The Parish of St. Gabriel & All the Angels with St. John the Baptist

St. John's NLHF Project

St John’s National Lottery Heritage Fund Project

 

St John's has been awarded a development phase grant by the National  Lottery

August 2020

 

The Heritage of St John’s and why it is Important

Our project will ensure the Heritage of St John the Baptist Church is preserved for generations to come. Along with the newly formed Rochdale Heritage Action Zone, St John's will become a place of greater interest to Rochdale residents and visitors from afar. This will be achieved by the restoration of the magnificent mosaics and dome of this Grade II* listed building and by the new activities which will attract a wide audience of people of all cultures and backgrounds. The restored church building and new activities will be regularly accessible and promoted through our new interactive website which will also host our oral histories project. Heritage signage will welcome visitors.

The 200 year history of the church community will be researched and celebrated through a project with the local community and Manchester University.  Regular mosaic classes will help the community appreciate the beauty and skill within the church’s mosaics. Our nature outcome will be developed and maintained alongside our primary schools and local community, utilising the church and school grounds. Volunteers from a range of backgrounds will receive training to enable the new activities to be successful.  Apprenticeships will be written into the procurement processes for the builders restoring the church.

 

A Brief History of St John’s

The first church on the present site was opened in 1829 with the present church being completed in 1925. The history of the evolving community on this site is ripe for more scholarly investigation but we know it is a history of various ethnic groups and of the growing population of Rochdale.

Built between 1923-25, the current church of St John the Baptist is a Grade II* listed building, upgraded in 2015 due to the importance and quality of the mosaics.  The church was considered to be a notable Byzantine design which merited listing in its own right, but the quality of its mosaic decoration justified its upgrading to II*.  The mosaics, which are the centrepiece of the sanctuary, are believed (by Oppenheimer scholars) to be one of, if not the best, example of Oppenheimer’s work with international significance making it of artistic, historic and architectural interest.

St John's is an iconic landmark building at the transport gateway to Rochdale with a dome that can be seen for miles around. This entrance to Rochdale presents the visitor with what is unusual for an English church in that St John's was designed in the Byzantine style based on the Church of Santa Sophia in Istanbul.

St John's is also of great social and community value.  Many people in Rochdale have lifelong links with the church. Being in an area which has long welcomed immigrants, St John's will welcome new visitors from all faiths and none to enjoy the unique heritage St John's has to offer.

The heritage is important to those families who have had a link with St John's in any way over the past 200 years.  It is also important to historians and those interested in mosaic artwork and the unique architecture, in particular the poured concrete technique used in the construction of the dome which was a radical process for its time.

The St John's community of today sits in an area of great cultural diversity in what is a predominantly bustling Muslim area. The area around St John's has high deprivation and is where most of the town's refugees and asylum seekers are placed.

Our Heritage activities will significantly improve the condition of the area, improve community cohesion and increase opportunities for local people.

While the impact of the renewed St John's will be dramatic, both externally and internally, the specific activities we are proposing, including mosaic making, oral histories, a new interactive website and the fruits of a research project, will help the visitor more fully appreciate the richness of the heritage of the church.

 

Heritage Action Zone

The church has been deemed an integral part of the Rochdale Heritage Action Zone (HAZ).  Along with the neighbouring Greater Manchester Fire Service Museum (GMFSM) St. John’s has been identified as the ‘gateway’ to the town’s Heritage Trail, which will lead from the adjoining railway station and Metro link transport hub and continue on to the Town Hall. The church was been placed on Historic England’s ‘Heritage at Risk’ register in 2018, and we believe that our project provides the best opportunity for preventing it falling into any significant decay which would be visibly detrimental to the immediate impression that visitors to Rochdale’s Heritage Trail would receive. This could have a potentially negative impact on the success of the HAZ and other heritage sites such as the Town Hall and GMFSM, both of which have been recipients of National Lottery Heritage Funding. The renovation of St. John’s church and its new programme of activities will enhance and revitalise its contribution to this scheme.

 

Heritage at Risk

Currently our church is in a poor state of repair. The unique design of St. John’s has also created many problems with regard to water ingress within the dome and the Sanctuary wall, which in turn is threatening the wonderful mosaics which are located there. Repairs can only be carried out as and when there is sufficient funding available. As these take time to accumulate, it increases the period over which damage continues to be done to the fabric of the building, thereby putting our heritage at risk of being lost completely.

 

What has happened so far?

The parish leadership team established a ‘working group’ and a ‘steering group’ from its leadership team. The working group spent several months constructing the round one application and received confirmation in November 2019 that it had received a Development Grant towards the cost of the Development Phase of our project of £147,849.00.

 In the New Year the working group had a series of meetings with officers from the Diocese of Salford which resulted in the creation of new ways of working with the Diocese, the setting up of a separate parish bank account solely for our lottery funding and necessary documentation was agreed between the Diocese, the parish and the National Lottery.

 We have appointed an accredited conservation architect after a competitive process. Chloe Granger of Crosby Granger Partnership has started work on assessing how best to approach the repairs and improvements to this 100 year old church. She is creating a team of specialists to work with her and they should all shortly be in place.

 As part of the exploratory work on the mosaics, a team from Heritage England carried out a 3D mapping process in August which produced a spectacular image of the mosaic. This can be viewed here: https://sketchfab.com/3d-models/st-john-the-baptist-rc-church-rochdale-lo-res-f91de9df1347464c941b15113c5dc966

 The building repairs are one part of our project; the other part is our community activities. Following surveys within the parish and the wider community we are now developing these activities to better understand the wonderful heritage of St John’s. In September, we appointed a project manager to help co-ordinate all this work; his name is Steven Leech. Steven has a PhD in archaeology and heritage, and will start to work with us in November.

 Our aim is to complete all our developmental work by the end of May 2021 when we will submit our application for round two funding. If we are successful, and there is no guarantee that we will be, we will then be granted funding to repair the building, including the mosaics, and roll out our activity plans.

Contact Information

Saint Gabriel & the Angels Catholic Church

Smalley Street
Castleton
Rochdale
OL11 3EB

Tel: 01706 631973

Meeting times

Masses for the week commencing Sunday 1st August

 

Sunday:

9.15am @ St. John's 11.00am @

St. Gabriel's                                       

 

Monday & Thursday: 10.00am @ St. John's

 

Tuesday & Friday: 9.15am @ St. Gabriel's

 

Saturday: 12 noon @ St. John's

 

Please see the section on 'Guidance Notes" for information regarding attending Masses at St. Gabriel's and St. John's under Covid-19 restrictions

 

Baptisms by appointment: please liaise with Fr. Michael

Weddings by appointment: a minimum of six months notice is required

 

 

 

Where we are

(click to zoom)