Saturday 11 October 2014

Castlefield surprises

Just up the hill from where we moored last night in Castlefield basin is a building I had not noticed on our previous visits.

The engraved stone over the door informs us that this is St Matthew's Sunday School, with the date MDCCCXXVII (i.e. 1827). The stone over the upper window carries a quotation from Proverbs 22:6 – "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it." I was sorry not to have gone round to the back of the building, for I later found this to be its rear aspect (borrowed, without permission, I'm afraid, from mancunianwave).

The most remarkable thing, of course, is not so much the building as the movement that gave rise to it. The Sunday School movement started in the 1780s, under the inspiration of Robert Raikes, a Gloucester clergyman. The purpose was to provide education on the one day of the week that labourers (and especially child labourers) had free from work. The movement caught on all over the UK, and Wikipedia reports that by 1785 there were 250,000 English children attending Sunday School – 5000 in Manchester. So St Matthew's church joined in with its own purpose-built construction.

About 200 yards down the road from there I found a garden.

What struck me first was the total absence of litter (in spite of the large number of benches and picnic tables, and no doubt due in part to the equally large number of rubbish bins).

At one end stands a memorial cross, on which an engraving informs us that this is the site of a 1769 church that was taken down (no reason given) in 1931.

The garden either is or contains the church's graveyard, and the memorial lists two people buried here. One is John Owens (1790 – 1846) who founded Owens College which became part of the University of Manchester. The other is a William Marsden, who is credited with originating the Saturday half holiday. I looked him up using the interweb user's standard resources, expecting him to be the one who founded what became the Royal Free Hospital, but he is said to be buried in London.

So who this worthy gentleman is I have no idea. I'd be delighted if any of my readers could enlighten me.

The garden also contained a transplanted, RHS award-winning garden by Daniela Coray. No space to enlarge on that here. We just note how many delights can await you on a walk to a Sainsbury's Local.


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