Church of St. John Baptist, Hightown 1910-1970

Diamond Jubilee July 29th 1910-1970

Message from the Vicar of Wrexham the Rev. Canon Llywelyn Hughes, B.A.

Dear Friends, I am looking forward to the Diamond Jubilee at St. John’s Church because I feel that St. John’s has contributed so much to the life of Hightown and Wrexham during the last sixty years. It has been the centre, not only of its religious life, but of its social life as well. The Church has given us all the inspiration to live worthier lives, it has given comfort and solace when it was needed. It has given direction to the life of its children and has demanded loyalty from all of us.

Now, it faces another challenge with all the flats built on its doorstep. We must make all feel a warmth of welcome at St. John’s, and make old and young feel at home with us. I wish the Jubilee Celebrations every blessing. LL HUGHES, VICAR.


1910-1915 Rev. A. W. Rees

1915-1917 Rev. C. Mostyn Davies

1917-1922 Rev. J. R. Clarke

1923-1925 Rev. Dowell Ll. Jones

1925-1928 Rev. N. S. Baden-Powell

1928-1934 Rev. Hywel Davies

1934-1935 Rev. H. B. Evans

1935-1944 Rev. W. A. Lewis

1944-1950 Rev. A. R. W. Hughes

1950-1958 Rev. E. A. Grey

1958-1959 Rev. D. E. Lewis

1959-1965 Rev. H. J. Lloyd

1965— Rev. Glyn Conway

Church of St. John Baptist Hightown, Wrexham

THE Diamond Jubilee Celebration is a very noteworthy event in the life of any Church and we in Hightown have been planning and looking forward to our Celebrations this Summer for a very long time. As far back as last Summer, our Jubilee Rose-beds were planned and prepared in the Church Grounds by our men as a fitting reminder of our sixtieth Anniversary. Now we look forward to the visit to the Oberammergau Passion Play and to the very full programme of events planned for the Diamond Jubilee Week itself.

Many changes are taking place in our Community at the present time. The old laminar houses opposite the Church are being replaced by modern blocks of flats and a Community Centre. Amidst all this change the Church of St. John Baptist remains, its spire dominating the whole of Hightown. It reminds us that the Church is here to serve first God and then the Community.

There have been many projects by our Congregation to serve the Community both in Hightown and elsewhere. From time to time the elderly and infirm are transported from their homes to the Church Hall for refreshments and entertainment, the St. John’s Men’s Society sponsor a Senior Citizen’s Club each month for the elderly, and our Concert Party visits the various homes and hospitals in the area to entertain the patients. To remind us of our concern on a wider level, our Bread and Cheese Lunches provide funds for the relief of World Hunger.

It is however in our Common Worship in Church and especially at the Altar that we primarily worship God and receive grace to witness effectively in our daily lives. It is interesting to note that in one of Miss Molly Preen’s contributions (for which I am very indebted for all her work in presenting a survey of the history of Hightown) she records that a Service of Holy Communion was celebrated in Church on the evening of the day of Consecration. On the exact date of our Diamond Jubilee, the 29th July 1970 we as the Family of God in Hightown today will be doing precisely the same thing. We shall all gather again around the Altar to thank God for His blessings to Hightown during the last sixty years and to re-dedicate ourselves to His Service in the, future. G. H. CONWAY, Curate.

St. John’s 1910-1970

THE Church of St. John Baptist, King’s Mills Road, High-town, one of the daughter churches of the parish of Wrexham, celebrates its Diamond Jubilee in 1970. On Friday, 29th July 1910 the Bishop of St. Asaph, the Right Rev. A. G. Edwards-who ten years later became the first Archbishop of Wales-consecrated the newly built church. The building of a permanent church in Hightown to replace St. John’s Iron Mission Church was part of the Church Extension Scheme promoted by the Vicar of Wrexham, the Rev. Daniel Davies, to meet the needs of his rapidly growing parish.

