The Parish of New Brighton,
St. James with Emmanuel
The History of Emmanuel
The first reference to Emmanuel Church can be found in the annals of St.James, New Brighton, where it is recorded that in the year of 1879 an 'iron building', to be known as the Mission Chapel, was to be licensed for divine worship.
It is not stated where this building was to be situated, but there is little doubt that it probably refers to the iron church that originally stood on the site of Emmanuel Church in Seabank Road. The site for the church was purchased by the first vicar of New Brighton, Revd. R.D.Fowell.
Whilst the official title of the church prior to 1899 was Emmanuel Mission Chapel, it was continually refered to as the 'iron church' because the construction was of corrugated iron. In order to meet the demands of a growing population, it was eventually decided to erect a permanent building, the architect being Charles Ernest Deacon (1844 - 1927).
The foundation stone for the new church was laid by the Duchess of Westminster on Saturday, 28 October 1899, the feast of St. Simon and Jude. This was to form phase one of the two phase project. The first phase was to provide accomodation for about 350 people. There would be a chancel, two side trancepts and one key of the knave, to be utilised in connection with the existing iron structure.
The building was consecrated by the Bishop of Chester in September 1900. Slow progress was made and it was not until 1 May 1909, that the church was fully complete at a cost of £8,000.
In 1922, the first major changes to the building took place: a sounding box erected above the pulpit, choir stalls to replace temporary ones, a screen between the side chapel and the chancel (south side) and a memorial tablet in honour of those who fell in the Great War. These items were all made of oak. Initially the church had plain glass windows; the first stained glass window was added in the same year in the east window (five sections), funded as a war memorial. The church was built with a bell tower, constructed from wood, which was in constant need of repair and was removed in 1968.
In November 1986, under the Revd. Raymond Dent, the Parochial Church Council (PCC) began to look seriously at the site of Emmanuel, the church, the hall and the surrounding land. Whilst the hall was bursting at the seams with users from the local community and regular church activities, the church building, with its vast space was used for about three hours per week. This was considered unsatisfactory.
The PCC, after consultation with the wider membership, began to formulate a development plan. A sub-committee was formed to draw up a Parish profile and investigate grant aiding bodies. Progress was slow and there was very little positive response from grant aiding bodies. However, a considerable grant was received in 1991 of £10,000. In May 1991, Merseyside Development Corporation (MDC) agreed to fund improvements to the church hall. A new roof was fitted, the exterior re-pointed, emergency lighting fitted, new kitchen was re-sited, toilets updated, wheelchair access and disabled toilets added.
In 1997 a sub-group of the PCC was set up entitled the 'Building and Vision Committee', in order to oversee these two areas in detail. Due to the increasing instability of the church building, permission was sought from the diocese to hold services in the church hall. This was subsequently granted and the last services in the church building were held on Sunday 2 November 1997.
At the end of that year, Wallasey architect Andrew Smith was appointed to develop schemes regarding the buildings. These varied from using the hall in its present condition as a chuch building with little alteration, demolition of the church followed by a new build, refurbishment and extention of the hall towards Seabank Road together with a worship area, to 'down topping' - lowering the exiting church roof structure. The latter two would have been very expensive (circa £400,000), indeed more than a new build.
In 1998, after permission from Her Majesty the Queen, the church building was demolished in 2000. The hall was then demolished and an open air service took place on the foundations to celebrate the centenary of the laying of the foundation stone. The foundation stone for the new church was laid on 21 January 2001 by the Bishop of Birkenhead. A time capsule was buried in the grounds by members of the youth organisations and finally, on 1 November 2001, the keys were handed over to the Church Wardens. The total cost was £270,500.
Church hall during demolition