Marriages – English Martyrs Church 1947 – and 2014

When my parents married in August 1947, it was in a Catholic church known (then) as English Martyrs, in St Georges Road, Wallasey Village. It was not in the present church building, but in a tin shed that dated from 1907. Mum recalls walking up the aisle there and hearing her footsteps echoing. This church was demolished about 15 years ago, and I foolishly failed to photograph it.

Mum was associated with the church for a long time, as was I before I left the Catholic religion. After we moved in 1964, St Peter & Pauls was more often visited. Here’s something about it, from the Diocesan yearbook of 1954:

English Martyrs, Wallasey Village

On Monday August 31st 1953, His Lordship, Bishop Murphy, solemnly blessed the new church of the English Martyrs in St George’s Road, Wallasey Village, and celebrated the first Mass.

For years [since 1907] a temporary building, largely constructed from corrugated iron, has done duty as a church. The Parish itself began to take shape in 1901, when a Mass Centre, supplied by a priest from Ss Peter and Paul’s, New Brighton, was set up in the house at 59 St George’s Road. This house was demolished in September 1951 to enlarge the building site. Under Canon Stanton, the first Parish Priest, Fr William Reade [1908-1910] and Fr Edward Byrne [1910-1925] the small congregation was adequately accommodated. In Canon Fisher’s time [1925-1933] the first steps were taken towards the building of a new church.

Canon McNally [1933-1941] continued with the scheme but was prevented from bringing his plans to fruition by the outbreak of war.

It was left to his successor Fr P J Coughlan to realise the dream of many years, and in September 1951 the work began. The foundation Stone was laid on May 4th 1952 and less than 18 months later the church was completed.

Every credit must be given to the Architect Mr F X Velarde, to the main contractors, Messrs Tysons Ltd for a building in every way worthy of its sacred purpose. On the purely utilitarian side Messrs Crittalls have provided a first class heating system.

The architectural style is reminiscent of an early Roman parish church with its campanile and baptistery separate but adjoining the main body.

The Sanctuary, with its simple altar, reredos of the Last Supper in silvered stone, and hanging Rood is perhaps the feature of the church.

On the outside, the mass of golden brick is relieved by small windows, which at the Sanctuary end are grouped by modelled cast stode mullions.

Francis Xavier Velarde (1909-1962), from Liverpool, would design other churches, notably one in Blackpool (vacant since 1999) and in Hoylake Road, Birkenhead (tinned up about 2007, and still standing empty in 2017). English Martyrs had been planned from the 1920s, and was the first of Velarde’s postwar churches. I recall Canon Coughlan, as he became, from my childhood in the 1960s.

Sadly, I attended a Requiem Mass for Dad, who was not a Catholic, shortly after his death in 1986. The church was then called English Martyrs, but in 2011 was renamed Apostles and Martyrs, after a long and successful campaign to prevent its closure. Ironically, All Saints, the Protestant church in which his actual funeral was held was later shared with the Roman Catholic church, but has itself closed, although it continues as a place of Christian worship.

On a much happier note, in July 2014 I returned to Apostles and Martyrs, for the wedding of Dad’s grand-daughter. He would have been very pleased to be there, and approved of his new grandson-in-law, who is also from Wallasey.

My cousin Jackie (and Dad’s niece) kindly commented: I remember giving your Mother a white satin horseshoe as she left the church (I was 4½ at the time). I was also at Joanna’s wedding which was beautiful.

An odd later postscript comes from January 2017. As part of her birthday celebrations, I took Mum to mass at St Joseph’s Church in Upton. To our astonishment, part of the service was taken by a retired priest, Canon Marmion, who will be 92 this year. I recalled Father Marmion (as he then was) from English Martyrs in the 1960s.

Thursday, May 29, 2008; additions and amendments 26 July 2014, October 2015 and January 2017

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