A brief history of the Parish is presented by tenure of each Parish Priest:
1929-1932 Fr. Peter Burke
St. Hugh of Lincoln (now St. Hugh & St. John ) is a daughter-parish of St Vincent de Paul in Altrincham. It was established out of the foresight of Canon Hugh Welch, St. Vincent ’s Parish Priest, who identified a need for a second parish to serve the Broadheath community with the growing population from the new developments of ‘semis’ being built by developers in West Timperley. In 1929, Canon Welch bought Timperley House, a dilapidated Victorian mansion with a useful piece of land near the junction between Manchester Road and Park Road for £1700. Here, Fr. Peter Burke, the first Parish Priest, lived and celebrated Mass in a chapel formed by knocking two rooms together.
In 1930, Bishop Hugh Singleton gave permission for a ‘temporary’ church to be built, for he was not convinced the fledgling parish would continue to grow; and the first baptism was held on the 2nd of November for Mary Patricia Lindop. The ‘temporary’ building, dedicated in December 1931, lasted 50 years as a church, and served as the Parish Hall until 2015 when it was demolished and replaced with a new building.Some things do survive till this day such as St. Hugh’s statue, the ornate candlesticks, including the Paschal Candle stand, the processional cross, and the ‘mysterious’ handsome stone font, which today stands outside the church as a fountain. The origins of the stone font are unknown as it simply ‘arrived’ at the church from somewhere, and no one knows where it came from or how old it actually is.
Sadly, Fr. Burke’s frail health was not improved by the conditions in the damp old house and he was soon forced to retire. Canon Welch died in 1931. St Hugh’s was dedicated to St. Hugh of Lincoln, and partly in honour of Canon Hugh Welch and Bishop Hugh Singleton.
1932-1952 Fr Thomas Butler
Fr. Burke’s successor, Fr. Thomas Butler, had the presbytery built, a pleasant, typically 1930s house that has stood the test of time. West Timperley (formerly mainly market-gardeners’ fields) rapidly became covered with semi-detached estates with a fast growing population. The parish acquired the first of a succession of curates, enabling Mass to be celebrated once a week in the Church of England Community Rooms in Timperley Village.
Fr. Butler campaigned vigorously (despite opposition from both Councillors and local people) for a parish school to be built on Timperley House’s spare land. To help raise funds, he had a church hall put up on the spare ground, for social activities. School plans were temporarily derailed when new legislation made the land by the church too small for the purpose. In 1937, however, he was able to buy the land just over the canal on which St Hugh’s school now stands for £1570 and five shillings, and paid an extra £35 and ten and four pence for legal fees because of the length of time it took for the negotiations on the land transaction. Many more years passed however before the school was actually built.
He was supported in his work by Miss Grace Diskin, a teacher at St. Vincent’s, who also provided catholic instruction for children who did not attend catholic school in the area. He encouraged the founding of a St. Vincent de Paul Society (SVP) Conference – for there was real poverty in the area to alleviate. The Timperely ‘conference’ founded by Charles Turnbull held its first meeting in 1933. In 1938, the first parish Youth Club opened, initally for boys only. Girls were only let in to the Youth Club in 1941. On the 14th of January 1952, Fr. Butler made a personal house-to-house collection and canvassing support for the local school. He collected £14, and felt on top of the world. The following night whilst getting ready in the presbytery for the weekly meeting of the Union of Catholic Mothers, Fr. Butler collapsed and died.
1953-1978 Fr. (Canon) Joseph Briscoe
Fr. Butler was succeeded by Fr. (later Canon) Joseph Briscoe, who set himself two great objectives: to win permission for a parish school, and to replace the temporary church with a permanent, and larger, building, as the old church was bursting at the seams on Sundays. The creation of a new parish at St. John the Baptist in 1957 did not alleviate this problem, and in 1962, Fr. Briscoe acquired the adjacent house and grounds of Abbottsford Lodge. He also acquired the Stations of the Cross carved by the Italian artist Romanelli of Genoa through donations made by the church congregation.
However, as all available money had been spent on St. John’s Church and the schools (Blessed Thomas Holford, St. Ambrose, and St. Hugh’s Catholic Primary School), plans for the church did not progress. It must be noted that after the war, the campaign for a school had begun again, with the same old opposition. It was only in 1962, thanks to the efforts of the steering committe set up by Canon Briscoe, the leadership of the late Francis Kendrick and the intervention of Leslie Lever, a Jewish MP with a great interest in education and an admiration for St. Hugh who had protected the Jews of Lincoln, that the battle for St .Hugh’s School was won.
