Emmanuel Church and Bairstow Memorial Chapel

Churches and Chapels by Atticus (Contents)

Preston has been developing itself for several years northwards. There was a period, and not very long since, either, when nearly the whole of the land in that direction was a mere waste – a chaos of little hills and large holes, relieved with clay cuttings, modified with loads of rubbish, and adorned with innumerable stones – a barren, starved-out sort of town common, where persecuted asses found an elysium amid thistles, where neglected ducks held high revel in small worn-out patches of water, and upon which rambling operatives aired their terriers, smoked in gossiping coteries, and indulged in the luxuries of jumping, and running and tumbling; but much of this land has been “reclaimed;” many dwellings have been erected upon it; and in the heart of it stands Emmanuel Church – a building which ought to have been opened some time since, which might have been opened 90 days ago if two or three lawyers had exerted themselves with moderate energy in the conveyancing business, and which it is expected will be consecrated and got ready for the spiritual edification of the neighbourhood in a few weeks.

The locality assigned to Emmanuel Church used to form part of St. Peter’s district; but that church having enough on its hands nearer home, it was decided to slice off a portion of its area, and start a new auxiliary “mission” northwards. Thomas Tomlinson, Esq., of London, gave land at the end of Brook-street sufficient for a new church and schools; subscriptions for the erection of the necessary buildings were afterwards solicited; sums of money were promised; but enough could not be obtained to carry out the entire work, so the building committee, acting upon the sagacious plan that it is easier at any time to lift a pound than a ton, concluded to make a start by constructing schools. This was in 1865. After the lapse of a short time the schools were completed, and up to the present (Dec. 1869) worship has been held in them. The schools are strong and good; the principal room wherein the religious services are held has a tincture of the ecclesiastical element in its interior architecture; but either those who attend it or those who exercise themselves about its precincts are of too active a disposition, for nineteen squares of glass in its windows are cracked, and this rather “panes” one at first sight.

There were about 240 persons, 80 or 90 being children, in the building when we paid our Sunday visit to it. The congregation was of the working class species. At the north-east corner seven or eight singers, somewhat vigorous and expert in their music, were stationed; a female who played a little harmonium was near them; and in one corner, in a small pulpit run up to the wall as tightly as human skill could devise, was a condensed Irish gentleman, whom nobody seemed to know, but who turned out, in the end, to be an Oswaldtwistle minister, who had exchanged pulpits with the regular clergyman. He was a cute, well-educated little party; but awfully uneasy – was never still – moved his head, arms, and body about at the rate of 129 times a minute (we timed him with a good centre-seconds watch), talked much out of the left corner of his mouth; was full of rough vigour and warm blood; would have been a “boy” with a shillelagh; and yet he got along with his work excellently. We couldn’t help smiling when we saw, during the preliminary portion of the service, another surpliced gentleman join him. Just when the lessons came on a stout, plump-featured, and most fashionably-whiskered young man stepped into the pulpit, crushed the little Oswaldtwistle party into the north-eastern Corner of it, and poured out for about twenty minutes a sharp, monotonous volume of sacred verses.

The scene underwent further development when, during the singing, both stood up side by side. The pulpit, would hardly hold them; but they stuck well to its inner sides, cast tranquil fraternal glances at each other, once threw a Corsican brother affection into the scene, looked now and then fierce, as if feeling that each had as much right to the pulpit as the other, and finally marched off with a twinly love beaming in their eyes, to the vestry adjoining, from which in a few minutes the Oswaldtwistle minister emerged in a black gown, and entered the pulpit, whilst his companion followed, in a buttoned-up black coat, to the front of the communion rails, where he took a seat and became very quiet. The sermon was briskly condemnatory of unbelief, for ten minutes, then got immensely pungent as to Popery, and ended in a coloured star-shower concerning the excellence of “the good old Church of England.” We couldn’t help admiring the preacher’s eloquence; and a man who sat near us, and at the finish said, “Who is that fellow?” – a rather vulgar kind of query – seemed to be fairly delighted with him.

The Church, in which the services will soon be held, stands close to the school. It is a curious piebald-looking building; is made of brick with intervening stone bands and facings; and is something unique in this part of the country. In the south of England – particularly in the metropolitan districts – such like buildings are not uncommon; but hereabouts architecture of the Emmanuel Church type seems odd. The edifice, although quaint, and rather poor-looking at first sight, owing to its bricky complexion, will bear close examination; indeed, the more you look at it and the better you become reconciled to its proportions. In general contour it is symmetrical and strong; in detail it is neat and compact; and, whilst the colour of it may indicate some singularity, and strike you as being eccentrically variegated, there is nothing in any sense improper about the character of its materials, and as time goes on, and familiarity with them is increased, they will cease to look whimsical and appear just as good as anything else. The general architecture of the building is of the early English type; the design, &c., being furnished by Messrs. Myres, Veevers, and Myres, of Preston.

