The Development of Gorton Monastery 1861-1885

At a meeting of the Cannons of Salford Diocese on October 2nd. 1861 permission was granted for a Friary at Gorton.

In November 1861 Fr. Emmanuel Kenners,. Fr. Willibrord Van Den Neucker, Fr. Germain Verleyan and Bro. Patrick Dalton paid 4d. each and travelled by rail from Manchester to Gorton Station. They stayed at Fairfield on a teaching mission before taking responsibility for the Catholic people of West Gorton, numbering approximately 400, who at that time had no priest. The priests had a chapel school built on Gorton Lane by the Father Cardinal of St. Annes, fir. Openshaw. Here the first Mass was said by the Friars on Christmas Day 1861.

On April 25th. 1862 the Franciscans moved to Gorton, Bankfield Cottage and 4 acres of land being purchased for 2200. This was to become the site of the Pugin church.

The Friary

The first wing started on May 24th. 1863 and October 4th. it was blessed by Bishop Turner. In 1864, as the congregation grew bigger this was used as an additional chapel. The second wing was added in Gorton Lane in September 1865 and Fr. Germain Verleyan settled in. The wing was completed in 1867.

The Church

Local clay, used at a near by railway works was considered to be very good and Brother Patrick Dalton, who was to supervise the building of the church, designed by Edward Pugin, got volunteers to make bricks. Work started on the site of Bankfield Cottage on June 9th. 1866. There were many delays caused through lack of money, the people being poor, lack of materials and the Murphy Riots. In May 1871 Fr. Willibrord Van Den Neucker was made Father Guardian and as he had come from an unsuccessful parish in Gorey, Ireland he was determined to succeed in Gorton. He raised funds by making a register of donors and organising a bazaar in the city. In May 1871 work began again on the building. On 13 September 1871 the roof and plumbing was started, to be finished by 15 February 1872 at a cost of 1925. In January 1872 Fr. Dunn of Hexham provided the stained glass altar window. It was drawn by Mr. G. Johnson and worked by Edwinson and Sons. of Manchester. The Lady chapel was a gift from Mr. G. Knitley, the artist was Mr. Casilani of St. Helens statuary designed by Cuthbert Wood and made by Williams and Wilson of Manchester. The Sanctuary lamp and corona were a gift from a Mr. Fopato and a Mrs. Scaife provided the wrought iron communion rails. Plastering the church. started in February 1872 and was finished in August 1872 at cost of 470.

The church was opened on 26th. September 1872 by the Director of the Order of Franciscans who came from Rome and Archbishop Manning, later Cardinal, who presided.

In 1875 a new sacristy was made and an iron safe was ordered from Bates of Droylsden, at a cost of 100. Benches in the nave were completed in 1875. Dry rot was found in the floor and so, in 1882 the floor was tiled with tiles made from Irish limestone. The wooden rails of the baptistry and the font were added in November 1882 and a year later the new pulpit was provided by Jones and Willis at a cost of 2O2 - 5 shillings. A Mr. McGurk gave 500 and the High Altar was made possible. As Edward Pugin had died in 1875, Peter Pugin designed the altar. Mr. Moran of Manchester cleaned and decorated the church at a cost of 290.

On July 5th. 1885 the High Altar was installed. Throughout the building and renovation of the church the Friars used local labour whenever possible.

Margaret M. Globe
November 1992.

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