Page 12 - Moravian Messenger Dec 2021
P. 12

Moravian Church
Just four miles from Manchester City Centre sits Fairfield Settlement, a haven of peace and tranquility tucked away from the busy roads and streets of urban life.
Our story begins a few miles away in another Manchester town, Dukinfield. After 30 years of life
and work at Dukinfield, members looked for another place to
continue Settlement life.
In 1783 various sites were
examined, among them Broad
Oaks Farm, held by a Mrs
Greaves. Other adjoining land
was already held by a Moravian brother, Br Saxon, and this site was chosen to be the church's new home, in total the estate consisted of five acres.
Br Benjamin LaTrobe (Jnr) drew up the plans, and at the age of 33 Br John Lees of Clarkesville Oldham was appointed site manager and immediately set about setting up brick kilns on site which would supply all the bricks for the building. Everything was ready for building to commence and on the 9th of June 1784 the foundation stones for the Church and Choir houses were laid by Br Benjamin LaTrobe (Snr); these main three buildings on the terrace are of Georgian design and form one side of 'The Square'. By May 1785 in addition to the church and Single Sisters' and Single Brethren's houses a further thirteen dwelling houses had been completed and tenanted at a total cost of £6,000. The church building opened for worship at a special service exclusively for members of the settlement and congregation on Friday 15th July 1785 followed by an opening service two days later for the public on Sunday 17th. Fairfield quickly became self-contained with its inn, shop, bakery, farm, laundry, fire-engine, night-watchman, inspector of weights and measures, an overseer of roads and even a physician.
In 1790 a boys' boarding school was opened and then in 1796 a girls' boarding school. In 1793 the first Sunday School of the British Province was opened.
The boys school closed in 1891, the girls school continued to 1923 at which time it was acquired by the Education Authority, and a girls' school still occupies that site today.
The burial ground was laid out when the Settlement was built and was also used as an orchard, the first interment was in May 1785, just before Church's official opening. 'Gods Acre' to this day is still reserved for members of the Fairfield congregation.
But what of more recent times? The Moravian Theological college had moved from Fulneck to Fairfield in 1875 and many minsters came through those doors until it closed in 1958 at which time the college building was left unoccupied and fell into a terrible state of disrepair. After much discussion, in the late 1970s work started to renovate the building so that it could be used as a Sunday School and Church Hall. Yet again the church looked within its membership and Br Anthony Torkington (an architect and lifelong Fairfield member), stepped forward and took on the project. The building was re- opened for use in July 1983. It has recently undergone further work (still under the watchful eye of Br Torkington), to restore the top floor of the College, and this now provides the College with a second hall with en-suite kitchen and toilet. The College is used for all sorts of church and community activities including room hire for birthday parties; use by film companies; extra examination hall for the Girls School; Starling organization (which provides creative workshops for young people with hidden
disabilities) and Catch22, who arrange activities with young people for the National Citizen Service. We hold Family Service there once a month, our Christmas Fair, jumble sales, afternoon teas, youth club, messy church and previously Guides, Brownies and Rainbows have all had their weekly meetings here. During the period of COVID regulations and lockdowns, the College Garden has been a most invaluable asset to the residents and the wider community as a safe green space for contemplation, relaxation, and exercise.
The Church has continued to worship with the help of Facebook and Zoom services, we also held Zoom coffee mornings and committee meetings. Residents of the Square had weekly Singing Our Faith on Our Doorsteps and non-residents on email, received a weekly attachment with the hymns so they could join in from their own homes each Sunday at 10am.
Our congregation now has seventy-eight members and over the past year at outdoor and indoor services, our average attendance has been twenty-eight adults and one child. During the pandemic, the Bible Study Group, Youth Club, Ladies Thursday Group, Fairfield Tots Time, and Fairfield Memory Singers have not met. We hope most if not all of them will resume at the proper time and we continue to look forward in the hope that Fairfield will continue to flourish.
Sr Margery Sutcliffe
  The Moravian Messenger
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