At the west end there is a rather prettily shaped tower, surmounted at each corner with a strong stone pinnacle; the extreme height being 100 feet. A few yards above the centre of the tower there are angular projections – stretched-out, dreadful-looking figures, a cross between vampires and hyenas – and you feel glad that they are only made of stone, and in the next place that they are a good way off. The man who carved them must have tightened up his courage to the sticking point many a time during the completion of these uniquely-unbeautiful figures. The principal entrance to the church is at the western end, where there is a pretty gabled and balconied porchway, elaborated with carvings, some of which are being executed at the expense of patriotic youths, who pay for a yard or two each, as they are in the humour, and expect an apotheosis afterwards. The doors at this end open into an inner vestibule, which is well screened from the main building, and may be used for class purposes, the rendezvousing of christening parties, or the halting plate of sinners, who go late to church, and hesitate until they get desperate or highly virtuous before proceeding further. In a corner at the north-west there is a beautiful baptismal font, made of Caen stone, ornamented with emblematic figures and monograms, and supported by four small columns of Leeds stone.

The font is covered up by a piece of strong calico, in the shape of a huge night-cap, and the arrangement suits it, for however closely covered down the cap may be, no grumbling of any sort is ever heard. The building is cruciform in shape, and has a strong, yet tastefully-finished, galleried transept, approached by collateral doers, which also give ingress to the church on the ground floor. The entrances are so arranged that everything in the shape of that most objectionable of all things – a draught – is obviated. It is expected that sufficient wind will be brought to bear upon the question by the organ blower, without admitting additional currents through the doors. The church has a solid, substantial, well-finished interior, and the only fault which can be found with it is, that it is rather low. If the roof could be lifted a yard or so higher, the general effect would be wonderfully improved; but it would be very difficult to do this now; and we suppose the altitude, which was regulated by the funds in hand during the process of building, will have to remain as at present. But the lowness of the roof may have some compensating advantages. If higher the church might have been colder, and its sounding properties, which are good, might have been interfered with.

At present the space is condensed, and this tends to concentrate both warmth, and what acoustical gentlemen term, reverberation. The roof is strongly filled in with diagonally laid, dark-stained timber, is open and semi-circular, but looks rather heavy and gloomy. There are no huge ungainly pillars in the body of the building; an easy, capacious freedom prevails in it; seeing is not a difficult business; the first sensation which increases as you remain in the church, is calmly pleasurable and satisfactory. There is nothing flimsey, nor specious, nor whimsical in the place; evenness and harmony of proportion; simplicity and solidity of style, strength and straightforwardness of workmanship, strike you as its characteristics. The pulpit, which is made of stone, and approached by an internal staircase, adorned on one side with open pillars, is most durable, and handsome in style. Every part of the church can be seen from it; and several parsons might be accommodated in it and the balcony immediately adjoining. The reading desk is of carved oak, and, although rather small, has a tasteful and substantial appearance. T. Tomlinson, Esq., who gave the font, presented both the pulpit and the desk, and has likewise given the ceremonial books. The lectern – strong, ornamental, and weighty – is the gift of M. Myres, Esq.

The chancel is tolerably lofty and cheerful-looking. Good windows are inserted in it; but the main one is inferior in design to those in the transept, and that at the western end. Passages of scripture are painted round the arches of the chancel and transept; the expense thereof having been defrayed by Mr. Park, decorator, and Mr. Veevers, of the firm of Myres, Veevers, and Myres. There is a neat dado round the church, which was made at the expense of Mr. J. J. Myres. The seats in the church are most conveniently arranged. They are well fit up, have good sloped backs, and are so constructed as to accommodate either large or small families in separate sections. Emmanuel Church, the foundation-stone of which was laid on the 18th of April, 1868, by Sir T. G. Fermor-Hesketh, M.P., has cost, in round figures, £6,000. It will accommodate 1,000 people, and all the seats, except 359, are free. The church, considering its capacity and general finish, is thought to be one of the cheapest buildings for miles round. Some time, when the building fund has been replenished, a parsonage house will be erected at the eastern end of the church.

