Support for a new ‘Free Church’

All Saints' Church, Falsgrave. Photo courtesy of the Max Payne collection.

All Saints' Church, Falsgrave. Photo courtesy of the Max Payne collection.

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by Dr Jack Binns

As early as September 1862, Dr Whiteside, St Mary’s vicar, chaired a meeting in the National School at Scarborough to consider plans for a new Anglican place of worship in Falsgrave. The national census of the previous year had revealed that what had once been a rather poor agricultural village lying inland from Scarborough town had now become an increasingly affluent suburb of 1,200 inhabitants. Nevertheless, though South Cliff was about to have its own new church of St Martin, the Anglican people of Falsgrave had no place of worship nearer than Christ Church in Vernon Road.

The meeting seemed to have been a success. Dr Peirson had offered a piece of his land in Falsgrave “for a definite price” and Dr Rooke promised free stone from his neighbourhood quarries. In the circumstances it was agreed that a church could be built there for less than £2,000.

However, during the next four years, there was a conspicuous press silence on the matter. Dr Whiteside had dragged his clerical feet, died in 1864, and his replacement at St Mary’s, the Rev R Frederick L Blunt, according to Peirson, “took little interest in the matter”. Then, when Peirson “determined to take steps to secure a separate district with a residential clergyman” for such a church, Blunt “suddenly changed his mind”. As with Whiteside and South Cliff, so now with Blunt and Falsgrave, the vicar of Scarborough was anxious to safeguard the integrity of his parish, if not to retain his income.

As a result, Peirson’s offer of land was ignored. He and his supporters wanted a “Free Church” with its own resident minister, not another one like Christ Church, dependent on St Mary’s. Like his predecessor, Blunt was not prepared yet to concede the loss of his “primary interest”.

The vicar of Scarborough now acted promptly and decisively. In October 1866, after the end of the Church of England Congress at York, the bishop of Oxford was invited to preach a sermon at the next Sunday morning service at St Mary’s. In his sermon the lord bishop appealed to the large congregation to contribute to the cost of a new church “in one of the suburbs of our great and increasing town”. By the end of that day more than £100 was raised.

Peirson had been pre-empted and out-manoeuvred. Blunt had already agreed to buy a plot, 127ft by 90ft, between the main road and Londesborough Terrace, from Mr W Hick. Soon afterwards, the eminent architect, George Bodley, was commissioned to draw up designs for a church to be called All Saints’ costing up to £5,000.

During the next two years, as Bodley’s designs turned into brick and stone, contributions to the endowment of All Saints’ flowed into Blunt’s building fund. Forgetting St Thomas’ church in East Sandgate, the Scarborough Gazette told its readers that it was “really a disgrace” that a parish of 20,000 residents and “innumerable visitors” should have only two churches, St Mary’s and Christ Church, and the latter merely a dependent “chapel of ease”. As if to add to the “disgrace”, it added that more than half of Scarborough’s inhabitants were “poor”.

The task of building All Saints’ was given to Scarborough’s most reliable and prolific contractor, John Barry, junior, whose father of the same name, architect, stone mason and brick manufacturer, had just died n 1866. By then, father and his two sons, William and John, had established a thriving factory in Barry’s Lane off Seamer Road, making millions of bricks and tiles and a successful construction business. William was the manufacturer, John the builder, and All Saints’ was their first joint venture after the death of their father. As with all their subsequent work in Scarborough, the new church in Falsgrave was built within time and estimate.

On Saturday, October 26, 1867, the Right Honourable Lord Hotham, MP, laid the foundation corner stone of All Saints’, Falsgrave. It was a memorable and significant day in the history of Anglican Scarborough. After a service in St Mary’s, attended by a large congregation and the choirs of St Martin and St Thomas, in the afternoon a procession walked from there to Falsgrave. A long line of dignitaries headed by the mayor, Robert Champley, the borough’s two MPs, Johnstone and Dent, and several local vicars and curates, followed the band of the Rifle Corps. At the site, Mr Bodley, the architect, presented Lord Hotham with a silver trowel and mallet to perform the traditional ceremony. Afterwards the procession reformed to walk to Mr Jancowski’s Royal Hotel and then dine well in his handsome ball-room. During the next few hours the distinguished company ate their way through a splendid “luncheon”, accompanied by toasts to the Queen, the Prince and Princess of Wales, the archbishop of York, various vicars, the mayor, the recorder, both MPs and, finally, “The Ladies”!

Within less than a year, on October 2, 1868, the archbishop of York consecrated Falsgrave’s new Anglican church. Only nave, chancel and south side aisle were finished at a total cost of £4,000; but it was hoped that Mr Bodley would design and Mr Barry build an additional north-west tower and spire 125ft high, even though this would cost another £2,000. The construction was mostly of red brick with sandstone dressing and interior pillars. Nevertheless, The Mercury assured its readers that All Saints’ was “neither cheap-looking nor ugly”. There were free places for 900 “hearers”.

This time, after the ceremony, luncheon was taken at the newly-opened Grand Hotel in “Mr Fricourt’s best style” to the accompaniment of Herr Myer Lutz’s Spa orchestra. Only the early departure of the archbishop curtailed the number of toasts.

Finally, though still unfinished and inadequate, All Saints’ received its independent parish status at the end of 1873. “The District Chapelry of All Saints’, Falsgrave” was bounded to the east by the railway line into Scarborough, but, surprisingly, stretched as far north as Nelson Street, deep into St Mary’s ancient parish territory.

But only for a century: the final service was held there in May 1973 and All Saints’ was entirely demolished during the summer of 1975. Now only All Saints’ Road survives to remind us of its former existence.