Orange and Blue – St Mark’s (West Gorton), Rev Arthur Connell and Manchester City Football Club

St Mark’s (West Gorton)

St Mark’s Church West Gorton was consecrated by the Bishop of Manchester on 30 November 1865.  The first rector of the church was Arthur Connell, who had been born in Mallow, Ireland in around 1822.  He completed his theological training at St Aidan’s Theological College in Birkenhead and was ordained as a deacon in 1856.

Shankill Parish Church, Lurgan

His first clerical appointment was as curate of Shankhill Parish Church, Lurgan in 1857, in County Armagh.  He then became curate at Tullylish Parish Church in Gilford.  While he was curate at Tullylish he delivered a lecture on ‘The Benefits flowing from the Protestant Reformation’.  Connell said: ‘The whole history of the Reformation bore testimony to the truth – that ‘The Bible, and the Bible alone, was the religion of Protestants ;’ and that the history of Roman Catholicism afforded the most unquestionable evidence in proof of Romanism being in direct antagonism to the Word of God.  That this opposition to the Bible on the part of Rome was not much to be wondered at, inasmuch as there was not one command of the Sacred Decalogue which she was not guilty of violating; and her teaching on all the essential doctrines of Christianity was quite opposed to the spirit and letter of God’s revealed Word’.
In 1859 Arthur Connell was offered the position of curate at Christ Church in Harrogate.  He remained in Harrogate until 1865 when he became rector of St Mark’s, West Gorton.  Connell worked hard in the parish and especially in relation to education where he improved the Day and Sunday schools connected to the Church.  In 1866 there were 192 children in attendance, by 1893 this had risen to 820 children.

Bro William Touchstone, Grand Secretary, Loyal Orange Institution of England

In April 1869 a lecture was held under the auspices of Openshaw and Gorton Constitutional Association in the school-room of St Mark’s Church, Clowes Street, West Gorton.  The meeting was chaired by Rev A Connell.  The lecture was entitled ‘Mr Gladstone’s Irish Church Bill.  From whom he proposes to take the property, and to whom he proposes to give it’ and was given by William Touchstone.  William Touchstone was a leading Manchester Orangeman.
In his introductory speech, Rev Connell expressed his pleasure at the Church of Ireland’s opposition to Gladstone’s policy of disestablishment saying that ‘the spirit of the apprentice boys of Derry was not not yet extinct’.
In November 1865, William Touchstone was again the lecturer at a meeting of St Mark’s Christian and Literary Association which was held at St Mark’s School-room, Clowes Street, West Gorton.  The subject of the lecture was ‘The Life and Times of King William III, Prince of Orange’.  The chair of the meeting was taken by Rev Arthur Connell who was the vice-president of the association.  In his introductory remarks Rev Connell said that King James II had ‘planned and plotted to subordinate the British nation to the see and sovereignty of the Church of Rome.  The Protestantism of this country was awakened however, and the people of England resolutely resolved that they should not become subordinate again to that yoke, which neither they nor their forefathers were able to bear, and accordingly under the influence of sound Protestant principles they resisted the encroachments of a despotic Romish monarchy, and the result was that he had to flee as a fugitive, and as a result of that flight King William III, of pious, glorious, and immortal memory, was invited to come over to our beloved land to sway the regal sceptre.  (Cheers).  He responded to that call, resolving at the same time that the Protestant religion and the liberties of England, he should faithfully maintain.  All knew how faithful he was to these professions, and all were familiar with the struggles which took place in maintaining these important principles; and the result of which was that no Popish sovereign from thenceforth should ever reign on the throne of England, or sway the sceptre over these realms’.

St Mark’s Church (West Gorton)

In 1875, St Mark’s Church formed a cricket team, which was under the chairmanship of William Henry Beastow, who was the Parishioners Churchwarden at St Mark’s Church, and an engineer at the Union Iron Works.  Beastow was also active in public affairs, becoming a Conservative Councillor for the St Mark’s ward in 1897 until he retired from the Council in 1907.  In winter 1880 the cricketers decided to form St Mark’s football club.  Some of the players from this football team were instrumental in forming Gorton AFC in October 1884.  The Chairman of Gorton AFC was James Moores, a sidesman at St Mark’s Church, who was also active in local Conservative politics.  In February 1888 a Conservative lecture had been given in St Mark’s School, Clowes Street, West Gorton, under the auspices of Gorton Conservative Club, where James Moores presided.  The Vice-Chairman of the club was William Henry Beastow, and the secretary was Edward Kitchen, who was a member of St Mark’s.  Other members of the Church involved in the football club were Walter Chew, Frederick Hopkinson, Richard Hopkinson, who went on to become the organist at St Mark’s, and Lawrence Furniss, who would become a sidesman at St Mark’s Church and a Director, Chairman and President of Manchester City Football Club.  Walter Chew played in St Mark’s (West Gorton) first match and went on to become the secretary of both Gorton and Ardwick  He died in September 1948 and an obituary described him as one of the founders of Manchester City.

