On the ‘commin’ after the enclosures, housing developed rapidly. Much of it was very poor and basic, with standpipes for water and no sanitation. The Bollin rapidly became polluted by sewage washing down the hill to waterside. Wages were poor and hours were long. There was no schooling for children, and no system of social care or health. The ‘commin’ had become a wild place in quite another way.
St Peter’s Church in 1903
The Church, meanwhile, was not popular among much of the general public in Victorian times. Local historian Wynn Greenwood says that it was thought of as out of touch. However there were those who felt that the Church should respond to the desperate practical needs of the growing population. William Crump arrived in the area in 1845 and founded a mission church in a wooden building behind the Beehive pub. This gave way to the existing church building (but at that time without its bell tower) in 1849, financed largely by well-meaning people from outside the parish.
St Peter’s soon became a centre of social life and social work, as well as hosting over 500 people at its Sunday services. It was active in the community, helping the mothers, providing clothes, and soup kitchens, offering basic schooling and a whole range of meetings, outings and events.
Rev William Sinden
Its second minister, the Reverend William Sinden, was well known and loved round about, spending fifty years in the parish. One account says:-
‘The name of William Sinden will always be remembered with affection and respect by those who were acquainted with the faithful and self-denying labours of that worthy minister. His genial countenance, beaming with smiles and lit up with merry twinkling eyes, which betokened the possession of a rich and rare humour, was known all over the town. One old woman on the common baked ‘tater cakes’ and the young Vicar frequently visited their cottage to partake of a potato cake, of which he was particularly fond.’
‘Words cannot describe the respect and veneration with which he was regarded, even by the rough and godless denizens of Watercotes and the Common. One of his daughters was passing a cottage when her attention was attracted by sounds of strife and words of blasphemy. Having inherited her father’s courage she entered and found a drunken man brutally mistreating his wife. The young woman interfered and tried to protect her whereupon the wife-beater vented his wicked wrath on her and, snatching up his knife, would have certainly done her an injury had his wife not shouted out “Don’t Bill – don’t you know who it is – it’s Mr Sinden’s daughter”. He immediately lay down his weapon and said “Miss, if you are his girl, I wouldn’t hurt a hair of your head!” ’
(Streets and Houses of Old Macclesfield)
Cutting from Macclesfield Express, November 2005
Happy Band: The officials and choir of St Peter’s Church, 1950. The occasion was probably the induction of the vicar, John Richards. He left the parish in 1956 to become vicar at New Brighton before completing his ministry at Hoylake. Standing, l to r: J Mudge, –––, John Burges, Mavis Hillman, Fred Hillman, Jack Burgess, Mr Hargreaves, Abraham Wood, Albert Williams (warden), H Harpur, Rev Richards, Sid Cox, Harold Varty (warden), Tom Heapy (verger), Harry Smith, Tom Hansell (lay reader), E Whitehurst, Charles Rothwell (organist/choirmaster). Seated: Marian Rothwell, Betty Murphy, Lizzie Hudson, Mary Hillman, Thelma Bailey, Barbara Hayes, Helen Varty, Joan Williams, Mrs Williams, Miss Beck.