For many years the Rochdale Catholic Parish covered a vast area and gradually other parishes were formed and separated to form St. Patricks, St. Marys, Littleborough, St Anselms, St. Josephs, Todmorden etc.
In 1904 the Redemptorist Order established a seminary (left) St. Marys, at Upper Tenterhouse, a mansion built by the Butterworth / Hutchinson family, who owned the Greenbooth Woollen Mills located in the now flooded village of Greenbooth.
In the early 1900’s Mr Mattley of Norden UDC reported that there was a ‘beautiful chapel’ (below) in the grounds
For some reason the seminary closed in July 1909; the land was sold to the local bleaching and dyeing mill and the order moved to Bishop Eton Monastery, Wavertree. As an aside, although the building was allowed to become derelict and was demolished in 1922, the site became the location in 1935 of a very famous leisure complex, the Rochdale Riviera. This has long since closed and the land is now occupied by private housing on Tenterhill Lane.
There was no church then in the Norden / Bamford area until 1932 when a Chapel of Ease to St Josephs, Heywood was established in what had been known as the Bagslate British Day School roughly where number 5 Spring Bank Lane now stands. It was dedicated to St. Hugh of Lincoln and made life considerably easier for those travelling from the west of the parish. Sunday Masses were celebrated there by priests from St. Josephs. Our picture of the interior is from a copy of the Souvenir of the consecration 2 years later of St. Josephs on 17th May 1934.
The Parish of St Vincents itself was founded in 1940 as an offshoot of St Johns Parish and the first church was off Rooley Moor Road near Spotland Bridge, in a temporary structure built almost entirely by the voluntary labour of the parishioners. The opening of the church was reported in the Rochdale observer of 3rd March 1940 with a photograph of Bishop Marshall together with the local clergy and altar boys outside the new building. The Presbytery was just across the road at 68 Rooley Moor Rd and is now a private house.
The quality of the building was a credit to the labour of the many volunteers involved in its construction and it served the Parish well for many years.
The first Catholic School in the Parish was opened in 1969 in a temporary home in Penn Street and the pupils moved into the new school on Edenfield Road in January of the following year. Father John Birch, who had worked tirelessly as Parish Priest, retired in 1972 and went to his heavenly reward only 18 months later in May 1974.
Fr. (later Canon) Mortimer Stanley became Parish Priest in 1972 and his tremendous drive and enthusiasm continued the changes in the Parish. His first major decision caused some consternation among the members of the congregation living close to the existing church. Because of the planned and the newly constructed housing developments in the Norden and Bamford end of the Parish, it had become apparent that the new church would need to be built nearer to the geographical centre of the Parish rather than in the initially proposed location, where Alice Ingham Court now stands.
The sale of that land and of the site of St Hugh of Lincoln’s funded in large measure the purchase of the present site. A parishioner, Peter Toomey, relates the story of the sale of the site of St Hugh’s. It seems that the deeds had gone missing and after 35 years there was nothing in writing to confirm our ownership of the land. So Fr. Stanley asked Peter, a solicitor, to investigate. Nothing turned up after a prolonged search in the archives of the solicitors to the Lord of the Manor of Rochdale and that seemed to be that until Peter received a call weeks later from John Taylor the solicitor to say that the deeds had been found in quite extraordinary circumstances. The front of the old desk used by him had come away accidentally and revealed the deeds! To many it had to be divine intervention!
In June 1975 the new Church dedicated to St Vincent de Paul was blessed and opened on the present site. There is a lovely story by Eric Tomlinson RIP of how a pre-Reformation altar stone was brought from Monmouth in 1973 and was incorporated in the new altar. Click HERE.
Over the following years the Shrine to Our Lady of Lourdes was built; the car park was added and next major addition was the Parish Centre, built with a considerable amount of voluntary labour and officially opened and blessed by Bishop (now retired Archbishop) Kelly in June 1987.
In July 2002, Canon Stanley retired to his native Ireland to enjoy a well earned retirement near his favourite golf course in Ballybunion. He was succeeded by Canon Paul Brindle and besides being the only priest in what is a relatively large parish, he was the Episcopal Vicar for Clergy as well as being also responsible for the Deanery of St Therese of Lisieux. This Deanery includes 23 churches and covers a wide area of North Manchester as far afield as Kersal, Prestwich, Whitefield, Radcliffe, Tottington and Bury. Canon Brindle (always know as Fr. Paul) served the parish well for 17 years and moved to a new posting as PP at Our Lady of the Valley Parish, which includes Clitheroe, Sabden and Dunsop Bridge.
In October 2019 we welcomed Fr. James Manock, who was based at Radcliffe (and Little Lever) for 23 years, as Parish Priest here at St. Vincents.
We have to express our gratitude to many Parishioners and also to the outstandingly helpful staff of The Local Studies Dept. at Touchstones. It is an outstanding resource; in reply to my initial request, they were able to provide (within minutes) many of the old photographs used here of the Seminary, St Hughs and St Vincents as well as many newspaper cuttings from the Rochdale Observer.
We would ask those of you with any memorabilia of any church or of Rochdale to let them have a copy for the benefit of the whole community. You retain the original and may retain copyright if you wish.