St Chrysostom’s People: Bishop James Fraser

On October 13th 1877 St Chrysostom’s Church was consecrated by Bishop James Fraser, Bishop of Manchester. In fact for several months before this the church had been in use for worship, under the Bishop’s license, but finally the time came to consecrate the building.

A photograph of Bishop Fraser dating from the period when he consecrated St Chrysostom’s.

James Fraser (1818 – 1885) was born in Gloucestershire and as a young man studied at Lincoln College, Oxford where he was seen as a reclusive student, somewhat shy and immature, yet with strong self discipline.

In early December 1846 he indulged in a fortnight’s hard hunting in Leicestershire, and then on December 18th was ordained and never hunted again! He worked as a parish priest and as an academic and developed a specialism in education. On the strength of this he was offered and accepted the post of Bishop of Manchester, becoming, in 1870 the second Bishop of Manchester. He worked tirelessly and was involved in many of the social issues of the day, he was a popular figure, earning himself the title of ‘the people’s bishop.’

During his fifteen years as bishop 99 new churches were consecrated, 20 churches were rebuilt, 109 new district parishes were created, and the whole fabric of diocesan machinery in Manchester —conferences, Board of Education, and building society—was created and brought to good working order.

From the Manchester Courier 15th October 1877

St Chrysostom’s was one of the churches Bishop Fraser consecrated. On the Saturday morning of the consecration a large gathering assembled at the church and an impressive ceremony was held. The Bishop used the opportunity to deliver a widely reported sermon on the subject of ‘Christian Tolerance.’ He chose as his text 1 Corinthians 10. 32-33:  Give no offence to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, so that they may be saved.

Tolerance and service were to be, and remain, key themes in the life and witness of St Chrysostom’s Church.

The Fraser memorial windows in St Chrysostom’s Church

The Bishop made a great impression on the congregation, and his inspiration was remembered at St Chrysostom’s. Bishop Fraser died in 1885 but twenty years later (and two bishops on) stained glass windows in memory of Bishop Fraser were put into St Chrysostom’s in the centre of the apse above the high altar.

At the ceremony of laying the foundation stone in September 1874 Bishop Fraser had emphasised his wish that there be no social distinctions in churches, and hoped that at St Chrysostom’s all who came, whoever they were, would be regarded as equal.

On the consecration day, three years later, he concluded his sermon,  ‘by urging his hearers to cultivate a spirit of toleration and large hearted charity and to maintain good works.’

This is the third in a series of blog posts about people connected with our church which we are posting in conjunction with a book we are publishing: St Chrysostom’s People telling of some of the people who, through the church’s 140 or so years, have had a part in making St Chrysostom’s what it is today. Here on our church blog we are adding a few more people to those of the book.

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St Chrysostom’s People: Constance Littlewood

Windows in the Anson Chapel given by Constance Pershouse Hind

Six of the beautiful stained glass windows in St Chrysostom’s Church were given by one woman benefactor. One set of three, showing Mary, Simeon and Gabriel are in the South Aisle, and the second set are in the Anson Chapel and depict the Baptism of the Lord, the Transfiguration and the Garden of Gethsemane.

Conny (2nd from left) and her siblings

Constance Littlewood was born in 1871 the third child of William and Jane (Jenny) Littlewood of Addison Terrace (now part of Daisy Bank Road). William was a noted Manchester architect and the family lived in Addison Terrace at the end of the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth century. They were regular worshippers at St Chrysostom’s Church.

On 2nd June 1902 Constance married George Harry Bradney Pershouse at St Chrysostom’s Church. He is described as a ‘gentleman’ of Stafford House, (no longer standing) in Daisy Bank Road – he was 27 years older than Constance. He died ten years later and Constance became a very wealthy widow.

Shortly after her husbands death she employed the well known Manchester auctioneers Artingstall and Hind to sell of some of George’s possessions including his noted library of thousands of books. In 1914 she married again, to Ralph Hind, one of the owners of the auctioneers’ business. The couple lived in Stafford House and also in a house in Southport where she died in 1943.

The set of three windows in the Anson Chapel were given in memory of her first husband, and the set depicting Mary, Simeon and Gabriel were given in memory of her parents. A wooden plaque beneath the south aisle windows commemorates Constance. She was a generous benefactor to the Church.

