The Parish of Northenden, Manchester
St. Wilfrid’s Parish Church
The Present Church Building is a mid-Victorian gothic structure, though the architect, Joseph Crowther, remained fairly faithful to the late mediaeval building which had to be demolished in 1873 for safety reasons.
The tower has been repaired many times down the years, but its core is quite possibly 13th century. During the rebuilding traces were found of two previous churches ~ one of which will have been the Saxon structure mentioned in the Domesday Book. The original churchyard was oval, suggesting great antiquity.
There is some interesting wood-work within the building, ranging from an altar rail and other pieces by the “mouseman”, Thompson of Coxwold, to a pair of Tudor screens salvaged from the old church.
Almost all the stone carvings on the outside are Victorian (the previous building was very plain!) but there are two fascinating mediaeval stone heads on the East face of the tower, just above the clerestory roof line. One may be an attempt to represent the holy Trinity.
The church itself is “listed” ~ Grade II star ~ and the churchyard wall is also listed ( grade II ), including the 1975 work by a Government “Job Creation Scheme”, reusing old grave kerbs! That’s real history for you!
In the graveyard are stones of many of the Tatton family, from Wythenshawe Hall, and also some of those involved in the “Peterloo” affair in Manchester in 1819, including Joseph Johnson, and Absalom Watkin.
Also buried here is his son, Sir Edward Watkin, who pioneered the Channel Tunnel as well as running railways in Britain, Canada (President of the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada) and elsewhere. We have
‘The Mouseman’ (Robert Thompson) died in 1958 but his handy work can be seen as far a field as York Minster and Westminster Abbey, the mouse motif can be found on many pieces but even without it you can recognize it by the dark oak tones and rippled effect.
The nearly man of Northenden
Sir Edward Watkin was the man from Northenden who could have completed the channel tunnel 100 years before it was eventually built.