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St Martin’s Church, Brabyns Brow

by Matthew Corrigan

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St Martins Church Marple Bridge Church Bells

St Martins Church bells

For the last one hundred and fifty-one years, a church has looked out over Marple Bridge and the gurgling Goyt from an elevated position near the bottom of Brabyns Brow.

Established in 1867 by Ann Hudson, whose family owned the erstwhile Brabyns Hall, the first building was a temporary metal construction. It soon, however, became apparent that a more substantial structure would be necessary, and its replacement welcomed the first congregation through the doors in 1870.

Sandwiched between the entrance to Brabyns Park and the railway station, St Martins is a fine example of Arts and Crafts Movement architecture. Over its near century and a half of existence, the church has been extended several times and is now a Grade II Listed Building. Inside, a chapel contains many fine works of art and a trust has been set up to “preserve and make known” its artistic heritage. There is also a small bell-cote, containing two (2) church bells.

Following long-established tradition, these bells have pealed at times of great national import, the end of the Second World War being one such example. Recently, they rang out to commemorate those who were lost at the Manchester Arena on the first anniversary of the terror attack. And every Sunday Morning, at ten to eight, they are rung for ten minutes to summon the faithful to prayer. A more quintessentially British sound is difficult to imagine, and provides stark contrast to the strimmers, the pressure washers, the motorcycles, the lawnmowers, the burglar alarms and the interminable aural assault of the 'blues and twos' sirens that typically blight the average Sunday.

Sadly, however, it seems not everyone is in favour. The current vicar is Father Ed McKenna, an affable and amusing gentleman who is, naturally, keen to promote his church and play an active role in the wider community. Father McKenna recently received an email, scrupulously polite, requesting that the church consider stopping the practice of ringing the bells at ten to eight, in order that the good people of Marple Bridge may remain at slumber.

Being fair of mind, Father McKenna decided to canvass the opinions of his fellow residents in hope of settling the matter democratically. Ergo, he instigated polls across various social media websites. The response was as immediate as it was overwhelming. There were hundreds of comments in favour of the bells. Many, many people, with or without belief, made their views plain. At the last count, some four hundred and thirty-five townspeople had registered their support. In the interest of balance, we must report that there were also some votes cast against. Three, in fact.