Windows in the South Aisle, the gift of Constance Pershouse Hind.

The beautiful stained glass windows of St Chrysostom’s Church are a noted feature of the Church. They enhance the beauty and worship of our church. Here, Andy Connelly a science teacher, with a particular interest in stained glass, writes:

“I often find peacefulness in a soaring stone church, a cool open place to sit and contemplate. The giant trunk-like pillars and the gentle play of the light cast through the stained glass create a shaded garden of stone and multicoloured light.

Stained glass windows are never static. In the course of the day they are animated by changing light, their patterns wandering across the floor, inviting your thoughts to wander with them. They were essential to the fabric of ancient churches, illuminating the building and the people within, both literally and spiritually. Images and scenes leaded together into windows shed light on the central drama of Christian salvation. They allowed the light of God into the church.”


This is the second in a series of blog posts about people connected with our church which we are posting in conjunction with a book we are publishing: St Chrysostom’s People telling of some of the people who, through the church’s 140 or so years, have had a part in making St Chrysostom’s what it is today. Here on our church blog we are adding a few more people to those of the book.

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St Chrysostom’s People: Francis Noel Davey

St Chrysostom’s people are wonderfully varied. Throughout its history the church has welcomed, influenced or encouraged a remarkably wide range of people. To celebrate this we are publishing a book St Chrysostom’s People telling of some of the people who, through the church’s 140 or so years, have had a part in making St Chrysostom’s what it is today.

Here on our church blog we are adding a few more people to those of the book.

St Chrysostom’s has always been in the Catholic tradition of the Church of England, though how this has been expressed has varied. The Mass or Eucharist has ever been the central act of worship, dignified worship with good music and an emphasis on pastoral care and prayer, have been hallmarks of church life and witness. Thoughtful preaching and a good feeling of community and belonging have been at the heart of church life too.

Since its foundation St Chrysostom’s attracted curates and in particular in the first 30 years of the 20th century curates came who particularly chose St Chrysostom’s for their first work before moving away and on to other work.

Francis Noel Davey was born on Christmas Day 1904 – hence his second name, by which he was always known. As a young man he was influenced by Fr Conrad Noel, the ‘red Vicar of Thaxted’ and he would attend Sunday Mass at Thaxted whenever he could. He was inspired by Anglo Catholic socialism, and his wife, Grizelle was the daughter of one of its great prophets, Fr Percy Widdrington.

Noel studied Theology at Cambridge and took a first in Theology in 1928. He stayed on and collaborated with Sir Edwyn Hoskyns as co-author of the seminal work The Riddle of the New Testament. In 1929 he was ordained and his first post was as a curate at St Chrysostom’s. Here he preached with ‘maturity and scholarship’ and C H Dodd, Professor of Biblical Criticism at the University, although a Congregationalist, would come and hear him preach. Noel was especially good with children and re-formed the Catechism class, which was 100 strong when he left. He organized outings, conveyed his enthusiasm for cricket and castles, and added much to the liturgy and music of St Chrysostom’s. In manner he was a little awesome and monkish, a tall man often wearing a priest’s cloak. He was revered as well as loved.

He left in 1932 to work at St Deiniol’s Library, Hawarden and regularly returned to St Chrysostom’s to cover when clergy had holidays. In 1937 he returned to Cambridge as a Fellow of Corpus Christi College, moving in 1943 to be the Editorial Secretary of SPCK a church publishing house in London. He stayed there until 1970. In this time he regularly assisted as honorary priest at St Mary’s, Primrose Hill, and St Cyprian, Clarence Gate. He died in 1973.

On Sunday 8th March 1942 Noel preached the University Sermon at Great St Mary’s Cambridge. His mother had died the previous night, but with determination he still preached. The sermon was highly acclaimed by many who saw it as prophetic, but Charles Raven, Professor of Divinity, felt it spoke against his approach. Noel’s University lectureship was not renewed. The following is an extract from the sermon:

Everywhere we are embraced by God’s vehement love in Christ. This is his persistent attitude towards us; in creating us, in providing for us, in lavishing his spirit upon us. From his love we can never escape. But we can, if we will, fail to perceive his love and so respond to it, if we do not fix our eyes upon its only perfect concrete expression, the life and death and resurrection of Jesus.