The Church House, Regent Street, and Smithfield Mission Church were already in use, and the project was completed when the Church of St. Michael and All Angels was consecrated in September 1912. The entire cost of building and furnishing St. John’s Church-more than £8000-was borne by Mr. John Jones of Grove Lodge, Wrexham, as a memorial to his late wife. He also endowed the church with £3500.

The foundation stone was laid on May 14th, 1909 by Mr. Jones’s niece, Mrs. Charles Murless. The “Tin Church” was moved on rollers to its present position north of the site-it was built in 1877 during the incumbency of the Rev. David Howell and is still in use as a schoolroom. On June 23rd, 1910, the capstone of St. John’s spire, 120 ft. high, was ceremonially laid in position by the Rev. Daniel Davies. Accompanied by the assistant clergy of the parish, he was winched up to the working platform at the summit of the spire in a cradle made specially for the occasion.

At the service of consecration, the Bishop was accompanied by his chaplains, Canon (later Archdeacon) W. H. Fletcher, Rector of Marchwiel and formerly Vicar of Wrexham, and the Rev. E. A. Fishbourne, Vicar of Gresford. With the Vicar and clergy of Wrexham and the Churchwardens of St. John’s, Mr. H. P. Williams and Mr. Ernest Rogers, they were led into the new church by Sir Foster Cunliffe, Mr. LI. Hugh Jones and Mr. Thomas Bury, officers of the Church Extension Committee. Mr. John Jones presented the petition to consecrate to the Bishop who signed the relevant documents and laid them on the Holy Table.

The Bishop preached from the text “Now therefore, our God, we thank Thee and praise Thy glorious Name”. He spoke of the generosity of the donor and the work of the craftsmen and prayed that the new church might be an instrument for spreading the Kingdom of God anion), t h., people. At a service of Holy Communion held in the evening at St. John’s the combined choirs of the parish of Wrexham sang the anthem “I was glad when they said unto me-I will go into the House of the Lord”, and Canon Fletcher preached a moving sermon on “Thankfulness.” Built of freestone St. John’s church is traditional in plan with eastern sanctuary and chancel, a nave with aisles, vestry, south porch, and a tower of two stages surmounted by a lofty spire.

The pulpit, lectern, chancel screen, choir stalls and seating for four hundred people are all of oak. The organ was built by Messrs. Binns of Leeds. The Font, of Caen stone, was given by the children of Hightown. It bears the text “Suffer the little children to come unto Me.” The coloured East window of seven lights was made from a design by Sir Edward Burne-Jones. It is inscribed-“In memory of William Jones, born March 24th, 1782, died October 14th, 1841, and Maria his wife, born October 29th, 1788, died May 21st, 1856. This window is dedicated by their son John, who also erected this church.” In the tracery of the window is a representation of our Lord in Glory, and in the lights are two rows of figures-the Archangels Gabriel and Raphael with Saints Mary, Peter, John, Paul, and Elizabeth in the upper row, and the Prophets Daniel, Isaiah and Elijah with Saints Alban, Stephen, David and Augustine below.

A statue of St. John the Baptist occupies a niche over the apex of the window in the outer wall In the Church porch is a tablet recording that-“To the glory of God and in loving memory of Jane, wife of John Jones of Grove Lodge, Wrexham, this church was erected by her husband, 1909”. Mr. John Jones, who gave and endowed St. John’s Church, was born at the Caia, Wrexham, in November 1825. After spending some years as a chemist at Corwen and Liverpool he joined his brother William in business at the Island Green Brewery. The brothers were generous benefactors to their native town. Their gifts include the Recreation Ground at Rhosddu, the first X-Ray installations at the Infirmary, Convalescent Homes at Rhyl and Miners, and a Christmas Charity. Mr. John Jones died in 1913 aged 87. His nephew, Mr. F. W. Morris is also remembered as a local benefactor and when a new schoolroom was planned at St. John’s it was Mrs. F W. Morris who in November 1927, laid the foundation stone.

Diamond Jubilee Celebrations 1910-1970

SATURDAY, 25th JULY. Summer Fete to be opened in the Church Hall at 2.45 p.m. by Mr. Philip Yorke of Erthig Hall.

