Can you spot what’s missing from the picture above? One immediate response might be “The 1990’s Loo & Kitchen Pod” of course, but the less obvious answer is the inscription carved high up on the stone sill beneath the West Window. If you purchase a copy of Chris Ward’s splendid book “St Oswald’s Church , Bollington: The First 100 Years”, you’ll find the details of this inscription on Page One. Otherwise it can be very hard to read in situ (the inscription, not the book!) but as we now approach St Oswald’s 110th Birthday we are planning to restore the West End of the church to something like its original spaciousness and also incidentally to clean the stone of the window sill to make that historic inscription more legible again.
We are very conscious of the privilege of being the inheritors, or rather the caretakers, of St Oswald’s Church here in Bollington. As the inscription says, it was consecrated to the glory of God on the 22nd October 1908. The second century saint and theologian Irenaeus declared that “the glory of God is a human being fully alive” – echoing Jesus’ own words, “I have come that you may have life, in all its fullness!” We urge all our school children to “do your best – be the best that you can be!” The idea of building St Oswald’s Church emerged in the early 1900s as the then County Council were considering expanding Bollington Cross School to provide education for the increasing numbers of children within the local community. “In the earnest hope of divine assistance”, Bollington’s first Vicar, a young man called Revd George Palmer, had been the instigator of the original school building, which was opened in October 1845, incorporating a purpose-built Sunday Worship space. Local businessman and mill-owner, Samuel Greg, had gifted the land for that original vision. In 1907 another member of the Greg family, Herbert, generously donated the land for the separate building of a Church in response to an appeal from the parish finance committee (no doubt chaired by the then Vicar, Revd Charles Brooke Gwynne).
It is not known how the dedication was chosen, but the Celtic saint Oswald was reputed to have been a man of prayer, humility and open-handed generosity, so perhaps naming this church after such a saint was a subtle tribute to all those who freely gave land, financial grants and voluntary subscriptions to enable its construction. According to Chris Ward’s research, it cost £1,000 in 1845 to build the original School and Church, and then over sixty years later in 1908 it cost £3,700 to erect St Oswald’s Church. These sums appear on paper to be tiny when laid alongside the modern costs of adding basic sanitation and catering facilities (£15,000) in 1999, or our new sound system (around £8,000) in 2014, or our 2012 building extension, providing new loos and storage and creating a level access main entrance. The major expenditure for this of around £180,000 was met out of the total raised from the sale of Holy Trinity Church, Kerridge. Of course, it is hard to make accurate comparisons, but when you look back at the rise in house prices over the past 110 years, our present-day economy is clearly very different from that experienced by our Edwardian predecessors!
One factor however that has remained constant over the years is the continued vision and generosity of the members of our congregation and local community. We have kept firmly focussed on that original Christian vision and calling to serve our neighbours, in ways which are continually evolving to meet the changing needs of our society. Whereas six years ago we were fortunate in being able to afford an extension in order to improve our main entrance and provide more toilets, now we are applying for further faculty permission to enhance our catering and storage facilities, but this will be at far less cost since we will be working solely within the existing footprint of the church. By utilising the former main entrance porch, we will be able to install a more spacious kitchen (and simply add a new fire exit along the north side aisle). This will mean we will be able to offer greater support to our existing outreach groups (such as Praise & Play and RiCH) as well as broadening our appeal to other service-users and community groups in future. The original architect’s vision will be reinstated, allowing much more flexible space in front of the baptistery under the West Window, together with more discreet wall-mounted storage for our folding chairs and tables and other household equipment.
The featured picture gives you an impression of the restored balance and symmetry which will result on completion of this next project! We already have planning permission from Cheshire East to create the fire exit and our architect has drawn up detailed plans for the whole scheme for our Diocesan faculty application. These plans will be put on display in due course as part of the process. We are very fortunate to have been granted £20,000 from the Diocese out of the proceeds of the sale of the former Vicarage, but we are now also seeking other grant funding and private donations in order to be able to totally fund the building works, estimated to be in the region of £60,000. We have already received several other generous donations totalling about £7,000. So we are currently looking to find the balance of £33,000 to successfully complete the project. Your present Vicar, like her predecessors, has faith that God will honour all our endeavours to make the best provision we can to serve the people around us – always “to be the best we can be” and to strive to bring about change for good in our neighbourhood and wider world through works of compassion, creativity, prayer and practical service.
Please consider how you might join us in carrying out this mission project, encouraging us in whatever way you feel able to do. Perhaps you might think of giving a Birthday present to St Oswald’s on the occasion of our 110th Birthday this October? It would certainly be amazing to be able to complete this kitchen project in time for the Bollington Festival next May, now just nine months away! Any donations, however small, will make a huge difference – and there are Gift Aid forms and Standing Order forms available to download here . Thank you! May God continue to bless us all as we strive to build one another up in faith, hope and love, over the months and years to come.