The Vicars and Assistant Clergy
Dating from 1878 to 2005, there has been a total of eleven Vicars and assistant clergy based in St. Michaels Church. Below is a brief history of those who helped shape our church into what it is today.
The Rev’d C.E. ADAMSON 1878-1910
The story of Cuthbert Adamson is the story of the formation of the Church and parish of South Westoe. Having completed his mission here, Mr. Adamson left in 1910 for the parish of Houghton-le-Spring.
He retired eleven years later and died in Sunderland in 1922.
He must have been an indefatigable worker and leader of his people, as well as a fund raiser par exce
llence. It was thanks to him and his group of supporters that sufficient funds were found to finance the building. Each church magazine explained the current financial position,encouraging readers to give.
Donors and their gifts were listed; amounts given ranged from £70 to 6d. (from H.B.) Sunday collections were announced too, stating the number of coins given and the total cash; for example, one day’s collection of 322 coins amounted to £2.13.6d.
Mr. Adamson scolded his readers (for missing church),he cajoled them (into giving), he advised them (mistresses were to, ensure their housemaids were given time to go to church) and it was clear he knew and cared for them all.
The Rev’d W.P.MAYOR 1910-1923
Mr. Peter Mayor came to South Westoe from Darlington. He was here during the difficult years of the Great War when a Roll of Honour in the parish magazine recorded as many as 13 deaths of service men from the parish in a single month.
The death of Douglas Adamson, son of the previous vicar, was reported from France in 1915 Brief comfort was gained from news of awards of military honours to local men. There were Military Crosses and various other awards, some to ex-choirboys or Sunday-school scholars, for’ conspicuous bravery’, gallantry in the field of battle’ or many other life preserving acts of heroism.
At home the death rate seemed high. In one month alone in 1917 there were 22 burials, 12 of them being children of five years or younger. The duty of visiting the bereaved must in those war years have been almost unbearable.
Sorry to leave good friends in South Westoe but happy to relinquish the reins of a its parish said to be the largest in the Diocese at the time, Mr. Mayor left in 1923 to become Rector of Whitburn.
The Rev’d J.G.LANE-DAVIES 1923-1927
Mr. Lane-Davies came here following seven years’ service as an Army Chaplain in Europe and the Middle East, including one year as a prisoner of war. His brother came to join him as curate. They stayed only a short time, the Vicar moving for health reasons to a living on the south coast.
The Rev’d H.G. HASTINGS SHADDICK 1927-1937
Henry George Hastings Shaddick came to South Westoe from the parish of New Shildon. Like his predecessor he had served as an Army Chaplain in France; he was twice mentioned in dispatches and later awarded the O.B.E. Mr. Shaddick was a good preacher and an able musician and people seem to have come to church in great numbers.
The PCC had 47 members and the senior choir 23. There were 42 sidesmen, 41 Sunday-school teachers and 40 magazine distributors. Numerous groups met -Scouts and Guides, Cubs and Brownies, G.F.S., Recreation Club, Mothers’ Union, Missionary groups, the Guild of Players, the Oratorio Choir. Mr.Shaddick left for Haughton-le-skerne in 1937.
Canon A.H.P. SQUANCE 1937-1947
Canon Arthur Henry Plantagenet Squance came to the parish in 1937 and was here for the duration of the war. His contribution to the war effort on the domestic front seems quite remarkable. Soon after the outbreak of hostilities he had the lawns and gardens of the church and vicarage dug up so that parishioners could have allotments.
In order to make an even bigger contribution he formed a co-operative club to keep pigs. Sties were built and pigs were kept -six at a time. They ate swill provided by the nearby families. Half the pigs had to be sold to the Ministry; bought for £2.10 shillings and sold on for £8 made this a paying proposition, and the remaining animals provided a large quantity of good food.
Canon Squance was in the parish during the very difficult war years when so many from the parish, including his own son John, were lost. He led the people also in services of celebration when peace was declared. He left the parish in 1947 £or retirement in Devon.