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Sleep and angels

Jacob’s dream – detail from a 17th century etching

Angel of God, my guardian dear
to whom God’s love commits me here.
Ever this night be at my side
to light, to guard, to rule and guide. Amen.

My mother taught me this prayer when I was a small boy. A prayer before sleep.  I think about it at times and especially on the Feast of the Guardian Angels (October 2nd).

When I was a little older I encountered Compline, night prayer, recited peacefully in Lent with a small group of people in our village church. Close to the beginning the priest read:

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5.8)

Close to sleep, then, I heard of angels and demons nearby!

As we prepare to sleep, as we sleep, we move to a different place, a place of images, and images which are divided – good and bad images, nightmares and sweet dreams. In sleep we surrender ourselves to be in this place, open to dreams and images in the mind and soul. A place sometimes of fear, sometimes of serenity. A place sometimes of awe, sometimes of  comfort.

Old woman praying (detail) Matthias Stom 17th cent.

Although we are vulnerable as we sleep, we are not totally at the mercy of the ups and downs of our minds and the images. The great theologian Karl Rahner writes: “The correct, calm and recollected signing of oneself with the Sign of the Cross, the simple gesture of prayer, the words of prayer  … all these … ought to be characteristic precisely of night prayer, if it is to become an exorcism and consecration of that kingdom into whose power man surrenders himself in sleep.”

Calmly praying before sleep, Rahner suggests, sanctifies the place we enter in sleep. My mother’s simple prayer, or of the prayer of the Church at Compline, perhaps speak then to deep cosmic and spiritual realities.

So then, these traditional prayers encourage us to think of how we sleep, and consider how we prepare ourselves to enter through sleep a new place, a kingdom, of mystery and wonder.

It is in vain that you rise up early
   and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
   for he gives sleep to his beloved. (Psalm 127, 2)

Visit, we beseech Thee, O Lord, this dwelling, and drive far from it all snares of the enemy; let Thy holy Angels dwell herein, to preserve us in peace; and let Thy blessing be upon us forever. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.  (Traditional prayer used at Compline).

Praised are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who brings sleep to my eyes, slumber to my eyelids. May it be Your will, Lord my God and God of my ancestors, that I lie down in peace and that I arise in peace. Let my sleep be undisturbed by troubling thoughts, bad dreams, and wicked schemes… (From the Jewish Bedtime Shema)

Fr Ian

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Come ye thankful people, come

Harvest Festival at St Chrysostom’s Church usually begins with the traditional Harvest hymn Come, ye thankful people, come. At Harvest we are thankful for the fruits of the earth, and for those who work to produce the fruit, and this hymn encourages us all to ‘raise the song’ of thanksgiving.

Henry Alford, the hymn’s author, was born to a family which for five successive generations had given clergy to the Church of England. His father was a priest in Wiltshire. Henry studied at Cambridge and in 1835 became Vicar of the rural parish of Wymeswold in Leicestershire. In that rural setting in 1844 he published his Psalms and Hymns in which comes the hymn After Harvest beginning Come, ye thankful people, come.

The hymn was taken and used as a  harvest hymn, though hymn book editors altered the words , against the author’s wishes. Alford became Dean of Canterbury in 1857 and in 1865 published a revised version of After Harvest in his Poetical Works. It is this version,  (in Alford’s unaltered words) found in the New English Hymnal, which we sing at St Chrysostom’s.

Alford’s hymn encourages us to bring the celebration into Church. ‘Come to God’s own temple come, Raise the song of harvest home.’ At the same time, the parish priest invites his people to look to the Bible in their thanksgiving. The parable of the wheat and the tares (Matthew 13. 24-30) is central to the hymn – ‘Wheat and tares together sown, Unto joy or sorrow grown.’ And also Alford points us to the parable of the sower ‘First the blade, and then the ear, Then the full corn shall appear’ quotes Mark 4.28.

All through the hymn Alford invites us to compare the Harvest to our lives. It is, in a sense, a parable. We are seeds, which grow, we are gathered in by God, we pray that we may abide in God’s harvest. And our hope is that we will sing at the final times, ‘Raise the glorious harvest home!

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British Home Children – migrant children

Concerns are expressed today at the migration of children, many unaccompanied, in our world.  This is not a new phenomenon, nor is it something strange to the UK.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the first British Home Children being sent from the UK to Canada. Between 1869 and 1948 over 100,000 children were sent with over 50 organisations to Canada as indentured farm workers and domestics. A lot of these children came from Manchester, and Lancashire.

