Monday, August 07, 2017

A new use for an old building

St John's Church on Town Road in Hanley, the city centre of Stoke-on-Trent, has been empty and unused for as long as we have lived in the Potteries which is twenty years this year.

This interesting church is now wedged between the two halves of the Intu Potteries Shopping Centre and was crying out for someone to care for it.  It was bought a few years ago and the idea was to turn it into a restaurant but that fell through and it has recently been bought and refurbished.  A  few weeks ago it opened as the 6 Towns Antique and Vintage Emporium and Elsie's Tea Room.

Having never seen inside the church we decided to pay a visit last Friday. After spending half the morning at doctors, vets and opticians - the vet's bill was far more than that of the optician - we were in need of coffee and cake.

 The tea room is placed near the side entrance to the church, the staff are very friendly and helpful and the coffee and bananna and chocolate cake was delicious.

 There was a general buzz about the place, a few people had come in for coffee, some just to look at the antiques and a few more like me to look at the interior and specifically the windows and monuments.

The piano is there for anyone who can play and apparently someone played for a couple of hours one afternoon when there was a party in for afternoon tea.  He'd only popped in to have a look and ended up spending most of the afternoon there.  I can see why.

According to the notes on the menu for Elsie's Tea Room the church was built in 1792 and replaced another church which had been on the same site from 1738.  Apparently a stone was found from the earlier church during excavations. 

The windows were fascinating.

As were some of the monuments on the walls.  The one above is to commemorate the life of Samuel Alcock of Cobridge who 'for a period of twenty years joined with the congregation of this church in the sacred offices of public worship'  He died 10th November 1848 aged 49 years and 'was singularly kind and charitable in disposition' and 'upright and liberal in all his dealings'  The members of the church paid for the memorial.


Apparently the window above is quite unique in that it is the only known stained glass window dedicated to a solider who was killed during the Anglo Zulu wars of 1879.  The solider was Pte William Henry Hickin of the 24th foot who fell at Isandhlwana in South Africa on 22 January 1879 aged 25.  He was born in Hanley in 1854, the son of Henry and Hannah Hickin.  On the 1871 census the family lived on High Street,  William's occupation then was a writing clerk.  His father Henry's occupation was locksmith and bell hanger.

Above is a memorial to the memory of Ephraim Chatterley of Shelton who 'in humble reliance on the mediation of his redeemer exhchanged this life for a better' on 7th day of May 1811 aged 66.  According to the inscription he had a 'zealous and stedfast (sic) attachment to his native place.'

The East Window of painted, rather than stained, glass c. 1830

The upper galleries where the vintage sales areas are to be placed later on.
  
In one of the articles I read about the church it was described as having been built when 'ecclesiastical architecture was at its lowest ebb' and was 'a brick built edifice of a debased style of Gothic'.  The church is also noteworthy because of its early use and cast iron in both structural and decorative work including the gallery columns.


The window above is dedicated to the memory of Abraham Dutton who was the parish clerk of the church for fifty five years.  He died on 10th October 1883 aged 80 years.  On the 1881 Census Abraham Dutton was living at 28 High Street and was recorded as a widower and his occupation as watch and clock maker.

Above is part of a stained glass window which is a memorial to some of those from the area who lost their lives during the First World War.

20 comments:

  1. It looks amazing especially the Windows, I wonder who made them. It's a great way to preserve the building and a lovely place for a cup of tea.

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    1. I've been trying to find out more about the windows if I find anything I will follow up with another post, I'm interested in the hand painted one:)

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  2. I love reading memorials in old churches. It is a rather strange looking place.

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    1. I had been derelict for years and stood empty and neglected, the churchyard wascleared for the shopping centre, thankfully the church building survived and so did the memorials within:)

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  3. A lovely way to spend some time after some hectic appointments!

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    1. Thanks, Amy it is a bit different isn't it?:)

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  4. How awful! First of all, it was an awful idea to sell a church, then it was awaful again to buy it to transform it into a tea room! It's a profanation of a holy place. I know that is happening everywhere but it's awaful anyway. Churches are ment for worship not to have tea inside it. I imagine if they would dare to do that in a place of worship of another religion. Cowards. This is an apostate era.

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    1. Sorry to have offended you with this post, I appreciate your point of view. It was just good to see a derelict and deconsecrated church building being used and not demolished or allowed to decay as so many others are. Many churches still used for worship serve refreshments to help with funds, they sell books and souvenirs too. So much has changed over the years. Thank you for your comment.

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    2. Your post didn't offend me at all, the fact that churches are left in ruins, sold and transformed in shops and tea rooms is offensive, not your post. Refreshments and souvenirs can be sold in the yard or some room in a church, not in the place of worship. But all this is the result of the end of the civilization. The barbarians are inside the gates.

      Anyway, I like your posts or I would not come here. :)

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    3. Thank you, I'm glad you enjoy visiting and reading my posts:)

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  5. I think it is a lovely idea that the building is loved and in use again and love the way they have preserved so many features of the church. A really interesting post Rosie especially with the history of the monuments and stained glass. Cake looks good :)

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    1. Thanks, RR it was interesting to see inside the church and I was glad that all the memorials to the people who had worshiped there in the past were still intact and readable. I enjoyed looking some of them up on the Census returns and finding out more about them:)

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  6. Hi Rosie, they did a lovely job of renovation and what a marvellous place to visit. It has an interesting history and it is good that it has finally been restored and can be enjoyed by the community and visitors alike. Thank you for sharing your visit. Marie x

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    1. Thanks, Marie. It would have been a shame if the building, which is no longer used for worshp had been pulled down and all those windows and momnuments destroyed. The visitors certainly seemed to appreciate being in there and treated the building with respect:)

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  7. It is nice to see the old church being used rather than being unloved and boarded up. Now, I wouldn't mind attending a church like that especially with coffee and cake on offer! x

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    1. Itis great that it has opened to the public again in this way, thecake was delicious:)

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  8. I do find it sad when a church has to close, but even sadder is it boarded up, destroyed or like one in Leeds made into a night club ( that just seems wrong) I am so pleased they have kept many of the church features, the building is still bringing people together to meet and talk. Great post and photo's.
    Amanda x the

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    1. Thanks, Amanda. It is very sad when a church has to close and it is certainly better opened like this with all the features still intact than it be demolished and have all its historical features disapear into storage. It was good to see people meeting and talking and enjoying seeing the inside of the church:)

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  9. Like you, Rosie, I think it's wonderful that a derelict and deconsecrated church building has been given a new lease of life and that the windows and monuments have been retained so that visitors can see them, and thank you for bringing them to wider public attention. After all, churches are people, not buildings, and this building can bring people together again. Fab. x

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    1. Exactly, Mrs Tiggywinkle. I think the same way. Thank you for your comment:)

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