Our beautiful church was consecrated by the Bishop of Ripon, Dr Bickersteth on Easter Tuesday, 19th April 1881. The new Church was crowned for the service and many were standing in the aisle. Early in 1880 the Rev Frances Charles Kilner D.D. was appointed as the first Vicar and served until 1892. He later became the Bishop of Richmond. The sermon was preached by Reverend R. R. Kirby, Vicar of Chapel Allerton, at the reqest of the Bishop who was too unwell to undertake the duty.
The chosen text was Numbers chapter 11 verses 15-16. In his sermon he said “the district in which the new church stood was a few years ago, an uninhabited region; with startling rapidity streets,terraces and avenues of houses sprung into being. The hillside where formerly stood the waving corn, now bustled with that other harvest the reapers of which were to be Angels”. Later on, he said ” the church would always be open every day for private and public prayers”. Obviously, vandalism and all that it means today was unknown in those days!
The hillside referred to was from Church Lane southwards, taking in the Potternewton Park area and the Sholebrokes. The inside of the church didn’t have stained glass windows and there was no Lady Chapel. The font was at the west end of the north aisle. The baptistery was built later in the memory of the second Vicar Reverend R.G.P. Bullock, who served from 1892 to 1896 having formerly been Assistant Curate at St Martin’s.
The cost of the new Church was £8,500. Of this, £1,000 was spent on the foundations. The Church was built of stone from Potternewton quarries – which used to be in the vicinity of the old windmill on Sugarwell Hill. The exceptions were the pulpit and the font, with a marble base, which were built of Caen stone. The Church was surrounded entirely by fields with footpaths to the north and south doors, but not for long.
For the first year, the Church Magazine was issued quarterly at 3d a copy, but later became a monthly at 2d for all copies, as it was in great demand. Sunday services were:
8.00 am Holy Communion
10.30 am Matins
3.30 pm Afternoon services (sometimes for men)
6.30 pm Evensong
Helen Broadbent – St Martin’s Church Archivist