St Mary's Church

Saint Mary's Church is 99 feet tall I am lead to believe. St Mary's is an ecclesiastical parish formed Oct 29th, 1875 out of the parish of Hardingstone and comprises Far Cotton and Cotton End. An existing barn was furnished as a church in 1875. The church was completed in 1885. The parish registers date from 1875. (490 persons can be seated)
Children before St Matys Church

The original congregation was in a barn in Main Road here pictured before 1885

The initial building didnt have a spire

The spire being built by October 1901

Here is a picture taken from the plot of land now occupied by the library

This is the insode just after its opening

This is what is looked like inside in about 1920

A play at St Mary's

St Mary's Church From the Chronicle and Echo Early 1970s

In the nine years that he has been vicar of St. Mary's, the Rev. A. J. Howitt has seen widespread changes in buildings, not people. The people of Far Cotton and district remain very much the same, a close knit community of similar interests and aspirations, with many parishioners tracing their family history back to the beginnings of St. Mary's as a parish, a little short of a century ago. The big changes of the past decade centre on housing, the demolition of old dwellings, the erection of new. the rise of an entirely new estate at Briar Hill and the current erection of a new mini-estate at the Towcester Road end of Gloucester Avenue. And, "just over the hill", on the southern fringe of St. Mary's looms the Southern District Plan, a vast expansion designed to put a new 40,000 population "next door" to the parishes of Wootton, Hardingstone, St. Mary's and Upton. No decisions have yet been reached in regard to Church work among the 13,000 Southern District dwellings planned for the near future but obviously all neighbouring parishes will be affected, closely and dramatically . Mr Howitt will be concerned not only as vicar of St. Marys but also as Rural Dean of Wootton, a deanery whose 23 parishes lie on the Southern Districts "door step". Emphasising that decisions on Church planning, organisation and buildings in the impending development have yet to be reached, Mr Howitt said: "It will not be the job of neighbouring parishes to make decisions Our main role will be one of consultation and the Diocesan Pastoral Committee always Gives every opportunity for the closest consul-tation and co-operation in its planning."

The parson in his parish - the Rev. John Howitt, vicar of St. Mary's for the past nine years

The parish of St. Mary was formed in 1876 and the church completed in 1885 when Far Cotton consisted of terraced artisan houses, which stopped short of Delapre Lodge gates on the London Road; and, west of the Towcester Road, were contained between Main Road and Rothersthorpe Road. It was not until after the First World War that Far Cotton houses begin to climb the hill through a council housing development beyond the Recreation Ground. St Mary's, the third of four churches built by the Northampton Church Extension Society while the dynamic Mr. Magee was Bishop of Peterborough, had Matthew Holdings as its architect and was built in local stone with Bath stone dressings. It was built on land given by Mr. J. A. S. Bouverie, of Delapre Abbey, and the lender accepted was that of Mr Thomas Cosford in the sum of 3,340, the total cost of just over 4,000 including "extra gifts in the building", The Vicarage, also built by Mr. Cosford to the design of Matthew Holding was opened in 1887. The tower and spire were added to the church in 1902 and a fine church hall built some 30 years ago. St, Mary's Parish, whose population has risen from 12,000 to 14,000 during the mine years of Mr. Howett's ministry, has maintained its character between the London and Towcester roads but west of the Towcester Road big changes have already taken place and more are promised

When Mr. Howitt arrived at St. Mary's in 1984. a start had been made on the Rothersthorpe Avenue industrial estate and further industrial development lies ahead now that Rickard Street, Henley Street, Oxford Street, Letts and and Delapre Street have gone in whole or in part. The prefabs have gone from Gloucester Avenue and a variety of new dwellings are well advanced on the site. Many of the people displaced from the prefabs and of the demolished houses moved to the latest - and biggest of all Far Cotton's housing developments. Briar Hill School populations are also on the move with new building close to Mereway foretelling the imminent close of old Main Road School which started on the other side of the road 140 years ago. But Church life at St. Mary's remains so very much the same. "So far as its type of people art concerned, the parish doesn't change very much." said the vicar. "We still have a strong family tradition and. possibly more than in any other part of Northampton. the same families have clung to the district and to the church" When Mr. Howitt moved to St. Mary's there was one curate, the Rev. Ben Lewers. now chaplain at Heathrow Airport Today there are two curates, the Rev Michael Bever and the Rev. Rodney Schofield, both married and both living "up the hill"