The schools which adjoin are attended, during week days, by upwards of 220 scholars; and on Sundays the attendance, including the various classes, with their teachers, &c., will be about 450. There is a “Conservative Constitutional Association” in connection with Emmanuel Schools. The members meet in a building which was once a farmhouse, near the church; they have for ever of courage; can discuss the great concerns of the empire with ease and eloquence; are prepared at any time to administer remedies for all the grievances of the five divisions of the human race, as classified by Blumenbach; and would be willing to sit daily, from ten till four, on the highest peak of Olympus, and direct the affairs of the universe. The minister of the church is the Rev. E. Sloane Murdoch; and we dare say if the Cuilmenn of Erin, or the Book of the Uachongbhail, or the Cin Droma Snechta, or the Saltair of Cashel could have been consulted, his ancestors would have been found named therein. Mr. Murdoch is a young man, hails from Derry, possesses a strong constitution, has small, sharp eyes, and a very round head; has remarkably smooth hair, brushed close to the bone, and well parted; and is of a determined, active disposition. Following the example of many other parsons, he likes a closely-buttoned coat and a walking stick. He is sharp, quick in resenting aggressions, would soon have his native blood stirred, is tempted to be a little imperious, considers that he is a power in the district, has much endurance, is systematical in thought, wary in expression, hesitates and flutters a little in some of his sentences, has a strong Hibernian brogue, but is precise with it; throws more recollection than original thought into his utterances, visits his district well, is a fair scholar, is dry and prosaic until warmed up, can feel more than he can express, has little rhetorical display, seems as if he would like to shake himself when at a white heat, gets £195 a year – £135 from Emmanuel Church, and £60 for his services at the workhouse – and would not find any fault whatever if the sum were raised to £300.

Mr. Murdoch was originally ordained curate of a parish in the diocese of Kilmore, the father-in-law of the present incumbent of St. Peter’s, Preston, being bishop thereof at the time; he stayed in the parish about a year; then went into the diocese of Derry, taking a curacy near Coleraine, which he held for three years; got a degree at Trinity College, Dublin, in 1858; was then ordained by the late Bishop of Killaloe; came to St. Peter’s, Preston, as curate, in the spring of 1863; stayed there upwards of three years; and was then agreeably translated to Emmanuel Church. Mr. Murdoch is a very useful minister in the district, has striven much to illumine the sinners thereof, is bringing them now to a very fair state of enlightenment, and may in time get the whole district into a bright state of sacred combustion.

At the bottom of Fishergate Hill, in Bird-street, there is a small, clean-looking, pleasantly-formed building which, since the 14th of October 1869, has been used as a chapel of ease for Christ church. It cost £1000, was built conjointly by Mr. R. Newsham, Mr. J. F. Higgins, and Mr. W. B. Roper in memory of the late J. Bairstow, Esq., who left each of them several thousands; will accommodate about 240 persons; is tolerably well attended; and is one of the tidiest little places of worship we have seen. No effort at architectural display has been made in its construction. It has a brick exterior, has a comely little porch at the west end, is surmounted in the centre by a turret, has several yards of iron railing bending in various directions near the front, and will require considerable protection, if its general health has to be preserved. None of the windows have yet been broken, but we dare say they will be by and by, for the neighbourhood possesses some excellent stone-throwers; the Ribble has not yet flowed into it, but it may pay one of its peculiar visits some day, for in this quarter it is no respecter of buildings, whether they be chapels or public houses. The edifice has a light, simple, unassuming interior. Chairs seem to constitute the principal articles of furniture. There are 232 for the congregation, and 232 little red buffets as well, 11 for the choir, one for the organ blower, and two for the parson. At the top of each chair back there is a thick piece of wood on which is plastered a printed paper, requesting the worshippers to kneel during prayers, and to join in the responses. The paper also makes a quiet allusion to offertory business, the defraying of expenses, and the augmentation of the curate’s salary. The chairs are planted down the church in two rows, and they look very singular. The organ at the south east corner is a pretty little instrument. A reading desk on the opposite side, standing upon a small platform, suffices for the pulpit. Behind there is a strip of strong blue-painted canvas bearing a text in gilt letters referring to the Sacrament. Above there is a three-light stained glass window. At the western end, just under the doorway, a marble tablet is fixed; and upon it is an allusion to the virtues of the late J. Bairstow, Esq., and to the gentlemen who erected the building.

The average congregation consists of about 200 middle and working class people. The services are generally conducted by the Rev. J. D. Harrison, curate of Christ Church – a young gentleman who works with considerable vigour, and never sneezes at the offertory contributions, however small they may be. Mr. Harding, of this town, designed the building, which is a homely, kindly-looking little affair – a bashful, tiny, domesticated creature, a nursling amid the matured and ancient, a baby among the Titans, which may some day reach whiskerdom and manhood.