Canon W.A. LATHAEN 1947-1960
When Canon Alan Lathaen was appointed in 1947 he was already well known at 5t. Michael’s, having served as a curate with Mr. Squance before the war. In the interim he was an army chaplain and spent a long time in Poland as a prisoner of war.
It is said that he was given the option of imprisonment with his men or release. He chose the former! He was awarded the M.B.E. Mr. Lathaen was here at a time of adjustment to peace, after such difficult times during the war.
Returning service personnel did not always find settling down in civvie street’ easy. In 1960 he accepted the living of 5t. Andrew’s Church, Roker.
Canon F.S.M. CHASE 1960-1978
Canon Frank S.M. Chase’s eighteen year ministry to South Westoe is memorable for its outreach -both to parishioners but also to the wider community. It began with a diocesan youth pilgrimage to Holy Island, when about 60 of our young people together with hundreds from other parishes, led by the Bishop, walked barefoot across the sand to the priory.
There were parish pilgrimages, a children’s mission with a procession of witness round the parish, which called on the Mayor at the Town Hall on the way.
There were Lent courses such as ‘No Small Change’ and ‘The People Next Door’, which involved not only our congregation, but also those of other churches. Contacts were developed with the Town Council, Westoe Colliery, the Marine College, HMS Euryalus, the Westoe Rugby Club and the schools in the parish -all designed to keep a Church contact with people wherever they were:. An open youth club was set up, run by Church and LEA together. Nine curates served in the parish during this time, all able, talented and I enthusiastic, each adding to the life of the church in his own particular way.
The clergy, together with a group of volunteers were able to keep up an annual personal distribution of Christmas and Easter cards to almost 1,000 homes. In 1978 Canon Chase was appointed to Lanchester Parish Church. He retired in 1982 and continued living in the village until his death in 1995.
The Rev’d J.D. SLYFIELD 1978-1982
Mr. John slyfield came to South Westoe from the Claydons in Buckinghamshire. Whilst here, he led a pilgrimage of 14 members of the congregation to the Holy Land.
This was a never-to-be-forgotten, but with present problems in the Middle East, probably never-to-be-repeated, experience. Latterly, Mr. Sly field suffered health problems and he left us for the parish of Tideswell in Derbyshire in 1982- just about the time of the centenary.
The Rev’d E.J. ABLETT 1982-1986
Mr. John Ablett, who had previously served as a missionary in Chile, was instituted in October 1982. His focus was on the work of missions, in particular the South American Missionary Society, and he encouraged links with, and visits from, missionaries on leave.
Mr. Ablett’s time here was short; he left in 1986 for Tibshelf, in the Diocese of Derby.
Canon J.M. HANCOCK 1987-2003
Canon John M. Hancock came to the parish in February 1987. As Rural Dean of the Jarrow Deanery, he knew the parish well, as we had been under his oversight during the long interregnum.
Not many months into Canon Hancock’s time here, disaster struck our church building. For a reason that seems ever to remain a mystery, on December 3rd fire broke out in the organ chamber (see later section). Canon Hancock resigned from the parish in 2003, for retirement in the local area.
Rev’d P. J .A. KENNEDY 2005 –
A new era began with the arrival of the Rev’d Paul Kennedy who came to us from to the parish of St. Andrew, Leam Lane, Gateshead. Prior to that he had served as an Army Chaplain for some years.
The Church of St. Michael and All Angels still stands, looking externally much the same as it did a century ago, except for the loss of its parish hall. Internally it is a very beautiful building: the open vista on entering from the St. Andrew’s Hall, reveals the glory of the hammerbeam roof, its bosses decorated with gold leaf.
The light streams through the stained glass windows, illuminating the restored woodwork, and the rich red carpet which stretches the length of the aisle, leads the eye forward to the memorial panels, the reredos and the altar itself.
However pleasant it is to look back, it is time to move forward. It is the people who are the Church and they go on unchanged. They may be fewer in number than in past times, when there were over 1,000 Easter communicants and 400 children in Sunday school.
However, they are equally determined under the guidance of our new priest to worship God in the beauty of this holy place and to witness to His Word amongst the people and community of South Westoe.