1974 brought forth plans to build the Racecourse Estate (now Sale West), and so the parishes of St. Hugh of Lincoln and All Saints in Ashton-on-Mersey agreed to share the cost of another junior school (St. Margaret Ward) on Cherry Lane, the building of which would incorporate a Mass Centre. No change was made at that time to parish boundaries: the chapel there was served from St. Hugh’s.
Canon Briscoe served the Parish for 26 years. When he fell ill and was hospitalised, he wrote to his parishioners and apologised for being unable to take a personal farewell of everyone. His final plea, “..If I am worthy enough to be welcomed into Purgatory may Paul’s illuminated Blessing in Church remind you to pray for me. ‘May my plea pass not unheeded’.”
Canon Briscoe’s letter to the parishioners
In 1957 the acquisition of a large house on Thorley Lane meant that the people of Timperley Village could have a priest of their own. The Parish of St. John the Baptist was established, and Fr. Joseph Taggart, then curate at St. Hugh’s, was appointed Parish Priest. Three years later the new parish had its own church, designed by Francis Reynolds in traditional style, long and narrow with a separate baptistry.
1978-1986 Fr. Michael Dyson
In February 1979, shortly after Fr. Michael Dyson arrived with his dalmation Oscar, the decision was finally taken to replace St Hugh’s ‘temporary’ church. Dedicated on 13th December 1981 , exactly 50 years after the dedication of the ‘temporary’ building, the present church is open-plan, easy to maintain, and purpose-built for post-Vatican II liturgy. In the words of the architect, Anthony Bean RIBA, it is ‘a pyramid roof supported on a perfect square’. By the time the building project was safe to enter, £80,00 had already been paid off the debt incurred in building. The old church was then converted (with a little help from Trafford Council and a great deal of ingenuity and voluntary work) into a large and busy Parish and Community Centre.
Fr. Dyson revamped the noticesheet Canon Briscoe started, and turned it into a communication tool in form of a newsletter. He also started a raft of new initiatives such as the ‘Adopt a Pothole’ scheme, Teddy Bears’ Picnic, the ‘Young’ Wives group (note the young was dropped out of the title after a while); the introduction of rock and folk music with concerts to raise funds, and the creation to Lincoln Singers (now disbanded).
1986-1996 Fr. Denis Maher
Despite the loss of a sizeable portion of the congregation to St. Margaret Ward in 1983, Fr. Dyson’s successor, Fr. Denis Maher, was a great fundraiser, and the debt on the new St. Hugh’s Church was speedily cleared. John Blyth, one of the first parishoners died in 1986 at the age of ninety three and bequested £10,000 to the church, which was used to purchase the statue of the Risen Christ that hangs high on the wall over the alter.
1996-2017 Fr. Anthony Myers
In 2000 Fr. Anthony Myers, secured permission to have the narthex extended and made into a more useful space, including facilities for baby-changing and disability access.
In September 2008, Fr. Denis Herlihy, Parish Priest at St. John’s for 27 years, retired. The shortage of priests meant there was no one available to replace him, and so the decision was taken to reunite the Parish of St John the Baptist with its mother parish under the new name of St Hugh and St John. The church of St John the Baptist closed after Mass on Trinity Sunday, 7th June 2009, after serving the parish for 49 years, but permission was given for the community to continue using the ground floor of the presbytery, and for one of the rooms to be turned into a small chapel. For the next eighteen months, until November 2010, Mass was celebrated there once per week on a Thursday and daily Eucharistic adoration continued, along with the weekly charismatic prayer group, other devotions and meetings.
Following a diocesan review of resources and consultation with stakeholders, the decision was reluctantly taken to close the presbytery too, with effect from the beginning of Advent 2010. The intention at the time was to demolish both church and presbytery and sell the site for redevelopment. The demolition eventually took place in April 2013, and the site was sold to Churchill’s in 2014 for retirement homes. Some of the money realised was used to replace the Hall at St Hugh’s. Demolition of this building (the former church) began in March 2015, and there is now a purpose-built hall on the site.
2017-Present Fr. Pat Munroe
Fr. Pat Munroe is the current Parish Priest at St. Hugh and St. John, taking over upon Fr. Tony’s retirement in 2017. Fr Pat was born in Ireland, and ordained a Priest for the Shrewsbury Diocese in 1975. He has served in a variety of parishes including St. Wilfrid’s Northwich, St. Peter’s Hazel Grove, and most recently, Our Lady & the Apostles in Stockport.
One of the new intiatives he has introduced is the International Mass celebrated on Pentecost Sunday.