Gorton AFC with it is believed James Moores and William Beastow on the right of the photo

On 20 April 1885 Gorton AFC held their first annual dinner at the Justice Birch Hotel, on Hyde Road.  James Moores presided, assisted by W H Beastow.  The Justice Birch Hotel was also where the Ashbury Masonic Lodge 1459 held its meetings, where William Beastow was a member.  In the 1870s it was also the meeting place for Loyal Orange Lodge No 202.  One member of this lodge was John Henry Broadmeadow, a clerk who lived at 57 Cromwell Street, West Gorton.  Broadmeadow was also the District Secretary of Manchester District Loyal Orange Lodge.  He was a member of St Mark’s Church and on 1 April 1877 his daughter was baptised at the Church by Rev A Connell.
In March 1874 the Gorton Conservative Association had held their first annual meeting at the Justice Birch Hotel.  Among those present was Charles Fredrick Beyer, who was the founder of the Beyer Peacock Co, (locomotive builders) in 1854, and who had donated much of the finance to build St Mark’s Church and its schools.   The secretary of the Conservative Association reported that they had a membership of nearly 300.  A toast to the House of Lords and the House of Commons was given by Mr P Murphy.  This was probably Peter Murphy who in 1867 lived at Gorton Brook and was an officer in an Orange Lodge which met in Gorton Brook Hotel.  In May 1881 a lecture entitled ‘Treason in High Places’ was delivered in the Masonic room of the Justice Birch Hotel, Hyde Road under the auspices of Gorton Conservative Association.

Stephen Chesters-Thompson

In 1887 Gorton AFC moved to a ground in Hyde Road in Ardwick and changed their name to Ardwick AFC.  The headquarters of the club became the Hyde Road Hotel and Stephen Chesters Thompson JP became President of the club.  Chesters Thompson was the manager of the Chester’s Brewery, and in 1885 he was president of the Ardwick Conservative Club.  In 1887 he was a founder member of the Ardwick Masonic Lodge no 2185.  In September 1889 he had sent an apology for non-attendance at an Orange meeting held in the Manchester Conservative Club.  Ardwick AFC became defunct due to financial difficulties in 1894, and this led to the formation of Manchester City Football Club on 21 May 1894. 
In November 1884 Rev Connell attended the annual tea meeting of the Duke of Manchester Loyal Orange Lodge No 277 which was held in St Catherine’s Schools.  Bro Rev A Howarth presided at a meeting after the tea and among those present was William Touchstone.  Brother J Dixon proposed a resolution ‘That this meeting desires to return thanks to Almighty God, for the blessings conferred upon the nation through the instrumentality of King William III, of glorious memory, and pledges itself to maintain the principles of the Reformed Church of England, as set forth in her 39 Articles’.  The resolution was seconded by Rev Arthur Connell who was reported as having said: ‘he attended there that evening not as an Orangeman, but because that body identified themselves with the onward movements of truth, the bloodless triumph of the cross of Christ, and the maintenance and preservation of our civil, religious and political liberties’.
Connell was a public supporter of the Conservative Party and in October 1885 he attended a meeting at the new Conservative club in Gorton to support the Conservative candidate, D I Flattely.  The Manchester Courier newspaper remarked that:  ‘Three Gorton clergymen were present, the Revs. G Philpot, A Connell, and G Burwell, who each briefly addressed the meeting saying that though they were unaccustomed to take any part in political matters, they felt compelled to come forward at the present crisis when the Church of England was so seriously threatened’.  The following month Rev Connell chaired a meeting in St Mark’s School where Conservative candidate D I Flattely addressed what was described as ‘a large and enthusiastic audience’.  The press report also said in relation to Rev Connell:  ‘The chairman was warmly cheered.  He said that as an Anglo-Irishman, as a loyal subject of the Queen, as a citizen of no mean city, as a church clergyman, and as a Christian patriot he claimed the right of every British subject to express his opinion and to identify himself with those efforts which had for their object the good of the country (Cheers).’  Also on the platform was Rev Connell’s curate, Rev Charles Fenwick Ward, who would later became rector of the Albert Memorial Church and was a prominent Orangeman.  In July 1886 he chaired a meeting in St Mark’s School to support Lord Grey De Wilton’s candidature.  Rev Connell said that the object of the meeting was ‘the recommendation of a nobleman who came forward in support of the Union of Great Britain and Ireland’.

Bro Rev Charles Fenwick Ward

Rev Connell presided at a Protestant Reformation Society meeting held at St Saviour’s School, Plymouth Street, Chorlton-upon-Medlock in March 1886.  The speaker was George Cullwick, who died in 1906.  Earl of Roden Loyal Orange Lodge No 184 passed a resolution expressing their profound regret at the death describing him as ‘an old and valued member of this institution, and a vigorous and successful defender of the Protestant religion and of Orange principles’.
In September 1888, Rev A Connell was on present at public meetings held in Concert Hall, Peter Street, Manchester to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the defeat of the Spanish Armada and the 200th anniversary of the Glorious Revolution.  A number of Orangemen were also present including T Smelt,  Rev A Howarth,  Rev T Dickinson, John Dixon and G Cullwick.

Bro William John Austin, Grand Master Grand Orange Lodge of England

The Mayoress of Manchester attended the Hyacinth show in February 1892.  An address was given by W J Austin, Grand Master of the Loyal Orange Institution of England who had also donated one of the prizes.  The Church Bazaar in April 1894 was opened by Conservative politician, E F G Hatch, and the chair was taken by W J Austin, the Grand Master of the Loyal Orange Institution of England.   Also present were Rev A Howarth, minister of St Catherine’s Collyhurst, a leading Orange chaplain and W H Beastow.
Arthur Connell resigned as rector in July 1897.  He had been in ill health for two years, suffering from paralysis of a vocal cord and chronic bronchitis.  Arthur Connell died on 24 February 1899 at the age of seventy-seven from bronchitis.  His coffin was transported from Southport, where he had been living, to Victoria Station in Manchester, where it was met by a horse-drawn hearse and carried to St Mark’s Church in West Gorton for the funeral service.  The funeral took place on 28 February and among those in attendance were William Beastow, John Beastow and Lawrence Furniss.

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William III, Prince of Orange

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