St Ambrose - The Church
 

The site of the Church was originally in the parish of St. Andrew’s Leyland, (the Parish Church). In the late 1870’s the then Vicar of St. Andrews, The Reverend Thomas Rigbye Baldwin, saw that the population of his parish was growing at a remarkable rate, particularly at the northern end of the town. The population of Leyland in 1871 was 2,700 but by 1881 the census showed an increase to 3,700. The coming of the railway and the industries which came in its wake were largely responsible for the dramatic increase of some 37%. It was against this background that the Rev. Baldwin felt the necessity to build a chapel of ease to St. Andrews on the northern edge of the town. This was the Church in its true missionary spirit going to the people so that the needs of the people in north Leyland and south Farington could be met. Accordingly the site of the Church was acquired and conveyanced in 1880. The site contained half-an-acre of ground and cost £300.
The cost of building was to be met by public subscription and a very active building committee was formed to raise the necessary £5,000 to complete and furnish the building to a state where consecration was possible.

Subscriptions and promised subscriptions allowed building to commence and mention is made in the first edition of St. Andrews Parish Magazine (Jan. 1883) of the progress of fund raising. August 1884 the building committee issued a further appeal because “from the want of funds building of the Church (St. Ambrose) had stood still for some time”. They further pointed out that a sum of £2,000 was
required to meet the necessary total. The response was headed by the Vicar with a donation £500 and with magnificent support the population building was recommenced and was ready for consecration by mid 1885.
Consecration of the building was on June 17th 1885 by the Bishop of Manchester, The Right Reverend Dr. Fraser. In the delivery of his discourse and prior to his sermon the Bishop unreservedly expressed his “entire satisfaction” with the Church as a structure and although the tower was not finished “perhaps some generous donor would complete the Church by raising the tower to the height to which it was desired to carry it”. He commented that the interior was admirable, expressing his appreciation of its proportion and simplicity and of the “noiseless flooring”, he “did not know that he had consecrated one (in the diocese of Manchester) which had given him more entire satisfaction.”
The service of consecration and Holy Communion was followed by luncheon in a marquee erected close to the Church. The caterer was Mr. Carr of the Railway Hotel at a cost of three shillings (15p) per head. Several speeches were made praising the Church, its builders and those who worked so hard to raise the money but to the writer perhaps the most significant social comment came from the Vicar of Preston, the Reverend J.H. Rawdon, who said “The finest thing about the Church was the seats. He was a great advocate for free and open seats. First come, first served and no appropriation”. The remark was greeted and supported with cheers from the many clergy and lay persons present. Clearly it was a matter of some concern at that time.

The Chorley Guardian of Saturday June 20th 1885 carried a full report of the whole proceedings.

The first Vicar was the Rev. A.E. Evington who had been associated with St. Ambrose since its consecration first as a curate of St. Andrews and then as curate-in- charge. He served as a much loved Vicar until his death in 1931.

VICARS OF ST. AMBROSE
1885Rev. R.Baldwin (Vicar of Leyland).
1898 Rev. A. Evington
1931 Rev. A.H. Eardley
1936 Rev. E.H. Townson
1954 Rev. Canon P.F.Bateson
1971 Rev. P.D. Mears
1981 Rev. A.F. Ranson
2002 Rev. P Battersby
2009 Rev. D.J.E. Clarke
 
 
St Ambrose - The Description
 

The architect’s description of the building verbatim may be of some interest.

