RECTORS or PARISH PRIESTS
The 1870’s was a decade when a number of new parishes, or missions as they were then known, were established in the Oldham area by the Bishop of Salford, Herbert Vaughan. These were St. Edward’s, Lees; St. Joseph’s, Shaw; St.Anne’s, Greenacres, Oldham; and Saints Aidan and Oswald at Royton. St. Mary’s and St. Patrick’s Churches, Oldham, were already in existence/
The Catholics of the Hollinwood area had long distances to walk to Mass and the first attempt to set up a chapel in this area came through Fr. John Baste in 1877. Two small cottages in Maple Street, on the eastern side of Manchester Road, were rented, and a sparsely furnished chapel was then available to welcome the first Catholics.
The area of this new mission was extremely extensive, taking in parts of Oldham around Hollins, Werneth and Westwood, and nearly the whole of Chadderton. It was designated Hollinwood after that vaguely-defined district which had, by the late nineteenth century, an urbanised centre around Manchester Road. Much of this has since been demolished.
Fr. C. Muller was placed in charge as rector, as parish priests were then styled, and shortly afterwards, aided by Dean Brindle of St. Patrick’s, was able to buy land in Old Lane, Chadderton, where a school-chapel was constructed. This was opened in 1878, by Canon Sheehan, the Vicar-General of the Diocese of Salford. To meet the growing needs of the district further extensions were be Fr. Thomas Walsh who was rector from 1879 to 1888.
Under Fr. Bartholomew Flynn, the foundation stone of a new school-chapel was laid by Canon Richardson in June, 1902, and this opened in the following year. Fr. Flynn was succeeded by Fr. Francis Oakes who was rector from 1904 until his death in 1930. during which time all missions had become parishes, with their rectors now styled parish priests. His dream to build a permanent church evaded him and it was left to his successor, Fr. William Guinan, to build the present church in 1933. Fr. Guinan died in 1955, and has a window to his memory in the narthex of St. Herbert’s Church.
The present church was opened by Bishop Thomas Henshaw on 30th April 1933, a new presbytery, adjacent to the church, also being included in the scheme. The church is built to a modern Gothic design in red brick, with white unglazed terra-cotta features around the window tracery and mullions.
The church was built to seat 560 persons, the large Lady Chapel capable of accommodating a further 100 people. Corpus Christi has some interesting designs in its nave windows, based on emblems of the Passion of Our Lord. Of particular interest is the west window which displays the Arms of Pope Urban IV, who instituted the Feast of Corpus Christi, of Pius XI, who was the Pope in 1933, and of Bishop Henshaw.
A belfry built into the wall above the window contains the single bell. Surmounting the church there was originally a large terra-cotta pediment whose pinnacle was crowned by a cross, the whole being 22 feet [6.7 m] in height. Within the pediment’s open archway stood a magnificent stone crucifix 7 feet 6 inches [2.3 m] in height, this being illuminated on special occasions by red neon lighting seen from many miles away. Unfortunately, over the years, this impressive feature of the west front has had to be removed being considered unsafe.
In 1974, the school on Old Lane was replaced by the present school off Stanley Road.
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