Holy Angels

Catholic Church




























Holy Angels Church

Wicker Lane, Hale Barns,

Cheshire  WA15 0HF

Tel  0161 980 4784

e-mail: secretaryholyangels@hotmail.co.uk


e-mail:  webmaster@holyangels.org.uk





Perhaps the most striking feature of The Church of the Holy Angels is its serenity, the sense of strength and clarity and light afforded by its uncluttered architectural lines. The history of the church, however, is a story which dramatically illustrates the very human struggle of the people of God. A mother mourning the loss of her eldest daughter, a young boy dreaming of his future in an abbey on the Isle of Wight, the wartime evacuation in Guernsey of a community of brothers—"crooked lines," 'in- deed. It is also the story of a young priest chosen by his bishop to erect a church to fill the needs of a growing community, and of the people who shared in his dream. One can see God's writing from the very beginning.


While Hale is listed in the Domesday Book in 1086 as a unit of local administration. Hale Barns takes its name from a tithe barn built in the 17th century, to which farmers would bring the tenth part of their crop as an offering to God, which foods were given to the poor. At that time, the farmers went to worship in The Ringway Chapel, a "chapel of ease" for the main church at Bowdon to serve the people at the eastern edge of the parish area. Two hundred years later, as "a remote pastoral region became the workshop of the world," Samuel Hibbert Ware, son of a wealthy Manchester linen merchant, retired to Hale Barns. His wife, daughter of a Dublin soldier, had inherited an estate, which included Partington Farm, which is still in Wicker Lane. From the outbuildings of this farm, was built the "Ivies" which is now the vicarage of All Saints Church, and which stands next door to Holy Angels, to the south. The property on which Holy Angels is built consisted of several farms which were purchased by the Leigh family towards the end of the 19th century. John Leigh, a brilliant scientist, and the first Chief Medical Officer of Health for Manchester, built The Manor House on the site of the present church.


The house was built in 1879, in the Tudor style, and incorporated an old section of Tanpit Farm. In taking down some of the old farm buildings. Dr. Leigh discovered some red tiles, coins, and statuary which he considered to be ancient in origin. The old courtyard yielded a small piece of Samian ware embossed with vine leaves. These discoveries seemed to give some support to an older, unsubstantiated theory that a Roman villa stood on the site. However, no one paid much attention, and the relics were given to local children, as playthings! The stable or coach house, which stands directly south of the church, has been renewed through the years, but still has an old beam over the loft window which bears the date "1701". This was probably incorporated from one of the original farm buildings. During the next twenty years, from 1891-1911, the population of the Hale area tripled as "the great trek of the Manchester men began." When a member of his congregation noted the move outwards from the city, and thus the decline in parish membership, a minister in Manchester was heard to say: "Ah yes, they always go either to heaven or to Hale!"


The modern chapter of the story of Holy Angels really begins in 1929 when Leo Waugh, a merchant and magistrate in the City of Manchester, brought his wife, Marian, and their seven children to live in Hale barns. Their property included all the land on which we now find Holy Angels and St. Ambrose, and their home was "Woodeaves," built in 1915. and the present home of the Christian Brothers of St. Ambrose. In 1941 Mary, their eldest daughter, died at "Woodeaves," and when. five years later, Mrs. Waugh left the house, she donated in memory of her daughter the five acres on which the Manor House stood derelict, for the building of a church. At the same time, she sold the remaining property to the combined parishes of St. Vincent's, Altrincham, St. Joseph's, Sale, and St. Hugh of Lincoln in West Timperley. The dream of a school for the Catholic boys in the burgeoning community had been long held by Canon John Donnelly of St Vincent's Altrincham. During the second World War, a community of De La Salle Brothers had been evacuated from Guernsey in the Channel Isles, and Canon Donnelly had given them a house in Altrincham in which they formed a school After the war, however, the brothers returned to Guernsey, and it was then that the Christian Brothers were asked to come and form a school They had been here only a year when the Waugh property came to hand, and from 1946 until 1952 St. Ambrose College, which first consisted of 70 students and five brothers was held in "Woodeaves." Most importantly, for the second time in the history of the area, a "chapel of ease" was formed at "Woodeaves" for the Catholic community-a community which was growing on the eastern edge of St. Vincent's. Thus from 1946 until 1963 Mass in Hale Barns was held in the Brothers' Chapel, "Woodeaves," the curates of St. Vincent's officiating In those early years, the Sunday congregation might number twenty, and the Vicar of All Saints, our neighbouring Anglican Church, offered the use of his vestments for the Mass! And Holy Angels Church? The land stood wooded, with the derelict Manor House still there-"a ruin of a house, with a bedstead coming through the roof." It became clear to Bishop John Murphy, the Bishop of Shrewsbury (now the Archbishop of Cardiff) that the people of Hale Barns area needed a place of worship.


Father Gerald McDonald, then a curate of St. Edward's, Runcorn, was asked by Bishop Murphy to build a church. The Architect, Arthur Fairbrother, was much influenced by boyhood visits to the Benedictine Abbey of Quarr on the Isle of Wight, This is reflected in the church; in the remarkable spatial effect, outstanding brickwork including specially made bricks to form angles and arches, interesting door openings, window edgings and diagonal ribs crossing the nave. A history of any Catholic Church, indeed any church, is truly the story of the pilgrimage of the people of God. What we see today is a strikingly handsome edifice, built to serve as a place of worship for these people, to serve their need to praise God in their daily lives, to baptize their children in His love, to celebrate the gifts of His sacraments of Confirmation and Holy Communion and Reconciliation, to solemnity human love in Matrimony and finally to celebrate the Mass of Resurrection at the time of death This is the living story of the church.


The Church of the Holy Angels as it stands today grew from many disparate elements-the Industrial Revolution, wherein Hale Barns grew from the great expansion of Manchester, and the Great Famine in Ireland at which time there was an enormous exodus of Catholics to England. Within these giant movements in history, came the smaller, equally significant events: the Waugh family and its gift the coming of the Christian Brothers to St Ambrose those early visits to Quarr Abbey in the Isle of Wight. This church exists also because of the leadership and tireless dedication of individual men: Bishop John Murphy, Canon John Donnelly and Father Gerald McDonald. Finally, because the church is a pilgrimage of people, we exist because of the women who baked cakes and organized jumble sales, the men who worked late in the day on financial plans, the children whose voices on Sunday fill the church with a sound which must be akin to the voices of those holy angels from whom we take our name.  A very human story, written in His Divine Hand.  This is The Church of the Holy Angels.


 Abridged History by Alicia Resnick



 For a more Specific History:

The Shrewsbury Diocesan Yearbook for 2009 contains a History of Holy Angels prepared in celebration

of the Golden Jubilee of the Parish, September 1958 - September 2008.  Access it by clicking here.

... and see an early summary by our first Parish Priest, Fr Gerald McDonald, from January 1977, by clicking here.