“The following is the architect’s description of the sacred edifice:- The Church consists of an arcaded nave, 60 feet long, 43 high, and 21 feet 3 inches wide, north and south aisles and tower at the west end 21 feet square, the interior of which forms the baptistry. On the north side of the tower is a large porch, with inner and outer doors, and on the south side a smaller porch. The chancel is 35 feet long and the full width of the nave. On the north side of the chancel is a lofty organ chamber, for the present to be used as a temporary vestry. On the south side is a chancel aisle, and south of this aisle it is intended hereafter to provide clergy and choir vestries. The chancel is divided from the nave by a dwarf wall surmounted with a wrought iron screw, and seven steps lead from the nave to the altar space. A separate exit at the side of the chancel is provided for communicants in order to avoid confusion on crowded occasions. The chancel is laid throughout with mosaic pavement of simple design, and increasing in richness at the sacrarium. The choir stalls, designed to accommodate 14 men and 16 boys are of Dantzic Oak, with carved and richly moulded ends, the work generally by the contractor, and the carving by Messrs. Earp, Son and Hobbs of London and Manchester. The Sedilia and Credence Table are recessed in an arcade on the south side of the sacrarium. The Reredos is 11 feet 6 inches high and 11 feet 6 inches wide, and consists of a framed and richly decorated woodwork structure with elaborate carved cornice. The subject is divided into three panels. The centre panel is 5 feet 4 inches high and 3 feet wide, and represents the Saviour at the Cross, with the figures of St. John, and the blessed Virgin Mary. The side panels are 5 feet high and 2 feet 9 inches wide, and represents adoring angels. Each panel is finished with richly-canopied work, and on the woodwork above is inscribed the text which the representation is intended to illustrate. “Worthy is the lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches and wisdom and strength, and honour, and glory and blessing.” The panels are carried out in Sgraffito work, an ancient Italian process revived by Messrs. Trollope and Sons. The portion of east wall on either side of reredos is hung with rich tapestry. The pulpit consists of a simple York stone base, with octagonal oak framing, carried out by the contractor, the four panels being filled in with very beautifully carved subjects, viz., passion flower, rose, lily, and pomegranate, by Mr. Harry Hews of Exeter. The lectern, litany desk, and bishop’s chair, all of oak, are also supplied by Mr. Hews. The font which is well raised above the nave in a position specially secure from draughts, is carved in Mansfield Stone by Messrs. Earp, Son and Hobbs, and bears an inscription stating that it is the gift to the Church of the children of the neighbourhood. The font space is laid with elaborate mosaic emblematic of baptism. The nave, organ chamber, and chancel are laid throughout with Lowe’s wood block paving. The seating consists of rush-bottomed Church chairs, each provided with a kneeling hassock, and supplied by Messrs. West and Collier of Hambledon. The heating and ventilation are by Messrs, Haden and Sons, of London and Manchester; the mosaic and tile work throughout by Mr Leadley Brown of Brown’s Buildings, Liverpool; the gas fittings and wrought iron work of chancel screen, altar rails etc., by Messrs. Freeman and Collier, of Manchester; the altar vessels and furniture by Messrs. Tomasson, Manchester; the carving of stone-work by Messrs. Earp, Son, and Hobbs; the reredos and hangings by Messrs. Trollope, of London. The seating accommodation of the Church, retaining wide passages and open space at the east and west of the nave, is 500, but it is estimated that for special occasions this accommodation may be very much increased. The cost of the building and furniture is about £5,000 which is being defrayed by public subscription and includes a bequest of £1,000 from the late Townley Parker, Esq. The following are special gifts to the Church:- The choir stalls, altar rail, bishop’s chair, Litany desk, sacrarium hangings, altar cassocks, and surplices for the choir by Mrs. Baldwin; the pulpit, by Mr. John Stanning; the font, by the school children; the lectern by Mrs. Howarth; the altar frontal and altar linen by Mrs. Bradford and Mrs. Bowers; and the altar vessels by the Communicants Union. The outside of the Church generally is of a quiet and unpretentious character, being an adaptation of the simplest Early English work, and detail throughout is made subservient to stability of structure. The roof is framed of pitchpine, left its natural colour, and is covered with red tile. The tower, at present unfinished, is designed to rise about 112 feet, and to have deep and richly moulded lancet windows and corner pinnacles. The work has been well and substantially carried out by the contractor, Mr. Robt. Saul of Preston, the clerk of works being the late Mr. Fred Hulme, of Stockport. The architects are Messrs. Aid- ridge and Deacon of Liverpool.

