The foundation of St.Edward's parish began on 1st
April 1872, with the lease of a plot of land in St.John's Street, Hey, to the
Rev. Fr. Charles Grymonprez, the then Rector of St.Mary's Oldham. The
original church was built as a "Chapel of Ease" for St. Mary's parish
in Oldham. The building housed both the school and the chapel and the first Mass
was celebrated towards the end of 1872. In 1875, the status changed,
and from a chapel
of ease for St. Mary's, St.Edward's became a separate mission with its first rector, Fr.
John Ryan. The presbytery, attached to the school/chapel, was added in
continued in use until May 1900, when a new school/chapel was opened in Spring
Lane. The St. John Street building became a Men's Club, then, very briefly,
a School for Physical Culture, before being leased to the Air Raid Protection
service for 5 years from 1939. It was sold into private ownership in December
1947. The building is currently owned by a Catholic family.
A larger parcel of land in Springside - now known as Spring
Lane - was purchased by Fr. James Hanrahan, but it was Fr Michael J Ryan (who arrived
in 1898) who was to see the new school/ chapel built. This new building
housed the school on the ground floor, and the chapel on the first floor. The
first Mass was celebrated in May 1900.
The presbytery was replaced in 1959, at a staggering cost of
With the increase in residential building in the
Lees area, the population of the parish continued to grow. In 1959, the then
parish administrator, Fr. Frances Kilfoyle, first arranged
transport for the Catholics of Holts to attend Sunday Masses, and it
who saw the beginning of work on the chapel of ease at Holts. Sadly, Fr.
Gilfoyle did not see the finished chapel of ease, or the modernised
school. He died on his 50th birthday, 8 June 1963. The chapel of ease, dedicated to Our Lady of
Lourdes, was opened on 25th February 1964 and served the people of Holts until
1991. It was built as a forward planning measure for a larger congregation than
was ever realised, and it was difficult to protect an isolated building, which
was frequently vandalised.
Whit Sunday 1965 saw the first united service in
Lees, when Episcopal permission was given for St.Edward's to take part with
children from Sunday Schools of other denominations in the annual "Whit
Walks" The procession through the streets ended with a service in Lees
Market Place, on the site now occupied by the library. Later that year, St. Edward's took part for the first time in the
Civic Service of Remembrance in Lees Cemetery, a tradition that continues today.
In 1966, the parish priest, Fr.John Duddy, hosted a meeting with Rev
Harold Buxton, Rev M Arundel (from the Church of England) and Mr. Swales
(Non-conformists) which resulted in an agreement to hold regular
meetings to talk about biblical matters etc. The parish has continued to
enjoy closer ties with the other denominations in the area, not least on a
The parish continued to grow, and on 2 March 1981, the children
and staff from the school, led by the headmaster, the late Frank Maguire, walked
from the school in Spring Lane to the long awaited new school, in Rowland Way,
almost within sight of the original school/chapel in St. John St. The site is
shared with Hey with Zion school, giving both schools the luxury of extended
grounds with shared all weather football and grass rugby pitches. The lower
floor of the church building then began a new life as the Parish Hall.
There was a pressing need for a new church, not least because
the steep stone steps made it difficult for the elderly and infirm to attend
Mass. There were various suggestions for the modification of the old building,
but these proved impractical.
In 1987, the week after Fr. Dolan's Silver Jubilee
celebrations, there was a fire in the church. Bishop Kelly, on a visit to
inspect the damage, gave permission for building of the new church to start, in
spite of the lack of funds.
Fr. Dolan's appeal for assistance from anyone with building
skills was answered by two parishioners who owned a construction company, plans
were drawn, approved by the parish, and building of the present church began.
Photographs of St.John St Chapel and Our Lady
of Lourdes Chapel courtesy of The Oldham