SUNDAY, 26th JULY. Family Communion and Procession at 9.30 a.m. Celebrant and Preacher: The Lord Bishop of St. Asaph.

MONDAY, 27th JULY Grand Variety Concert in the Church Hall at 7.30 p.m. for the Senior Citizens of Hightown.

TUESDAY, 28th JULY. Sacred Concert in Church at 7.30 p.m. Brymbo Male Voice Choir. Cerys Hughes-Taylor, Contralto (Triple Blue Riband Winner) Admission by Programme 2/6d.

WEDNESDAY, 29th JULY (Feast of Consecration) The Holy Eucharist will be Celebrated in Church at 7.30 p.m. The Vicar of Wrexham will preach the Sermon and former Curates of St. John’s will assist. Running buffet afterwards in the Church Hall

THURSDAY, 30th JULY TO SUNDAY, 2nd AUGUST. `FESTIVAL OF FLOWERS’-staged in Church by the Wrexham and District Flower Club on the theme of the Church and its Seasons. The Church will be open for viewing from 2.0 p.m. until 8.0 p.m. on the first day and from 11. a.m. until 8.0 p.m. on the following days.

THURSDAY, 30th JULY. Wine and Cheese Evening in the Church I lall at 7.30 p.m. Tickets 10/-

FRIDAY, 31st JULY. Youth Dance in the Church Hall at 7.30 p.m.

SATURDAY, 1st AUGUST. Carnival and Sports at 2.30 p.m.

SUNDAY, 2nd AUGUST. Church Parade at 3.0 p.m.

AN EXHIBITION OF PHOTOGRAPHS illustrating the history of St. John’s Church will be arranged in the Schoolroom.

Choir and Officials of the Church. Whit Sunday 1970

St. Giles Primary School, Wrexham By THE HEADMASTER, J. E. BROWN

THE Free School for Boys was opened in Wrexham in an old barn in the Beast Market in 1812. A little later it moved to a new building also in the Beast Market. It was closed for 17 years because it was impossible to find a master who was prepared to work on the meagre salary offered. The school was reopened in 1853 under the patronage of the National (Church of England) Society and the first Headmaster was Mr. John Haughton. The school moved to new premises (the present ones) in April 1885 under the Headship of Mr. Job Mason, and the old premises were sold to the Salvation Army and are used to this present day as their Citadel of Worship. Since the new buildings were opened 85 years ago (and at that time they were the pride of Europe), while the main structure has remained substantially the same, the school has seen many changes which are not apparent to the passer-by.

In 1957 the Seniors were transferred to the new Secondary Modern School of St. David’s, and in 1958 the Infants moved to the old Girls School and the All-age Boys School became a Junior Mixed. The School has had many names in the past, the National (short for Nationally Provided Schools) being perhaps the most popular of all and the one that is still affectionately used by its older past scholars. When control passed to the Education Authority it be-came the Wrexham Controlled School, but it was happily renamed St. Giles Primary School in April 1959. The kitchens are extensive, serving 400 meals a day.

Heating is now by oil and we enjoy the luxury of its warmth. It is hard to remember that the ink used to freeze in the inkwells and that in the depth of winter the flickering gaslight made it impossible to write. We now have our own playing-field which commands the best view of the Parish Church in Wrexham. Space does not permit me to give a full account of all the improvements. The school has always had a close affinity with St. John’s Church as the majority of its scholars are drawn from the Hightown area and are members of the Church. We would like to see the ties even closer, and perhaps we can think of ways in which this can be done. I know St. John’s wants this as much as I do. St Giles cannot be called a Church School unless its ties with the Church are strengthened. Our very best wishes on the occasion of your Diamond Jubilee.

One Hundred Years in Hightown

ACCORDING to plans of Wrexham drawn just over a century ago Hightown, the populous district now served by St. John’s Church, was then still a country area.

The few houses were in Wrexham Fechan and near the King’s Mill. Wrexham Fechan-Little Wrexham-was the name then applied to part of the Ellesmere Road above the Green Bridge in Salop Road, but it had formerly denoted a whole township extending extending from the River Gwenfro as far as Erthig Lane. To the King’s Mill the people of Wrexham Regis had been obliged in mediaeval times to take their grain to be ground.

