An History of S. Chad's

In common with other northern industrial towns the population of Bradford increased hugely during the nineteenth century. In the first half it increased from 7,000 to 107,000 even before its incorporation as a borough. The year 1997 marks the centenary of Bradford receiving its city charter. This century had scarcely dawned when a commission of the diocese of Ripon recommended that in an area running from the north- west of the city centre which already contained half a score of Anglican churches, another should be added.

A priest by the name of the Revd Arthur Goodwin was sent in as a "Living Agent" and he rented a property, gathering round him a group of people. As a student in Edinburgh, I remember the diocese of Glasgow & Galloway sending Fr George Sessford to rent a house in Cambuslang under similar conditions.

The group which gathered round the priest outgrew the house and it was about to move into a mill canteen when a former private school building came on the market. Furnishings were begged, borrowed and bought to convert the schoolroom into a place of worship and it became known as "The Upper Room".

A portion of land on the opposite side of Toller Lane was then given by the Ackroyd family as a site for a church, vicarage and schoolroom. An "Iron Church" was erected, later to become the hall, and from there the work was put in hand for the handsome Romanesque building to be consecrated as S. Chad's on the 27th September 1913.

As was so often the case, sound Tractarian teaching characterised those early years. The "bells and smells" were introduced by Fr Ham in the 1920s.

There are many stories encapsulated in the life of S. Chad's over its short history and none more fascinating than that of Father James Benson. He grew up here and then moved with his family to Australia, where all but himself were drowned in a tragic accident. Devastated and now alone, he considered joining the Mirfield community, but eventually settled for the Australian Board of Mission. After completing his training at S. John's College, Armidale, New South Wales, James was ordained and then sent by the Board to Gona in New Guinea. Here he built a Church community which included a mission hospital. Members had to take to the jungle when the Japanese landed, many being captured and shot. Fr Benson spent the rest of the war in prisoner-of-war camps but after the harrowing experience of the wartime years, returned to rebuild the Mission Station.

Another vocation of that time carried Fr Sidney Holgate from S. Chad's into the Society of the Sacred Mission of Fr Kelly's day. He then spent most of his priestly religious life in Moderpoort, South Africa, returning during his pensionable years just before SSM moved its home to Milton Keynes. Here he continued the work he loved as parish priest at Willen, but the Society owned a little house on the fringe of S. Chad's parish where his sister lived. He would frequently resort here to the great benefit of his home congregation and the delight of its priest in the warmth and humour of his friendship.

The actress, Billie Whitelaw was Confirmed from here, arriving as an evacuee during the second world war. Also in the registers is the marriage of Colin Winter who later, as Bishop of Namibia, was thrown out by the then Government of South Africa for his opposition to apartheid. Before that a nurse from St Chad's, Sister Margaret Holmes, went out to work with him at the Jane Furze Hospital.

Among the eight priests to serve S. Chad's over the nine decades of its life there have only been two families at the Vicarage. The one besides the present occupants belonged to Fr Sanderson, whose son Peter, a little lad at the time, became a priest.

The building which had served as the church prior to 1913 continued as the parish hall until it was destroyed by fire at Michaelmass 1972. The fire only just impinged on the present lovely church building affecting leadwork and glass. While the firemen were concerned to stop the fire spreading to the church the old hall was completely destroyed. Within eighteen months it was replaced by a more modest structure which was eventually succeeded by a stone-built hall, more in keeping with the surroundings. In fact it was only in 1991 that the intention of those who gave the land was eventually fulfilled, for the Bradford Diocese felt the time was right to erect a new vicarage and thus church, hall and vicarage now occupy the same site to form a useful church plant.

The parish has changed vastly over the years of the church. What were the homes of the well-to-do manufacturers are now bedsits. Most of the woollen mills have gone and those that are left employ only a small workforce. There are light industrial estates where rows of workers' houses used to stand. Our most forward-looking industry is the Seabrook potato crisp factory. Sir Kenneth Morrison built the first headquarters of his super-market chain in our parish.

Most significant is the change in population over the past three decades. When we arrived twenty-eight years ago a third of the people in the parish were of Asian origin. That proportion has now more than doubled and those of the former indigenous population are the poorer and more disadvantaged members of the community. There are many callers at the vicarage door requesting help of one kind or another.

Among all this S. Chad's is a miracle of survival. That there is a church to serve the local community is due in no small part to those who are willing to travel in so that Mass can be celebrated at least once a day and twice on Sunday. The core of fifty or so worshippers are sacrificial in their support for both the worshipping life and the care in the community stemming from that.

S. Chad’s is both a Church Union and a Forward in Faith parish. Some would say it is a bit old fashioned, for the English Missal and Book of Common Prayer are still used here. There is nothing stiff and starchy about what goes on however for there is a certain inventiveness and hilarity which goes with the catholic character and enables us to cope with the unusual and the contingencies that occur in shuc a setting. S. Chad’s cherishes its assovciations with the Additional Curates Society and with the late Bishop Keith Benzies’ diocese of Antsiranana, Madagascar.

Since taking the three resolutions in 1993 the parish has had wonderful pastoral care from Bishop John of Beverley, the Northern Provincial Episcopal Visitor and from his successor, Bishop Martyn. In the insecurities of today's world and a changing Church there is so much substance in all that has happened in the life of S. Chad's that we feel the care of Almighty God will sustain us in hope for all that the future might hold.

The Revd Canon Ralph Crowe