorded in the Log Book upon his arrival that a debt of £9500 existed on the parish. He was inducted as parish priest on the 20th July 1965 by Dean Baron of St Mary, Eccles. Between 1965-1967, Fr Michael Crosbie was in residence at St Matthew’s as the parish’s only curate, he also served as chaplain to St Patrick’s Secondary Modern School. In 1966 the church exterior was stripped and re-varnished, the interior was also redecorated. The evening Mass ceased in 1967.
In May 1967, Alf Hughes, whose family lived at 7 Catherine Street, Winton and were parishioners at St Matthew’s was ordained to the priesthood at the newly opened Liverpool Cathedral, he celebrated his first Mass at St Matthew’s on the 21st May. In July 1967 the presbytery was decorated inside and outside
A parish Mission was held at St Matthews in April 1969 by the Redemptorist Fathers. In July 1970, the presbytery garage and tool shed were converted into a parish meting room, in October a branch of the UCM was established; The Marian Association, and a Parish Football Team were also set-up that year. In April 1972, the Sanctuary was re-ordered with the altar bought forward so Mass could be celebrated facing the congregation. A branch of the 3rd Order of St Francis was established this year.
The church was redecorated again in 1973, but by that year Mass attendance had dropped to below 600.
In June 1975, Bishop Holland visited St Matthew’s to ordain John Dale to the priesthood, Fr Dale was another old boy of the parish. From February 1977 to April 1978, Deacon Philip Boast served on placement at St Matthew’s.
In February 1978, Fr Wilson was appointed Parish Priest at St Patrick’s, Oldham, where he served until 1994 when he retired to the Little Sisters of the Poor, Longsight, where he died in 1997 following a heart attack.
Fr William Murphy
4th Parish Priest 1978-1981
Fr Murphy took up his appointment as 4th parish priest at St Matthew’s in March 1978, he was inducted by Mgr Egan on the 27th April. This was Fr Murphy’s first appointment as parish priest. Born in Dublin in 1933, he was aged 45 when he came to Winton, he had been ordained in 1959, and prior to the appointment had been curate at St Cuthbert, Withington for four years. Fr Murphy recorded in the Parish Log Book his “concern at the Mass attendance in the parish – down to approximately a third of the parish population”.
In June 1981, work began to convert the far end of the church into a dual-purpose parish centre. In October 1981, Fr Murphy was appointed Parish Priest at St Kentigern, Fallowfield where he served until 1994. He then returned to Ireland to take up work in the Diocese of Killaloe. He retired in April 2008, and died that November.
Fr Thomas Mullin
5th Parish Priest 1981-2006
Fr Tom Mullins, parish priest of St Mary, Blackburn, took up residence as the 5th Parish Priest at St Matthew’s in October 1981; he was inducted by Dean Burns in on the 28th November. The church porch was re-roofed in January 1982, and the church exterior was refurbished in September, with the interior being redecorated in July 1983. A microphone loop system was installed in October 1982.
In November 1984, a conference of the St Vincent de Paul Society was established in the parish with 13 members.
The parish Log Book ceases in December 1991. Fr Mullins retired in 2006 after 25 years as Parish Priest. Following his retirement, St Matthew’s was merged into the parish of the Holy Cross and ceased to be an independent parish.