We are very grateful to Tracy Smothers who has kindly written this blog post to tell us more about this movement of children of our area to Canada. Tracy helps illustrate this by using an example from her own family:

My grandfather John Moores from Gorton was one of these children. In March 1930 aged 16 he travelled from Liverpool onboard the ship RMS Sycthia to Halifax, Nova Scotia. The journey took a week, and on arrival my grandfather along with other children was sent to the town of Woodstock, Ontario. He spent a short time in a Salvation Army receiving home called Burnside Lodge, before being sent out to work on farms. Over the 4 years my grandfather was in Canada he worked on approximately 9 farms. I recently re traced my grandfather’s journey to Canada, and it gave me a small insight into what it must have been like for him. I cannot imagine what it was like for a 16-year-old from Manchester to travel to Canada with no one he knew, arriving in Canada uncertain of what lay ahead of him to travel across Canada to live and work with people he didn’t know. Times were different then, like many other families in Manchester at that time his family experienced financial hardship, and the promise of work opportunities in Canada was an attractive prospect. My grandfather was one of the lucky ones, when he reached 21 his mother sold the family piano so that he could travel home first class. He then worked in Manchester until the war, when he joined the army.

My grandfather never spoke of his experiences. Whilst for some the experience was a positive one, for other children their experience was abuse, and neglect. Many children never saw their families again. Today both in the UK, and Canada many of these children’s descendants are unaware of the fate of their ancestors, many are continuing the search to try and trace them.

Some of the other children who travelled from Manchester included Ada Townsend from Ancoats who travelled with the Manchester Waifs, and Strays organisation aged 13. George Stead from Oldham with the Anglican Waifs and Strays organisation. Five children from the same family came from Salford. These are just a few of those we are aware of.

The British Home Children Advocacy and Research Association aims to raise awareness of the British Home Children, and support people in tracing their relatives. This year they are remembering these children in their Beacon of Light Tribute event. In memory of all British Home Children we would like to invite you to remember all British Home Children, and the Beacon Tribute in your prayers.

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Seeing Angels

An angel in stained glass at St Chrysostom’s encourages us to lift up our hearts

A small light feather on a path at Walsingham. ‘Did you know that it’s said they are messages from a dead relative?’ a friend, recently bereaved, asked. I didn’t know that, and it seemed a rather curious belief. I had to agree with my friend’s comment ‘I’d hope for a little more of a message than a feather.’

Reflecting later on this I remembered a story I heard long ago, in which small angel feathers fall from a passing angel and people realise the closeness of the angels and another world intersecting with theirs.

I love the Feast of St Michael and All Angels (29th September). I trained initially as a scientist and like many other scientists the more I studied the more aware I became of the wonder and ever growing nature of the universe. The Feast of Michaelmass reminds me of the many dimensions of creation, and the possibility of beings within these dimensions intersecting with ours. Newman speaks of angels as those “who are among us, though unseen, ever serving God joyfully on earth as well as in heaven.”

A recent article discussing chaplains in the trenches of the First World War tells of  soldiers relating how they had seen angelic beings at times of fear and distress. Emma Heathcote-James in her book Seeing Angels, based on her Ph D thesis, describes her academic study, and persuasively shows how people of different backgrounds, education and culture, reported having seen angels.

The magnificent Angels roundel window in the Anson Chapel of St Chrysostom’s Church

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said:
‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory.’   (Isaiah 6. 1-3)

This visionary passage from Isaiah invites us to be open to the possibility of angels around us as we worship. In worship, and especially at Mass, we become sensitive to new realities, spiritual realms, we ‘lift up our hearts.’ The Dominican theologian Cornelius Ernst wrote a lovely essay ‘How to see an angel’ in which he suggests that as we worship we do so ‘with angels and archangels’ and perhaps at the heart of the Mass, as we focus on worship, we may get a glimpse of an angel worshipping with us. A beautiful thought.

The feather on the path could then be, not so much a message, as a reminder that there are ‘more things in heaven and earth,’ and an encouragement to see and engage with the closeness and vastness of God’s kingdom.

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!

Fr Ian

PS … and now why not try our light hearted Angel quiz – click here.
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