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The Revd Thomas was installed as vicar of St Mark's and St Luke's Dukinfield in October 1974. He came from the Diocese of Swansea, Wales, and in later years many friendships were formed with folk from Wales when the Male Voice Choir from Glyn Neath came to Dukinfield annually. Mr Thomas already had connections in the area as his sister was the wife of the Revd Brindley Lewis of St Paul’s Stalybridge.
Photo taken on a night out with Glynneath Male Voice Choir members.
Because The Revd Thomas was appointed vicar of both St Mark’s and St Luke’s (the first time the parishes had been linked) a fundamental re-organisation was required. Services were held on Sundays at one of the churches in the morning, and the other in the evening. The monthly magazine also became one combined with information from both churches.
The two churches joined together in social activities and, in some instances, joined in each other’s worship. Summer Fetes were held in the vicarage grounds as well as the two separate annual Christmas Fairs.
On the occasion of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977, members of St Luke’s and St Mark’s churches held a joint party, followed by a “crazy cricket match” in the grounds of St Mark’s vicarage. About 300 people had tea and, afterwards, the children played organised games. All the children were presented with a Silver Jubilee mug, bearing the name of their church, by the vicar. The men dressed up as women and the women as men for the match and the wardens from the two churches umpired. The “man of the match” was Ian Bintliff and the “woman of the match” was the vicar’s wife, who led her side to victory.
Once again St Mark’s vicar was the choice for chaplain by the mayor-elect of Dukinfield. Councillor George Hatton JP attended his civic service at 10:30 am at St Mark’s on 8 June 1980, when the Member of Parliament, Mr Tom Pendry, read a lesson.
St Mark’s School, which was used in the evenings and weekends for parish activities, finally closed its doors on 23 July 1980. The Church School, which opened shortly before the church was completed, was amongst the earliest of the elementary schools in the district. Reading, writing, arithmetic and religious instruction formed the curriculum. Mr Heffill regarded 1846 as the date of the founding of the parish and celebrated by a procession of children round the boundary, quite a long walk if they did it all, as the parish of St Luke had not yet been formed, ending with buns and lemonade. This procession was the forerunner of the Sunday School Sermons and Whit Walks.
St Marks was an aided school until 1970 when it became controlled by the local education authority. At the start of the new term in September, the children were transferred to the new school on Clarendon Street or to other schools in the borough. The Revd Thomas became the sole trustee of the school and the building remained unused whilst ideas were discussed at the Parochial Church Council (PCC). Unfortunately, the future of the building was finally settled on Monday 24 November 1980 when the school was mostly destroyed by fire which rendered the premises completely unusable. Two 12-year-old boys were charged with arson in December and admitting causing the damage in court on Tuesday, 3 February 1981. The burnt-out school was demolished by local building contractors, Roland Bardsley Ltd.
In April 1982, it was confirmed the land formerly used for the school buildings was to be developed as a residential site. Meanwhile, the PCC agreed to build a purpose built church hall in the grounds of the church. Click here to go to the church hall page.
The church has always needed renovation and repair year on year as it ages. It is a Grade II Listed Building. The clock in the tower had to be stopped for several years because the four stone pinnacles on top of the tower were in a bad state of repair and would be further damaged by the vibration of the clock mechanism. The pinnacles were taken down from the tower - one couldn’t be repaired - and the others are now situated around the site (see main picture at top of page). The stonework on the tower was repaired by Ian Cole of King Street In 1986, after £9,000 worth of work and several years things were back to normal and the church clock chiming the hour again.
In 1987, the Diocese decided to build a new vicarage in part of the grounds of the Victorian vicarage which was sold.
In February 1989, it was agreed that a stained glass window would be installed in church in memory of Mrs Alma Fenton, the wife of Mr Gerald Fenton, who had served the church for many years in official capacities, such as church warden. This was created and installed by Eifon Davies.
St Mark’s celebrated its 150th anniversary in 1999, with various events, the most important being the church service led by the Bishop of Chester, The Rt Revd Dr Peter Forster, on 17 January 1999. On 6 February 1999, all past Rose Queens were invited to a Reunion at a Saturday evening service when the current Rose Queen, Claire Petruzzelli read a lesson and a retired Rose Queen, Shelia Nadin (1950/51) read the second lesson. The Rose Queens present were all given a copy of a painting of St Mark’s church.
Also in 1999, a Parish Room was constructed underneath the balcony at the back of the church and the font was relocated to a platform near the vicar’s stall.
The font was dedicated to the memory of the men of the parish who died during the first world war.
At the end of the Second Millennium a stained glass window was commissioned from Eifon Davies. The Millennium Window was dedicated by The Rt Rev Dr Peter Forster, Bishop of Chester, on 18 April 2004.
The Revd Thomas retired from St Luke’s and St Mark’s in 2004 and a Farewell Communion Service was held on 26 September 2004.