Opened by George Selwyn, the Bishop of Lichfield, on April 1st, 1868, St. Saviour’s was a tin mission church in Butt Lane. Manufactured as a “self assembly kit” containing a wooden frame, corrugated iron sheets, doors and windows, the church was purchased from a London firm. Erected by volunteers, St. Saviour’s served the village until 1879 when it was replaced by a mock Tudor timber framed building.
The redundant “tin church” was acquired by Mow Cop parish, dismantled and taken to The Rookery where it was reassembled.
Now called St. Saviour’s Mission Church in the Rookery, the church was self supporting. All its income came from collections and fund raising activities organised by members of the congregation. Although services were taken by the vicar of Mow Cop who appointed the Vicar’s Warden, other officials were elected by the congregation at the annual general meeting. As well as electing the People’s Warden, the treasurer and the sidesmen, the meeting appointed the Sunday School superintendent, the choirmaster, the organist and the cleaner.
In September, 1932, the Rev. Charles Hood became Vicar of Mow Cop. A man with a forceful personality, he persuaded the annual general meeting to regenerate St. Saviour’s and the church was closed from August 18th to September 8th, 1935 while the work was carried out. Some of the money to finance the project was raised locally but most had been given by retired marine engineer, Summers Hunter, who had helped re-erect the church when it came from Butt Lane.
One of John and Isabella Hunter’s six children, Summers was born at Inverness on July 12th, 1856 and educated at Inverness Academy. In 1870, when Summers was 14, his father became the agent for a colliery in the Kidsgrove area. The family left Scotland and came to live in The Rookery.
Summers obtained an apprenticeship with Barker & Cope, a Kidsgrove engineering firm which made boilers, winding gear and pumps. He attended classes at the Wedgwood Institute and won prizes for electrical engineering, technical drawing and machine construction. In 1880, Summers left The Rookery and went to Sunderland to work for the North Eastern Marine Engineering Company where he became one of the world’s leading marine engineers.
In 1900, the company made him its managing director. He modernised the firm’s Wallsend factory where cutting edge research was undertaken to develop new and more powerful steam engines. Efficient and easy to maintain, these engines were used by shipbuilders in Europe and North America to power their ships. During the Second World War, a triple expansion engine, developed at the factory in the early years of the 20th century, was modified and installed in the British designed Liberty Ships which were built in America to carry supplies across the Atlantic.
When St. Saviour’s was regenerated, Summers gave two stained glass windows. The large window which depicts the figure of Christ was installed above the altar and the other was placed above the main entrance.
Summers visited St. Saviour’s on October 13th, 1935 and addressed the congregation. After giving a brief account of the church’s history, he bore “personal witness” of the way his life had been influenced by the services he attended there in his youth.
Copyright Betty Cooper and David Martin – The Phoenix Trust 2011