Parish History

  • St Josephs
    St Josephs
  • St Josephs
    St Josephs
  • St Thomas
    St Thomas
  • St Thomas
    St Thomas


The Parish of St Cuthbert officially came into effect on the 5th October 2018.

Our new Parish was formed from the amalgamation of the three Parishes of St James the Great, St Josephs and St Thomas of Canterbury.

The church of St James the Great was closed in November 2018 with masses and services continuing to be held at St Josephs and St Thomas of Canterbury.

Here is an overview of the churches that now form the Parish of St Cuthbert.

St Joseph’s Parish, Halliwell

The parish was founded in 1879 as an offshoot of the mother parish of Bolton SS. Peter & Paul’s by Fr. Henry Brewer. At first, he rented a small building an old Temperance hall in Halliwell Road. The first mass was celebrated there on 30th March 1879 the solemn opening took place the following Sunday, 7th April, and the formal opening and Dedication took place on the 27th April the sermon being preached by Bishop (later Cardinal) Vaughan.

Fr Brewer obtained a large plot of land in 1880 on which he built a school-chapel opening as a chapel on 26th of June 1881. The school opened in the same building on the 22nd August. There were no grants from the Education department for two years so the school was maintained and run by Fr Brewer, his parishioners and loyal and devoted teachers, those parents who could afford were asked to make a weekly contribution and from these the teachers’ salaries were paid – if there was sufficient money.

Despite the great poverty in the area Fr. Brewer built a presbytery in 1885 and in 1886 a new school and in 1898 the foundation stone was laid for the present church thus freeing the school chapel to be used solely as a school.  Then three years before his death he had finished the new church which was opened in 1900 by Bishop Bilsborrow. The Church was consecrated on 19th March 1960, the feast of St Joseph the Worker, by Bishop Beck – just sixty years after its opening.

Both St James the Great and St Thomas of Canterbury parishwere founded from St Edmund’s Parish which had itself been founded in 1860 by Bishop Turner from SS Peter and Paul’s.

They both came into existence to serve the expanding suburbs of Bolton.

St James the Great, Johnson Fold

In 1951 Fr Redfern was sent to St Edmund’s Bolton in order to found the new parish and after land had been purchased by the diocese the plans were drawn up for a School-Chapel to be built. The ground was blessed and the first sod cut in October 1953 and the first Mass was said in the new chapel on the first Sunday of Advent 1954.

Between October 1953 and the first Sunday of Advent 1954, Mass was said every Sunday and Holy Day in the tea room of Heaton Cricket Club. The Mass requisites were kept during the week in a large travelling case at the home of Mr and Mrs Longworth who prepared the temporary altar each Saturday evening for use on the Sunday. Fr. Redfern was provided with board and lodgings free of charge by Mr and Mrs Carboy until a council house became available in March 1954.  Miss McGuinness became his housekeeper and brought furniture from her own house to help furnish the house and later the new presbytery which was built in 1958.

The new church building was designed as a school-chapel and thus had movable walls that could close off the altar area and make two classrooms. The school at Eastbourne Grove was very crowded having children up to school leaving age of 15, so the two classes at St James’s were in use until St Cuthbert’s Secondary school opened in 1963 and more room became available for primary children at St Edmunds, Eastbourne Grove (now St Thomas of Canterbury R.C. Primary School).

Since that time the building has been used as a church and social centre and then purely as a church when the side hall was added to the building.  Originally there were plans to build a separate church on the site but this never materialised.

St Thomas of Canterbury

Like St James’s parish St Thomas of Canterbury parish came into existence as the numbers in St Edmund’s grew and people moved out from the centre of town.  In the 1920’s Canon Chronnell had arranged the purchase of land on Eastbourne Grove for a new school which was needed as the numbers of children were too many for the school in town. At the same time, he purchased the plot of land on the other side of the road for a future church saying that he was tired of Catholic Schools and Churches being built in “back streets”.   The school opened in 1925. From then until the opening of the church in 1958 Mass was celebrated every Sunday Morning in the school. The altar was set up on the school stage with wooden kneelers and bentwood chairs arranged in the hall.  The land for the church had become part of the “Dig for Victory” during the war and it was not until 1956 that work on building the church began.

Canon Chronnell cut the first sod and the foundation stone was laid by Bishop Beck on November 17th 1956 and the church opened on Saturday 22 November 1958 by Bishop Beck.  Canon Chronnell celebrated the first Mass in the church the next day, just one year before he died.

On 22 November 1968 the church was consecrated by Bishop Holland of Salford accompanied by Bishop Moverly of Leeds.