Tea and talk. The Rev Rodney Schofield curate of St Mary's pays a call on Mrs Phyllis Ball in her elderly persons bungalow on the Briar Hill estate

At St. Mary's the emphasis is on family worship and congregational participation The Rev. David Richardson, vicar from 1952 to 1956. started Family Communion at St. Mary's and it became well established under Archdeacon Bazil Marsh. when he was vicar from 1956 to 1964. Congregational participation has grown steadily over the years. Laymen and lay-women read the Lessons, read the intercessions at Parish Communion and aa in most parishes. lay people form the offertory processions. As the population of the parish. increases it becomes increasingly difficult for the clergy to keep in touch with all parishioner's but. to meet this, the clergy have carried out door-to-door visiting .As an example every house has been visited on the Briar Hill Estate. 'It is a parish which continues to offer great opportunities." says the vicar, and our resources are great. As one example, there are so many craftsmen among our members that we can do things ourselves and save time and money" "We could field a team of carpenters" said Mr Howitt and introduced me to Mr, John Warden, a railwayman, who, having attended voluntarily to the rows of chairs inside the church is now attending to the doors. St. Marys, its work well balanced between all age groups, is strong in young people and organisations for the young include a "splendid" Church Youth Groups, Scouts, Cub Scouts. Guides, Brownies and a GLB company Adult groups include a mixed Parish Fellowship. a Men's Venture Club, St. Mary's Bowls Club, Mothers' Union. Ladies Club and Ladies Work Party. As for the fabric of the church, the last quinquennial survey disclosed only minor troubles following the massive 5.000 restoration of 1966. There was, however, the warning that the next survey. due four yean hence. might bring the need for more heavy spending.

The harvest of sugar as some other churches have done. St Mary's this year invited gifts of sugar instead of produce for its harvest festival. As a result. 770 lbs. of sugar was collected for the Church of England Children's Society,

Choir Boys at St Mary's 1952/53

Stephen Simpson, Brian Akist, John Bland, Roger Sykes, Colin Eastwood, Baley Richards, Olly Jewel, Barry Smith

This is a Picture of R Lever a choir boy at St. Mary's

Baptism sheet from 1902

I have enclosed a copy of a photo taken Xmas 1948 from my sister's collection. Mr Collier who lived in the old Cotton area used to direct and present an annual Christmas panto, with cast mainly from the Sunday night youth club. This youth club met after church in St Mary's hall and was popular because of some of the risque games played such as "kiss-wink". You were not allowed to go to the club unless you had been to church! Mr Collier had a daughter Joan born about 1936 who took part also. The panto had a few local performances and then a few in the town. My vague memory is of going to a home for mentally handicapped children and they were the most appreciative audience. John Holmes

Can you name anyone

St marys Operatic Society Play Pearl The Fisher Maiden

RAF Attachment from 3-3-42 to 14-10-42
Stationed at Delapre Abbey
Ken SouthamNorman KingstonCliff OglevyeD. LettsJock MillerErnie Aylwin-HenryJock BryceJock LinnGeorge SwetnanWally HolmesJock GrossetSpud Murphy
George HardleTom KellyRobert GeorgeKen LockJock BarnyFreddie LintonDave MeadowsJacky HansonDavy Jones

Other Boys not on photo
Cicky Bird, Nobby Clark, Freddie Holland, Farmer Crychley, Ben Wright, Enoch Wall

St marys Choir with Rev Riddle

St marys Church Harvest festival

St marys Sunday School Fire during 1st World War