Restoration work begins on St George’s Church

WORK has begun on re-roofing most of St George’s Church, Stalybridge, in a £303,000 restoration project.

The three-and-a-half-month project began at the end of January and the scheduled completion date is May 13.

Most of the work involves the renewal of the main roof plus repairs to the north aisle guttering and parapet.

St George’s received a £233,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund while parishioners have raised a further £26,000.

A portion of the cash will also be put aside for the next major project which is to refurbish the Renn organ which will cost between £25,000 and £40,000.

It is not the first financial help and follows on from an £87,000 grant from the Listed Places of Worship in 2016 that was spent towards an £108,000 project to repoint the south side and also replacing guttering.

The latest work, scheduled to be completed in 20 weeks, is intended to renovate the north elevation parapet, gutter and rainwater goods, and to renew the nave roof, much of which is of the original construction.

In addition, the whole of the church’s emergency lighting will be renewed and updated and the upper lounge kitchen facilities improved. There will also be a programme of heritage engagement activities within the community.

This will entail heritage tour leaflets and a guide book being produced, including details about the historic Renn organ and war graves in the churchyard.

St George’s was built between 1838 and 1840 by the notable Victorian architect Edmund Sharpe. It was built to replace the oldest church in Stalybridge (Old St George, Cocker Hill) which had been built in 1776.

The present church sits within its own large walled churchyard and was the parish church for the Ashton-under-Lyne Barracks (later the Ladysmith Barracks) and the graveyard contains remains of some of the soldiers and their family members.

In addition, there are war graves and memorials to war casualties and veterans, which are visited occasionally by researchers. More than half the graves within the churchyard have been identified and they accommodate more than seven thousand burials.

During 1975/76, a well appointed two storey community space with kitchen and toilets which include disabled facilities was added.

That enabled St George’s to become a focal point of the community and is open to all who may benefit, regardless of age, ethnicity or background. It is, for instance, a venue for one of the local councillor’s regular surgeries. It is the largest non-educational venue in the parish.

• Philip Brierley has retired as vicar of St George’s, Stalybridge, having reached the age of 70, the compulsory retirement age.

The Correspondent last year featured the Rev Brierley as he celebrated the 25th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood.

Yet the Rev Brierley’s association with St George’s stretches further back – more than 65 years in fact – when he first attended Sunday school.

The Rev Brierley, born a stone’s throw away from St George’s on North Avenue, was four years of age when he began attending Sunday school.

He was later in the choir, server, sancristan and lay reader before he got the reading from God.

The Rev Brierley, who trained under a new Ordained Local Ministry scheme, was ordained as a deacon in 1992 and to the priesthood the following year.

He remained at St George’s, where he assisted the minister, while still working as an industrial chemist.

The Rev Brierley was assigned pastoral care that included providing communion to parishioners who were unable to get to church.

He was licenced as a priest in charge in 2013 and three years later became vicar incumbent.

The Rev Brierley, who lives off Mottram Road, admitted it is highly unusual to remain at the same church for so long.

“Usually most vicars spend five or six years in a parish and leave, but I have been here all my life,” he explained.

“The church is special as my parents are buried there as are my wife’s parents.”

The Rev Brierley, who could have applied for special permission to stay on, must take six months out before considering whether to return to provide ministerial cover, either at St George’s or elsewhere to conduct services, weddings and funerals.

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