In 1863 St Stephen’s church opened a Sunday School in Hooley Hill led by the lay reader Mr Dyson. In 1879 this moved to a new building in Denton Lane (now Denton Road) in a position approximating to the present Community Centre. For many years this was known as the Branch school and became a day school as well as a Sunday school.

With the opening of Poplar Street school which was financed by the Lancashire Education Committee in 1913, the church day school was closed in 1914, but the building continued for many years as a Sunday school and mission church. The mission church then chose the name St Hilda, and in January 1924 a new district was created and in April Reverend E. B. Clarke took up his position as the first incumbent. Mr Clarke was a middle of the road Anglican. A piece of land was purchased at the junction of Denton Road and Ashton Road. A board was erected announcing the site of a new Church Saint Hilda’s. A temporary wood and asbestos church building was constructed on the present site of the church which was consecrated on 11 November 1924 by Rt. Rev. William Temple Bishop of Manchester.

The old school building at the other end of Denton Road was ultimately sold to a rubber factor of Pitt Street which used the building for storage.

Mr Clarke stayed until 1929 when he was replaced by Revd. F. A. C. Tidmarsh, who was a very high Anglican and had introduced various emblems in the church and had much to the irritation of the parochial council referred to Holy Communion as the Mass. In the interregnum the emblems were removed by the PCC. The vicarage was then a semi detached house on Shepley Road.

Mr Tidmarsh’s incumbency was very short and he was replaced by Rev. W. Rowland Jones. Mr Jones could be described as a character. His autobiography “Diary of a Misfit Priest” makes interesting reading; it is perhaps remarkable that he ever got a parish living having read his views on bishops. There was some politics in the appointment in that Mr Jones was an active labour party supporter. In his meeting with the ecclesiastical secretary at 10 Downing Street he was told “You are fortunate in your friends, Mr Jones. They have brought your name to my attention, and the Prime Minister has pressed me to write to you. This is a poor parish. There is no church, only a temporary wooden building. The house is not very good. You would be well advised not to accept it. There will be others if you can wait”

If you read Jones’ book you will realise offers of posts to him were few and far between, he needed to get the appointment. A somewhat heated interview followed with the Bishop of Manchester, who agreed perhaps reluctantly to licence him; he had not heard of Jones until he got the letter from the Prime Minister. Mr Jones described his churchmanship as simple Anglo-Catholic. He was an active socialist and wrote weekly articles for the Daily Herald. He spent his early years in the parish raising money for a permanent church building.

On 22
nd May 1936 a Friday evening, the asbestos and wood church building was burnt down. Do we believe in Acts of God? A big money raising campaign was started the church being then described as Catholic Evangelical. This caused antagonism from a neighbouring evangelical parish and yet another stormy meeting with the Bishop of Manchester. In spite of all the difficulties; with money raised within the parish, donations from supporters and the insurance claim from the temporary church building, the foundation stone of the new church was laid by the Bishop of Manchester Rt. Revd. Dr Guy Warman on the 29th May 1937 and on 26th February 1938 the new church was consecrated. Up to this time the church ministers were referred to as Curate in Charge or Incumbent, but Jones now became the first Vicar.

The new building on consecration consisted of a chancel, three vestries and one bay of the nave.
After 22 years as vicar Fr Rowland Jones was succeeded in 1952 by Father Eric Parker, who served the parish for four years. September 1956 saw the arrival of Father Brian Bason who was welcomed as a ‘local lad made good.’ An old boy of Audenshaw Grammar School, he had studied at Leeds University and trained for the ordained ministry at the College of the Resurrection, Mirfield.  Father Bason became the longest-serving incumbent to date, with 33 years’ service (1956-89).

In February 1978, the ‘temporary’ parish hall next to the church was burned down by vandals. Built by German prisoners of war in 1944, at the invitation of Fr Rowland Jones, the wooden hut was the meeting place for the Scouts and other church-based organisations and used for a variety of social events during its lifespan. The hall known locally as the Shack had but recently been refurbished by a team of volunteers led by churchwarden and Scout leader Bill Marston. While it was heartbreaking to see the demise of a building in which so much time, energy and money had been invested, the vicar and parochial church council (PCC) agreed that St Hilda's must now look to the future.

The church, built 40 years earlier, became a dual-purpose building. The seating in church consisted of wooden chairs rather than pews and so it was relatively easy to create a central space which could be used as a hall on weekdays The dual-purpose arrangement was made permanent in 1983 when a dividing screen was constructed, separating the nave from the chancel and sanctuary. The screen is opened for Sunday services, when the nave is set out in traditional style with rows of chairs. A nave altar is used for the celebration of the Eucharist and administration of Holy Communion.

Father Bason was succeeded by the present incumbent, Father John Kershaw in November 1989. Father John, as he is known to his parishioners, moved into the new vicarage which had been built within the church grounds, five years previously. The house replaced the previous St Hilda's Vicarage, 100 yards away at 209 Ashton Road, Denton, which was sold and converted into flats.

St Hilda's

Pictures of the original church in 1924
Please click the thumbnail images to enlarge