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Harbour Mission Church

In 1967 Leslie Stephenson wrote in a Morecambe Guardian supplement about the St Peter’s Millennium celebrations:

At one time the harbour had its own church - the Harbour Mission which was built as an extension of St Peter's Church to provide a nearby place of worship for the workmen engaged on building the harbour.
Now no longer a mission, but St Andrew's Church, Heysham,  it has become as much a part of Heysham Parish as St Peter's itself.

This web page endeavours to fill in some details implied in the above extract, but leaves many questions unanswered. We welcome contributions from others who may know more. Please use web@heyshamheritage.org.uk  as contact. The full article can be read  here

The St Peter’s Parish Website is titled  Parish of Heysham : St Peter with St James and St Andrew  but on the parish page adds

‘St Andrew's was the Sea Missions Church attached to the Parish. When the church closed, all services were amalgamated with St James.’

The small section (right) of the larger  sketch map of Klondyke navvy village shows a building labelled Mission Room School. What precisely this means is not clear nor do we know who instigated its presence,  The Midland Railway or Heysham Parish or both or neither. It would only have a limited life as the village  and all its buildings, apart from the pre-existing Banks House would have been swept away once the harbour opened in 1904.

We have found a 1904 reference to  an entirely different site more appropriate to places  in which people associated with the harbour lived once it had been finished.. The map below right shows the junction between Moneyclose Lane, McDonald Road  and Rothesay Road in the 1930s (full map in HHA archive). That junction still exists (traffic lights) though not quite in the same form. To see the 1904 postcard click  here. The description undermeath the card reads:
 Heysham Harbour Junction taken from Moneyclose Lane near the Mission Church


This description does not necessarily imply the Mission Church was there in 1904; much depends on when the description itself was added.
You can see the railway lines going in different directions at this point on the map  - to the Passenger station, Cattle dock etc., in other words a junction. It seems reasonable to assume that the Mission Church shown on the 1930s map was just possibly already there in 1904. On a later map it also has a hall next to it on the north side.  Both buildings are present on  an OS Pathfinder 1:25000 map (the church with the usual large + sign) which is stated as based on survey data from 1955-1970. Does this imply that they were there at least until 1955?

The housing in Rothesay Road, Londonderry Road and Connaught Road was probably added when the LMS  absorbed the Midland Railway in 1922. McDonald Road remained a cul-de-sac. There was still no through road connection between this area and Trumacar Lane to the east.
Other ordnance maps (see  one on the Navvy Villages page) do not show the Mission Church on this Moneyclose Lane site; but this does not necessarily mean it was not there. One needs to read the small print to find out what parts of the map have been updated.


© Ordnance Survey and Old-Maps

Another source for clues as to when the Mission Church might have been founded are in newspapers. So far the earliest found is in May 1932 to a Mr Frank King who was a lay reader at Heysham Harbour Mission Church. A later one refers to a  memorial service at the Heysham Harbour Mission in June 1944 for a WWII soldier who had lived in McDonald Road. Another reference is to it being known as ‘The Railway Church’.

On a more personal note our correspondent Jackie McCann writes:
“In the late 1940s and 1950s on occasions I stayed with Miss Beatrice Williams and her father Robert William Williams at their home which was the 1st semi on Combermere Road. I used to help Miss Williams do the flowers and set out the books for the harvest festival.  Robert Williams who was (I believe) an engineer at the harbour, was a lay preacher at the Mission Church. It was very similar inside to Sunderland Point Mission.
Robert Williams was mayor of Morecambe & Heysham 1938-39 and Miss Williams was mayoress.  She was a teacher at Sandylands School and later headmistress at Arkholme School.”


Left is the only image of the Mission Church we have so far been able to find. It occurs ‘accidentally’ on a railway photograph and the picture shown is only part of the whole picture which was recently posted on Flickr by Bruce Grime. We have his permission to reproduce it here.

In the background one can see the Harbourmasters houses (with chimneys) built by the Midland Railway at the  time of the harbour construction and labelled Midland Villas on OS maps of the time. The single story buildings in front of them are the Mission Church and its hall, the building with the long sloping roof.

The engine appears to have a British Rail insignia on the tender so the date is after 1948, when the railways were nationalized  One can see where the description ‘Railway Church’ comes from.

At some point in the mid 20th century Rothesay Road and Trumacar Lane were joined up to create a through vehicular route from Trumacar to the Harbour. Also in the 2nd half of the 20th century vehicular access to the north side of the Harbour was opened up by Port Way which started at the Moneyclose Lane traffic lights and cut through the site of the Mission Church.  From then on the church moved to a post WWII prefabricated building on Rothesay Road opposite the end of of Londonderry as in the picture right; the car park is a later feature. This is the building which is  the subject of the Morecambe Guardian article referred to at the beginning of the page. Though no longer a church it is widely used by a number of local community organizations.

Some unanswered questions:
When was the Mission Church on the Moneyclose Lane site first built?
At what point did it become St Andrew’s rather than the Mission Church?