The house in Wrexham Fechan nearest to the site on which the church was to be built was Gatefield, at the corner of Brynycabanau Lane. It was the home of Mr. Thomas Edgeworth who in 1857 was Wrexham’s first Mayor. The name Brynycabanau (Hill of the cabins) is said to recall an outbreak of plague in Wrexham when cabins or huts were put up in `Binnicky’ to isolate either the sufferers or those trying to escape infection. The spelling varied how-ever, and sometimes the lane was called Bryn-y-gwiban (Hill of the Fly).

The Travellers’ Rest Inn was then known familiarly as The Old Maids’. The ladies who conducted it always refused to serve a customer if they thought he had “had enough,” or if on pay days ne had not first taken his wages home to his family. The other inns in Wrexham Fechan, the Bridge House and the Green Dragon, existed at least as early as 1742.

Beechley, the fine 18th century house opposite the Green Dragon, was the home of the Bennion family, after whom Bennion’s Lane was named. In 1858 Miss Mary Anne Bennion made generous gifts to old St. Mark’s Church and to Minera Church. Beechley Road and Beech Gardens take their names from the house.

The rest of Hightown was agricultural. From Ellesmere Road along which coaches passed to Shrewsbury and beyond, the view was clear across the green valley to the Caia, with the old Dog Kennel Farm down by the riverside.

Whitegate Farm, between the road and the river, was later the home of another Mr. John Jones, a successful breeder and trainer of show horses.

There was a tollgate on King’s Mill Hill. King’s Mill House, built about 1780, the Mill itself, Bron Haul Farm, several cottages, the bridge and the meeting of the Rivers Gwenfro and Clwyedog, together formed a pleasant rural picture at the parish boundary.

Such was Hightown in the eighteen-sixties.

Soon the green fields gave way to industry, streets and houses. By 1877 the need for a church was apparent and St. John’s began its service in a temporary building.

The Barracks, headquarters of the Royal Welch Fusiliers, also opened in 1877 and for many years the regiment was an integral and welcome part of the life of the district.

The Prince and Princess of Wales, later King George V and Queen Mary, drove along King’s Mills Road in 1903 to visit the Barracks after unveiling a memorial in the Parish Church to the men of the regiment who had died in South Africa and China.

The Wrexham and Ellesmere Railway opened in 1895 and Hightown Halt was constructed in 1923. In 1962 the line was closed and the trains which had superseded the coaches gave way in their turn to buses.

Some of the street names in Hightown reflect interest in national figures. Albert Street recalls the Prince Consort, Stanley Street and Derby Road – the Earl of Derby, a Victorian Prime Minister; Nelson Street, Trafalgar Road and Nile Terrace – Lord Nelson and his victories; Napier Street – Sir Charles Napier, a famous soldier; Haig Road – Earl Haig, Commander-in-Chief during the First World War.

Saxon Street and its neighbours Norman Road, Tudor Road, Stuart and Hanover Ways, remind us of some of our royal dynasties.

Local interest is reflected in Bury Street – recalling the Bury family whose home was at King’s Croft, and in the Whitegate and Huntroyde housing estates, both named after the houses they succeeded. Hampson Avenue in Whitegate is named after Alderman Hampson, Mayor of Wrexham in 1933; – Mason and Jarman Avenues in Huntroyde after Mr. Job Mason, Mayor in 1926 and Mr. Sydney Jarman, Mayor of the borough in 1913 and 1914.

Connor Crescent in Whitegate recalls Sergeant Luke O’Connor, the first Royal Welch Fusilier to receive the Victoria Cross – he won it at the Battle of the Alma in 1854.

Hightown is changing again. The older streets and houses are disappearing to make way for modern developments. It is hoped that some of the old familiar names as well as topical ones will be used for the new places.

M. Preen. 1970.

Source: From the Official Diamond Jubilee Celebrations programme 1970 supplied by Annette Edwards.

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