The tower was subsequently completed in 1891 when the Rev. Thomas Rigbye Baldwin paid for its erection as a memorial to his wife, who died in 1890. The east window, depicting the Resurrection and showing St.Ambrose with St. Paul, St. Peter and St. John was installed as a memorial to the Rev. T.R. Baldwin who died in September 1891. The reredos referred to in the architect’s description is the one which is now installed in The Evington Chapel.

Built as “a Chapel of Ease” to St. Andrew’s Parish, the area around the Church was formed into a “Conventional District” in 1892 and the Rev. A.Evington became Curate-in-Charge. In 1897 the Parish of St. Ambrose was formed and consolidated to include in its parish parts of the parishes of St. Andrew’s Leyland, Whittle-le-Woods, Bamber Bridge and Farington. The organ, built by William Hill was installed in 1887 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. The cost was met by Public Subscription.

 
 
St Ambrose - The man
 

St. Ambrose was the Bishop of Milan, Biblical critic and developer of many of the medieval conceptions of church-state relations. His hymns and writings are considered to be some of the most beautiful and eloquent of the fourth century.

Born the second son of the imperial viceroy of Gaul in 339, he was raised by his mother and sister in Rome following the death of his father. In 370, he was promoted to the governorship of Aemilia-Liguria and lived in Milan. When the Bishop of Milan, a supporter of the Arian heresy which questioned the divinity of Christ, died in 374, the questions arose about whether the new Bishop would be Catholic or Arian. When the two sides met at the cathedral to decide, a riot ensued.

Ambrose, as a duty of the governor, rushed to the church and, speaking in favour of neither side, asked the people to choose without fighting. During his speech, however, a voice from the crowd called for Ambrose to become Bishop.

Rather than give up a secure and successful career as an attorney for the dangerous role of Bishop in this time of heresy and upheaval, Ambrose ran to the emperor requesting the people's decision be overturned. When the emperor refused, Ambrose hid in a senator's home. The senator, hearing of the emperor's decision, soon threw Ambrose out. With nowhere to go, Ambrose finally accepted the decision. In doing so, Ambrose had gone from layman to Bishop in eight days. Because of the rush, many expected Ambrose to maintain his style of living. Instead, he gave his property to the poor and began studying the Scripture under St. Simplician.

During these turbulent times, Ambrose faced many instances when he protected not only Catholics, but also the Arian heretics. When the emperor died, Empress Justina, an Arian, was left in a greatly weakened Rome. She begged Ambrose to negotiate with Maximus, who felt that his army could invade and conquer Rome. In spite of the Empress' Arian stance, Ambrose persuaded Maximus not to attack.

Later, when Justina demanded that Ambrose surrender his basilica to the Arians, Ambrose refused. The outraged people of Milan captured and were ready to execute an Arian priest. Rather than allow the priest to die, Ambrose sent a group of priests and deacons to save the captive. In response, soldiers who had surrounded Ambrose's basilica entered and began to pray.

In 385, Justina had her son issue an edict legalizing Arians and forbidding Catholic opposition to Arians. On Palm Sunday, Ambrose preached against this law. Fearing for their lives, the Catholics barricaded themselves in the church. Soldiers sent by Justina surrounded the basilica in an attempt to starve the congregation. To calm the Catholics, Ambrose asked them to sing hymns he had composed. When the army heard the song, they began to sing along and the siege was ended.

When he saw that the Roman army was busy attacking Catholics, Maximus saw his opportunity. Justina again begged Ambrose to talk with Maximus, which he did. When Maximus refused Ambrose, Ambrose hurried back to warn Justina, who fled to Greece. Theodosius, the Emperor of the Eastern Empire, came to the rescue of Rome.

In spite of the friendship that Theodosius and Ambrose had, Ambrose maintained and held his friend to the Scriptures and theology of the Catholic Church. In 388, he rebuked Theodosius for punishing a Bishop who had burned a Jewish synagogue and in 390 imposed public penance on Theodosius for massacring the citizens of Thessalonica following a riot. These acts, along with his diplomacy and resourcefulness for Rome's sake, created a model for medieval relationships between church and state.

St. Ambrose passed away in 397 at the age of 57. December 7th is his day of feast, celebrating the day he was ordained.