History of St Cuthbert’s
In the late 18th century Blackpool was no more than a hamlet within the township of Layton with Warbreck. Houses were scattered and few, there was not even a shop. It became fashionable for the aristocracy to take to the waters and spas and so seaside resorts became popular. The marsh or bog of South Shore was drained, thanks to the Catholic Tyldesley family of Garstang.
In 1801 the population numbered 473 persons but by 1854 when the Sacred Heart Church was established the number had risen to 2,000. The majority of the building work was taking place in the North Shore area so Sacred Heart served a local community. Building work eventually encroached on the gypsy encampment situated at the Gynn and so they moved to South Shore and their horses grazed on the site which is now St Cuthbert’s Church and car park.
In 1880 Fr Edward Lupton was sent from Liverpool, the population had risen to 14,229 persons. It was felt that Sacred Heart could no longer adequately serve the expanding Blackpool Catholic population as well as the many visitors to the town. Canon Lupton, as he was later to become, took residence in a cottage on Lytham Road. His appointment was to serve a twofold purpose – to establish a church and school, and to repair his failing health.
At first a small rectangular brick building doubling as a church and school was established on Lytham Road which served on Sundays as a church and during the week two Miss Murphys took lessons for 17 pupils. When the collections on a Sunday reached 12/6 (real money) it was decided to initiate a fund for a new church. A new brick presbytery was built in Crystal Road before the new church was opened on Sunday June 22 1890. A solemn High Mass was held, with an admission price of 2s. 6d. Sermons were delivered by Dr Vaughan, Bishop of Salford and the Rt Rev Mgr Bilsborrow.
Between 1890 and 1897 over £2,700 was spent on embellishing the building. This included Stations of the Cross in 1891 (£140), Rose Window (£200), eleven stained glass windows (£264) and the High Altar reredos (£713).
In 1899 a new infants’ schools was built at right angles to the church.
In 1907 land and buildings were bought in Bagot Street for almost £400 and converted to a young men’s club. This served as a social centre for the parish until 1960 when two boarding houses next to the church were purchased and adapted to form a parish centre. Fr Coia, P.P. said St Cuthbert’s was ‘unique in concentrating all social amenities under one roof’ and Fr Turner, curate, said he hoped the centre would further unify the people of the parish.
St Cuthbert’s Church was consecrated in June 1923. The previous year Fr Lupton had been raised to Canon and was to remain parish priest until his death in 1944, he was then aged 93 years. Blackpool certainly did restore his failing health as a young man of 29 years.
Canon Lupton was succeeded as Parish Priest by the Fr. Pearson who had been a curate to the Canon for the previous six years and was to remain a further seventeen years as Parish Priest, being elevated to Bishop in 1949.
Bishop Pearson was in turn replaced by Fr A. A. Coia who came to Blackpool in 1967 from Windermere.
St Cuthbert’s school remained over-subscribed and so another site was established at Blowing Sands, Our Lady of the Assumption which was built in 1947. The school accommodated infants and juniors of it’s own parish and juniors of St Cuthbert’s, and so it became known as Our Lady of the Assumption and St Cuthbert’s school.
It was always Fr Coia’s ambition that once again all the children from the parish should be schooled in their own accomodation and so land was purchased adjacent to Waterloo Rd Car Park and Palatine School and work began to erect a school. Unfortunately, Fr Coia died on 14th February 1977 – before he could see his wish realised. St Cuthbert’s School, Lightwood Avenue opened in September 1977 and was officially opened and blessed in July 1978 by the Rt. Rev. B.C. Foley, Bishop of Lancaster.
Following the death of Fr Coia, Fr L. Wells became Parish Priest until he retired due to ill health. He stayed in the house at 51 Crystal Rd until he went to live the with the Little Sisters of the Poor, Garstang Road, Preston until his death on 13th March 1999.
The Parish Priests that followed were Fr Peter Draper and Fr Bernard Woods, along with more recent Parochial Administrators: Fr Francis Osman, Fr Robert Horn, Fr Krzysztof Goralski and Fr Janusz Kopec. Since September 2017 St Cuthbert’s Parish has been linked with neighbouring St John Vianney & St Monica, Blackpool. Our present Parochial Administrator is Fr Daniel Etienne, with Assistant Priest Fr Tim Sullivan.