The need for a bigger building in the 1890's

The population of Handforth remained fairly static at around 700 people between 1841 and 1871, but it then began to grow steadily to over 900 in 1901. Not a huge increase, but it reflected the growing prosperity of Handforth, and its transition from a largely rural community into a more substantial village. This growth was no doubt aided considerably by the opening of the railway in 1842 with a small 'Station Halt' at Handforth, which in later years became a staffed station on the north side of the road, behind The Railway Hotel.

Handforth was not only growing numerically. Several prosperous families moved into the area and built substantial houses, and some existing families built larger and more elaborate houses locally. It would be surprising if this 'gentrification' of Handforth did not provide an impetus for a larger and more elaborate Church in keeping with the perceived growing social status of at least some of its inhabitants.

Another (less worthy?) spur may have been the establishment of other denominational chapels in Handforth. A Methodist Chapel of the 'New Connection' was built in 1850 on land near the present British Legion Club. This was named Kilham Chapel and accommodated 240 people, with a schoolroom underneath for 150 children. In 1872 St Mary's (Wesleyan) Methodist Church was established on land provided by Thomas Lomas next to his home Haslen House (the site now occupied by the Pinewood Hotel). This handsome and fashionable new building would have taken the worldly focus from the older and plainer St Chad's Chapel.

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View of the front of the chapel (M.L.Fletcher) Saint Chad's Chapel of Ease from the corner of Church Road View of the rear of the chapel (M.L.Fletcher)

A pressing problem for Handforth in the 1890's was that space was running out in the graveyard surrounding the Chapel, and an 'Order in Council' made by the Queen at Windsor in February 1896 meant that no burials could take place unless existing vaults were used. A request was made to Mr Louis Symonds (of whom more is mentioned later), to sell a piece of his land which adjoined the Chapel, but this was refused on the grounds that it would not be hygienic to develop the graveyard further towards the centre of the township. This initial attempt at meeting a growing need may have influenced later developments.

There were also wider national pressures. The Victorian age was well underway and new inventions and engineering achievements were exciting the nation. A new sense of civic pride emerged with much of this becoming focused on new buildings, civic, domestic and ecclesiastical. A number of Acts of Parliament encouraged the 'building and promoting the building of churches in populous parishes'.

Whilst it has not been possible to identify the exact impetus that eventually produced the New St Chad's, we know that the old Chapel became well established in the local community, and in December 1877 St Chad's Chapel became the Parish Church in Handforth, and therefore ecclesiastically independent of Cheadle. The Reverend Alfred Watton who held the 'Perpetual Curacy' at the time was appointed the first Vicar. The links with Cheadle were maintained through the Rector of Cheadle becoming the Patron of the Living. This means that even today the Rector of Cheadle plays a significant part in the appointment of new Vicars at St Chad's.

There are a number of references to the old Chapel being too small for the needs of the growing community, although records show that the Chapel was by no means full every week. However on major festivals and celebrations it was probably proving inadequate in size, style, and facilities. Throughout history people have wanted their church buildings to reflect the best they could offer to God, and so it is entirely consistent with the ambitions of Victorian Handforth that a 'new and more suitable and convenient Church' should be built.


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